Mark Whitehead 30 May 2023

Outsourcing children’s care linked to worse outcomes

Outsourcing children’s care linked to worse outcomes image
Image: Feng Yu /

Children in care are being moved between short-term, unstable placements far away from their families because of a ‘corporate takeover’ of the sector, according to academics.

The study by a team at Oxford University says the private sector has ‘almost completely taken over children’s residential care’ over the last three decades as local authorities have been encouraged by successive governments to outsource services.

It says more than 80% of homes in England are now run to make a profit, with ‘large, debt-laden chains, owned by private equity investors, increasingly gobbling up smaller firms’.

This has led to children taken into care ending up hundreds of miles from their communities and families.

The study of more than 600,000 care records in the 10 years up to 2022 found 17,000 out-of-area placements in England could be attributed to the outsourcing of care to commercial companies.

It also claims growing private involvement in care provision has led to higher rates of placements breaking down within two years.

The study’s co-author Dr Anders Bach-Mortensen said: ‘Our analysis shows that for-profit outsourcing is consistently associated with more children being placed out of area and placement instability.

‘Over the last decade, we see that these outcomes have deteriorated or stagnated while for-profit outsourcing has increased.’

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