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Outsourced social care relates to worries about vulnerable child placements, research shows

A new study shows that the growth in for-profit provision of outsourced children’s services is  linked with out of area and unstable placements. 

The study, led by DSPI Senior Postdoctoral Researcher Anders Bach-Mortensen and Research Assistant Benjamin Goodair, revealed “for-profit outsourcing is associated with more looked-after children being placed outside their home areas and ‘greater placement instability’ over time”. The researchers estimate that an additional 17,000 out-of-area placements from 2011 to 2022 may be attributed to increases in for-profit provision.

DSPI Senior Postdoctoral Researcher Anders Bach-Mortensen and Research Assistant Benjamin Goodair concluded:

“Despite the numerous independent reviews and investigations, a significant proportion of children are still being placed in unstable or out-of-area care, exposing already vulnerable children to additional risks. Our analysis shows for-profit outsourcing is consistently associated with worse placement outcomes among local authorities. This suggests that increasing the already significant proportion of for-profit children’s social placements may not be the most effective strategy to improve outcomes in the children’s social care sector.”

According to the report, by 2022, 38% of all children in care are placed with for-profit providers an increase of 9% points since 2011.  The report finds:

“We observe that increases in for-profit outsourcing are associated with worse placement outcomes on average…For-profit outsourcing is consistently associated with more children being placed outside their home Local Authority and greater long-term placement instability.”

The study concluded:

“Despite the numerous independent reviews and investigations, a significant proportion of children are still being placed in unstable or out-of-area care, exposing already vulnerable children to additional risks.”

Read the published study

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