Soaring Costs of Children's Social Care Placements Raise Alarm

Soaring Costs of Children's Social Care Placements Raise Alarm

The number of children’s social care placements costing £10,000 or more per week has skyrocketed in the past five years, according to a new survey by the Local Government Association (LGA).

The survey, which polled councils across England, revealed a staggering 1,250% increase in the number of such high-cost placements between 2018/19 and 2022/23. The proportion of councils with at least one of these placements has also jumped from 23% to 91% during the same period.

The highest cost placement recorded in the survey was a staggering £63,000 per week. For most councils, the highest cost fell between £9,600 and £32,500 per week.

Recent government statistics, published in November showed the highest number ever recorded in England, with nearly 84,000 children looked after.

The LGA attributed the surge in high-cost placements to a combination of factors, including a lack of choice in placements and an increasing number of children requiring help with complex needs, such as mental health issues or challenging behaviours.

Louise Gittins Quote

"The astronomical costs of care placements mean there is less money available for councils to spend on earlier support for children and families," said Cllr Louise Gittins, chair of the LGA's Children and Young People Board.

"These findings are indicative of a broken market for children's social care placements, but it doesn't have to remain this way. With cross-government support, it is possible to make sure we have the right homes for all of the children in our care."

The LGA is calling for urgent government action to address the issue, including:

  • Rolling out planned Department for Education (DfE) programs on the recruitment and retention of foster carers to all councils
  • Expanding children's homes through capital investment, recruitment, and professional development of children's homes workers, and working with the voluntary and community sector
  • Working with the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and NHS England on both inpatient mental health facilities and joint delivery of placements for children with complex mental health needs

The LGA is also calling for urgent funding for children's social care in the upcoming provisional Local Government Finance Settlement. It warned that the lack of investment in the Autumn Statement risked councils' ability to provide the critical care and support that children rely on every day.

The findings of the LGA survey underscore the urgent need for systemic reform of the children's social care system. Failure to address the issue will have severe consequences for the well-being of vulnerable children across England.

Photo Credit: iStock

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