The total number of children in care in England has increased by 12%, at a total cost of £3.4bn.
On March 31, 2013, there were 68110 children who had been victims of abuse or neglect, in care. According to data from the Audit Commission, this figure had increased by 12% or 7210 during the preceding four years.
The care of these vulnerable young people, who are representative of 0.6% of all those aged under-18 in England, cost councils around £3.4bn during 2012/2013. In spite of the 12% increase, the costs for councils increased 4% nationally, however, the regional variances went from a 15% increase in the North East to a reduction of 7% in London.
The total foster care cost during 2012/2013 was £1.5bn.
According to an Audit Commission study which assessed council foster care costs and what impact the increase in numbers of children has had on council spending discovered that 21 councils spent below £40000 per child during 2012/2013, whilst 32 councils spent in excess of £60000 per child.
The amounts spent on services for the children increased by £1.4bn or 69% in real terms between the 2000/2001 and 2012/2013.
During 2012/2013, it accounted for about 64% of all care provided.
The use of foster care by councils increased by 20% between 2008/2009 and 2012/2013. More than 67% of this additional care was provided by foster care agencies in both the voluntary and private sectors.
Although the costs of agency foster care is often more expensive than that provided by councils, it reduced by 15% for this period.
The chairman of the Audit Commission, Jeremy Newman, said that there is no question that councils have to place children in environments that meet their individual requirements and offer high quality, cost effective care. He said the pressure to reduce costs and improve results places a challenge on councils to obtain the most value from the amount of £137 average which is spent daily, or £50000 annually to look after each child they care for.
He added that to meet the complexities of this group’s needs, spending could be five times more than what it costs to bring up a child with no need for council support.
Image Credit: Paul A. Hernandez