The children’s services sector has grown by more than a quarter over the past decade, with many children and young people presenting with complex and multi-layered needs.
As of 31 March 2018, LaingBuisson estimates that 95,855 children were being looked after in care in the UK, with the sector growing 9% in the past five years and 28% since 2008.
The increase in demand came during a period of austerity when local authorities were instructed by central government to cut budgets.
Meeting rising demand has come at the expense of other provision for children and young people, and other council services, LaingBuisson’s Children’s Services UK Market Report Fourth Edition said.
It estimates the market for social care services for children and young people and special education services was worth £15.4bn in 2018.
In March 2019, there were 499 special schools and 106 special colleges operated by the independent sector in England, and an average of 20-25 new school developments registered in both 2018 and 2017.
The main driver has been prevalence of children with EHC (Education, Health and Care) Plans or Statements, estimated at 2.9% of pupils in England as of January 2018.
The number of children in foster care has risen by 8% in the past five years, with one-third placed by independent fostering agencies.
The rise in the number of children cared for in residential settings is even sharper, at almost 17% in the past five years for the UK.
Philip Blackburn, author of the report, said: ‘At a time when supply of specialist children’s care is lacking in some areas of the country, dynamic market management between demand and supply is certainly a high priority to manage current and future needs within budget.’
Representatives of children’s social care have pressed for more money from government.
The Local Government Association predicts a funding gap in England will be £2bn by 2020 and more than £3bn by 2025.
It is hoped this year’s spending review will provide some clarity on future government funding commitments.
For more information about the report click here.