Tolling the knell of parting PFIs
Ah Carillion! Thou misspelt corporate giant,
Brought down by noddies and ministers compliant.
A carillon’s a tower replete with bells
To signal celebration or solemnly sound the knells.
It doesn’t augur well when a company misspells its own name. Whether this was by accident or design, there’s no doubt that the collapse of Carrillion rang a lot of bells. The anti-private sector crowd has come out in force, decrying Private Finance Initiatives and the outsourcing of public infrastructure projects in general.
There is much to decry; but construction contractors going bust because they make silly bids which even sillier governments accept has been going on for centuries, – in case you’re interested, the company building the Manchester Ship Canal had to be bailed out in 1891, four years into the project. More recently, one of the first stories I wrote as a newly-hired journalist in the 1990s was about a hospital which lacked a roof because the bloke chosen to put the lid on had subsequently filed for bankruptcy. When will we ever learn?
Infrastructure aside, the decriers extend their condemnation to include the outsourcing of public services and there have been many disasters (privately-run prisons, the probation service, job centres, to name just a few). But there are some babies in with the bathwater, and social care is one of them.
One can only conjecture about what might have happened if the bulk of care homes had remained in local authority ownership and operation, but it’s a fair bet that we would not have seen the many advances that have been made over the past 20 years.
Care home design and quality of accommodation, dementia care, end of life care, staff development, professionalisation, overall quality of life and much more have all taken huge strides since service delivery was put in the hands of private operators. Certainly, there is still some way to go but I doubt we’d have come half as far had the initiative been left to public bodies.
Of course, government agencies have attempted to ‘manage the social care market’ but fortunately only with limited success; there are too many players, and a healthy private market, for government ineptitude to do any real damage – so far. And if government can be persuaded to pay a sensible price for social care provision, we might be able to avoid any future ‘Carillion moments’ in our sector.
- The CT Blog is written in a personal capacity – comments and opinions expressed are not necessarily endorsed or supported by Caring Times.