Evidencing the outsourcing of social care provision in England

Project outline

This project will develop a centralised, longitudinal data resource of existing routinely collected data that will enable investigation of the impact of the changing social care provision in England.

The social care sector in England promotes the outsourcing of children’s and adult social care to private providers. Supporters of this model claim that the marketisation of social care fosters competition and reduces the inefficiencies of a state monopoly. However, research suggests that private providers perform less well than their non-profit and public counterparts. Nevertheless, the promise of reduced costs and improved services makes outsourcing appealing to policymakers, and more so during periods of austerity. Regulating and improving the sector is made difficult by a lack of information on the impact and degree to which local authorities (LAs) have outsourced their services.

The dataset will provide an empirical foundation to inform key policy debates on the future provision of social care and further research. The findings will be summarised in a publicly available report, which will explain how stakeholders can access and use the data. The report will also present descriptive analyses, mapping and visualising overall time trends of key variables.

The project is led by Anders Malthe Bach-Mortensen, Jane Barlow, Benjamin Goodair, Michelle Degli Esposti and Christine Corlet Walker.

Bach-Mortensen, A. M., Goodair, B., & Barlow, J. (2023). For-profit outsourcing and its effects on placement stability and locality for children in care in England, 2011–2022: A longitudinal ecological analysis. Child Abuse & Neglect. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chiabu.2023.106245

Bach-Mortensen, A. M., Goodair, B., & Barlow, J. Two in five children in care are placed outside their local authority – here’s why that’s a problem. The Conversation. 26 June 2023. 

To find out more visit the Nuffield Foundation website