There has been a 1,000% rise over five years in the number of children’s social care placements that cost councils £10,000 or more a week, the Local Government Association (LGA) has found.
In 2018-19, there were 120 placements costing £10,000 or more; in 2022-23, there were 1,510.
The LGA said the findings highlight a ‘broken’ market for children’s care placements, and 98% of councils said a lack of choice is behind rising costs.
The shortage of suitable provision means local authorities can be ‘held to ransom’ by private providers, the president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS), John Pearce, added.
He said: ‘Providers can pick and choose which referrals to accept and set the price due to overwhelming demand particularly for placements for children with the complex needs.’
The chair of the LGA’s children and young people board, Louise Gittins, said the lack of choice often also means that provision does not fully meet children’s needs.
She added that the ‘astronomical’ costs of care placements leave councils with less money to spend on earlier support for children and families.
The ADCS stressed that the issues ‘cannot be solved by councils alone’ and urged the Government to act to help meet the needs of children in care.