Cost of poor outcomes in children’s social care estimated to be £23 billion per year
The Review of Children’s Social Care in England publishes new analysis which estimates the financial and social cost of children’s social care.
Speaking at the National Children and Adult Services (NCAS) Conference, the Chair of the Review, Josh MacAlister, told delegates that children who need a social worker often experience poorer outcomes than average in health, wellbeing, education and employment. They are also more likely to go on to experience homelessness, abuse alcohol, spend time in prison and have shorter lives, he said.
The Review is today (Friday 26 November) publishing new analysis which estimates the financial and social cost of these poor outcomes in children’s social care. The report adds to the ongoing review’s case for changing the current system so that children’s social care better guarantees that children can grow up with safety, stability and love.
Today’s report finds that the social cost for each child that needs a social worker is estimated at £14,000 a year and up to £720,000 over their lifetime. Applied to those of all ages who have ever needed a social worker as a child, the estimated social cost totals £23 billion a year.
England already spends £13.1 billion per year on children’s social care and associated public services. Spending on children’s social care is usually considered to be the £10.5 billion directly spent by Local Authorities, however this report shows the total is estimated to be almost 25% higher with an additional £1.2 billion spent by central and local government on care proceedings and £1.3 billion spent on additional public services provided to children who need a social worker.
Speaking to the conference Josh MacAlister, Chair of the Review of Children’s Social Care, said the ‘moral case’ for change is ‘indisputable’.
“The toll of early adversity, loss and trauma for children who have social care involvement is substantial and is borne acutely over a lifetime by children themselves.
“Through this report we want to add weight to the case for changing children’s social care, adding hard-headed economic analysis.
“The cost of poorer outcomes, which amongst other things includes impacts on health and wellbeing, losses in productivity, and higher spending on public services, is estimated at an eye-watering £23 billion a year.”
The independent review of children’s social care was announced in January 2021 and will report in Spring 2022, with many criticising the short timescale for something with a self-described ‘wide-ranging and ambitious’ scope.
The report was produced alongside Alma Economics to produce the underpinning analysis on the costs associated with the children’s social care system and the cost effectiveness of the Review’s recommendations.
Writing in the report’s foreword, MacAlister emphasised that there was a risk to highlighting poor outcomes, such as increased likelihood to be involved in the criminal justice system or to experience homelessness, in perpetuating harmful stereotypes and stigmatising children in care. However, he said that society “cannot afford, in financial or moral terms, to keep on with more of the same.”
“There is a risk of fuelling the assumptions and prejudice that sadly too many have towards those with a social care experience. This prejudice is felt acutely by care experienced young people and adults,” MacAlister wrote, reminding readers that only 1% of children with a social worker commit criminal offences during childhood, adding that poor outcomes are the “consequence of the system responding to earlier experiences”.
Read the full ‘Paying the Price’ report: https://childrenssocialcare.independent-review.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/Paying-the-Price.pdf
£38,223 to £40,221
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