Demand for residential placements and staff has outstripped capacity
According to a recent report by the national audit office, there has been an increase in the use of residential care, and this has exposed the lack of suitable placement capacity available to local authorities: only 32% of local authorities report that they have access to enough residential homes for children aged 14 to 15 years, and 41% for those aged 16 to 17. Reflecting this lack of capacity, in 2016 an independent review found that an absence of successful commissioning was resulting in different local authorities paying widely different prices for the same standard of residential care. In addition, despite employing an increased number of children’s social workers, local authorities have also had to increase their use of expensive agency staff (paragraphs 1.25 to 1.29).
The full report sets out recent trends in pressures on children’s social care and the response of both national and local government to these pressures. It also sets out analysis conducted about what is causing variations in children’s social care demand and activity between different local authorities.
This report is about children’s social care in England and the pressures on these services. It examines the pressures that stem from the demand for children’s social services, which we define as referrals to children’s social care. It also examines the pressures that stem from the activity that local authorities undertake in response to actual or perceived demand. Local authorities in England are responsible for setting the thresholds at which they decide to work with vulnerable children, and are therefore responsible for managing demand for their own children’s social care. Referrals are the initial measure of demand, and the subsequent level of local authority activity in response to referrals is filtered through local thresholds for action and perceptions of risk.
Source: National Audit Office