Laura Sharman 11 November 2020

Children in care system are being 'failed by the state'

Thousands of children are being failed by the ‘broken’ residential care home market, the Children’s Commissioner for England has warned today.

In a set of three new reports, Anne Longfield said 13,000 children have been in an unregulated home at some point during the year, while 8,000 children have been in three different homes within a single year.

The report also warned hundreds of children could not get a place in a secure children’s homes despite needing one.

One of the reports also warns there is a clear lack of planning and oversight for the private provision of children's social care. The report finds that certain large providers are seeing a profit margin of around 17% on fees from local authorities, which can amount to over £200m a year in total.

Ms Longfield said: ‘These reports focus on the children that Government has been ignoring and seemingly doesn’t know what to do with: those in the care system systematically let down because there isn’t a good, safe, welcoming home for them.

’Only last month, a High Court judge wrote to me after an extremely vulnerable child in care could not get a suitable care home place anywhere in the country, even though the courts had found that their life was in danger. These shocking cases used to be rare but are now routine, and I am worried the whole system is becoming immune to the devastating effect this is having on children who may have previously been abused and neglected, or have serious mental or physical health needs. These children are being failed by the state.’

The report says councils should prioritise using their capital budgets to increase their children’s home capacity and make better use of their power as purchasers to shape the market.

The Local Government Association (LGA) said councils have increasing concerns about the financial stability of many providers.

Cllr Judith Blake, chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said: 'A varied market for homes for children in care can help councils to make sure children get the right homes for their needs, but fewer and fewer providers are now dominating that market. As our research earlier this year highlighted, much growth is fuelled by enormous loans, and councils have increasing concerns about the financial stability of many providers.

'We cannot risk a Southern Cross or Four Seasons situation in children’s social care. Stability for children in care is paramount if we are to help them to thrive and an oversight scheme is needed to help catch providers before they fall, and ensure company changes don’t risk the quality of provision.'

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