The President of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) has criticised the profiteering within the children’s placements market, describing the cost of placements as “very worrying”.
“The children in our care deserve to live in homes that meet their needs as close to the people and places they know as possible,” said Steve Crocker, ADCS President, continuing:
“However, finding placements for children when and where they need them is a significant challenge because demand far outstrips supply.”
He pointed out that local authorities are forced to pay tens of thousands of pounds per week for placements, all the while providers can “pick and choose which children to accept and at what cost”, adding that the Competition and Markets Authority has recognised the current market is not serving children well whilst the largest providers make “materially higher profits”.
The ADCS President said that while children’s services have long operated in a mixed economy with private, voluntary, and community providers involved in the delivery of services locally”, current circumstances should nevertheless raise eyebrows:
“The entry of private equity into the provision of fostering and residential care placements and an ever-shrinking group of private providers is concerning as is the eye watering levels of borrowing and debts held by some private companies offering care placements.
The risks associated with provider failure or withdrawal from the market are significant to children. Should this happen, no single local authority could step in.”
He finished by reiterating the ADCS’ stance and calling on the government to step in with a “comprehensive national placements strategy”:
“ADCS has long called for the government to initiate a shift away from profiteering in the placements market and invest, or help local authorities invest in, new, not for profit provision. The cost of placements is very worrying and financially problematic, but we also question whether the current offer meets the needs of children today, particularly where their needs are increasingly complex. Caring for children through homes that are fit for purpose, not maximising profits should always be the priority. A comprehensive national placements strategy is needed to ensure the right homes are available in the right places for all children who need them, including our most vulnerable with complex needs.”