A Conservative government would improve crisis-hit child protection services in Birmingham by allowing social workers to quit their jobs with the city council and set up independent “chambers” in the same way as barristers, Shadow Children’s Secretary Michael Gove has revealed.
He has drawn up plans to write to social workers and invite them to create their own businesses, which would then sell services to local authorities.
This would help solve the problems facing social service departments in cities including Birmingham and parts of London by raising the prestige of social work, he said.
Mr Gove was speaking to The Birmingham Post at Westminster after Tory leader David Cameron set out plans to let public sector workers take charge of key health and education.
Conservatives believe the proposals will help to win over public sector staff who have traditionally voted Labour but are unhappy with the current government.
Mr Gove said: “Part of raising the quality of children’s services is raising the prestige of social work as a profession.
“Allowing social workers to organise themselves like barristers seems to me to be essential.”
Birmingham’s child protection services was last year criticised as “inadequate” by Government inspectors, while an inquiry by a council committee warned they were “not fit for purpose”.
Under the Conservative proposal, professionals in the public sector including social workers and job centre staff would be encouraged to form their own businesses which would then sell services to local authorities.
If they were able to provide services at lower cost, the difference could be used to pay high salaries.
The proposals are an extension of plans to let headteachers break free of education authority control and open their own schools, which have already been heavily publicised.
Mr Gove said: “We will have staff in the Cabinet Office and the Department for Children, Schools and Families available to help people to go down this route.
“I will be writing to professionals making it clear that we want them to do this, and that we are ready to offer advice and help.”