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Children in care being ‘failed by the state’ because of a broken residential care home market

Children’s Commissioner publishes three reports

Anne Longfield, Children's Commissioner for England, has published a set of reports claiming that the children's residential social care system is broken and is failing many of the most vulnerable children, in particular those who are most at risk of falling through gaps in the system and becoming victims of criminal or sexual exploitation. The reports are the start of a series of interventions by the Children's Commissioner this month on the issue of children's social care.

The first report – The children who no-one knows what to do with – is the culmination of three years of wide-ranging research into children's homes. It highlights the issues faced by certain groups of children in care for whom the system is not working, including:

The second report – Private provision in children's social care – explores the growth of private companies providing foster placements and children's homes. It warns there is a clear lack of planning and oversight for the market, leading to an increasingly fragmented, uncoordinated and irrational market. Private provision accounts for 73 per cent of the growth in the number of children in care between 2011 and 2019. The number of children in in homes provided by the private sector has grown by 42 per cent over this period whereas local authority provision has not kept pace and has actually shrunk in some areas. The Children's Commissioner argues that the responsibility for making the system work has fallen through the cracks: the growth in private provision may not have been a deliberate policy choice but it is a consequence of government inaction along with the options and funding available to local authorities.

The report shows that differences in the quality of care – as measured by Ofsted ratings – between local authorities and large private providers are generally small, but smaller private providers are more likely to have worse Ofsted ratings than large private providers. At the same time, however, the majority of children's homes are rated "Good" or "Outstanding", regardless of whether they are run by local authorities or the private sector.

The third report – The 2020 Stability Index – is the Children's Commissioner's fourth annual study of the instability that children in care experience. This year's update shows that:

The Children's Commissioner has made a number of recommendations to improve the provision of children's social care in England, including that:

For The children who no-one knows what to do with, click here. For Private provision in children's social care, click here. For The 2020 Stability Index, click here.