Below are short descriptions and illustrations of the main elements of the Care Bank, Children England's idea for reforming procurement of care for children to address problems created by the market. Read our full analysis in the paper Children in Charge

In summary: the Care Bank puts procurement in the hands of a national body, leaving local authorities to commission the care they know children need, and to make placement decisions with the child’s views and needs at the centre - not prices.

The following diagram shows the Care Bank's relationship to one local authority, with local responsibilities on the left, national responsibilities on the right, and the child in the centre of placement decisions:

The Care Bank - full diagram

The Care Bank - symbolLegally: The Care Bank is a new public body created by statute, as a Non-departmental Public Body - it does not 'belong' to only one Whitehall department.

Paying for all placements: The Care Bank holds a new statutory duty towards every child on a care order to ensure the care they need is paid for - whether that’s fostering, residential or adoption.

Kinship care: It is also responsible for ensuring kinship carers receive consistent payment for their care-giving (either directly or through benefits payments, whichever they prefer).

No involvement in placement decisions: The Care Bank has NO say or power in determining individual placement decisions - that’s for local authorities and social workers to decide with each child and their potential carer (and biological family where appropriate).

The Care Bank - placement decisions trioFunds follow the child: Care Bank funds are directly allocated from the Treasury - it's not combining 'education' or 'NHS' funding - just care funding, for whatever meets children's needs.

For children: More power to assert where, and with whom, they want to be cared for, knowing that the Care Bank will pay for it.

The impact: Child-centred placement decisions with fewer placement breakdowns. Price is taken out of the equation in social work decisions about finding the right place, first time for each child.

The Care Bank - commissioning symbolStrategic commissioning: The Care Bank has a strategic role in foresight planning and public investment in new and specialist provision, especially for highly specialised / low demand types of care.

Sustainable commissioning: councils can plan longer term for the caring people and places they need in the local community, with the assurance that expenditure costs will be covered by the nation's taxes through the Care Bank.

Managing the market: The Care Bank holds regulatory power of prior [dis]approval of mergers / acquisitions between care companies, and to monitor risks to sustainability for all contracted suppliers.

The Care Bank - procurement symbolSimplicity and transparency: All providers (public, charitable and private) must work with the Care Bank’s open book accounting requirements.  Every care provider in the country has only ONE business relationship - with the Care Bank (technically their 'Dynamic Purchaser’).

The impact: Reduced business administration costs for providers and procurement costs for councils. Ends the costly burden of multiple framework contracts all over the country, and significantly reduces the inefficiency and instability caused by spot purchasing.

Oversight: The Care Bank would have the power to drill down on sharp financial practices, scrutinise profiteering where it's happening, ensure decent pay standards for all care workers, and fair financial support for all kinship and foster carers.

The Care Bank - Social Worker symbolThe impact: A much more sustainable system that is responsive to need and treats people fairly, freeing professionals to put children at the heart of their work.

What do you think? The Care Bank is an idea for debate, not a finished proposal. We’d love to hear what you think - what would work, what wouldn’t, any impacts you can foresee. Let us know by email, or contribute an article to our care commissioning discussion.