Independent review of children’s social care puts cost of poor outcomes at £23 billion per year

The independent review of children’s social care has published new analysis, which estimates the financial and social cost of children’s social care.

The report adds to the case for changing the current system so that children’s social care better guarantees that children can grow up with safety, stability and love.

Children who need a social worker often experience poorer outcomes than average in health, wellbeing, education and employment and are also more likely to go on to experience homelessness, abuse alcohol, spend time in prison and have shorter lives. 

The two main findings are: 

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 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 – this report shows the total is estimated to be almost 25 per cent 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 National Children and Adult Services Conference Josh MacAlister, chair of the independent review of children’s social care, said: “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. The moral case for change is indisputable. 

“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”.

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