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LGA survey shows sharp increase in high-cost children’s care placements

The Local Government Association (LGA) has published the results of a new survey which shows the spiraling number of high cost children’s care placements.

The online survey, which was undertaken in October & November 2023, included Directors of Children’s Services of all local authorities in England which provide children’s social care.  

The survey looked to assess the frequency and costs arising from high-cost children’s social care placements, as well as exploring reasons why the costs of certain placements are particularly high. A total of 124 councils responded to the survey – a response rate of 81 per cent.

Key results include:

  • Local authorities across England spent approximately £4.7 billion on children’s social care placements in 2022/23, compared to a budgeted figure of £4.1 billion – an overspend of almost £670 million (16 per cent).
  • It was estimated that English councils paid for approximately 120 placements costing £10,000 per week or more in the 2018/19 financial year, compared to over 1,500 in 2022/23.
  • The most frequent factors cited as driving the high cost of certain placements were a lack of choice in providers, children in care exhibiting challenging behaviours, and complex or significant mental health needs.
  • It was estimated that English councils supported almost 11,000 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UASC) in 2022/23, along with almost 13,000 care experienced former UASC.

Commenting on the results of the survey, John Pearce, Association of Directors of Children’s Services president said the “unmanageable costs of children’s social care placements, and the significant shortfall in suitable homes for children in our care has led to a crisis in the sector that needs immediate national action”.

“Local authorities are the sole purchasers of placements yet are often held to ransom by private providers due to lack of sufficiency meaning costs can be thousands of pounds a week for individual placements for children in their care”.

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Published on 1st December 2023