A regulator has this month launched a major investigation into the children’s social care sector to identify why some providers and councils are failing to meet the needs of vulnerable young people.
Leading the review, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said it will examine concerns around “high prices paid by local authorities” and the “inadequate supply of appropriate placements for children in their care”.
According to the latest statistics, around 99,000 children live under the care of a local authority across England, Scotland and Wales. Approximately 65,000 of those live in foster care, while 16,000 live in residential care – such as children’s homes and independent living accommodation.
The remaining 18,000 are placed in alternative care settings, are adopted, or live with their parents under supervision.
But despite huge numbers of children living under the care of social care providers, research suggests that some private firms are sacrificing investment in staff and services for profit.
The CMA said the review will look into the supply of placements, the prices paid by providers, the way commission of places is carried out, and the environment for investing in the system to ensure sufficient appropriate places are available for all children who need them in the future.
Commenting on the study, Andrea Coscelli, Chief Executive of the CMA, said: “Children in care are among the most vulnerable in our society and they need a system that does not let them down.
“We are concerned that some children are not getting access to the right placements due to a lack of availability in the system, and that rising prices are putting further pressure on stretched local authority budgets.
“The CMA is in a unique position to use its powers to look into this. But children’s care is not a market like any other – our clear and overriding priority will be about identifying ways children can get better care. This will include examining the concerns raised about the role of private sector providers, which has grown in the last few years, as well as the role of public and third sector providers.”