17th June, 2021 12:18 pm
Private companies are charging up to £10,000 a week to look after a single child in care, it can be revealed.
An investigation by The Times has found that firms that rushed to set up children’s homes during the pandemic were paid tens of millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money despite many being deemed “downright dangerous”.
About 175 children’s homes were registered by the regulator Ofsted during the first wave of the pandemic last year, a third more than in the same period in 2019, at a time when in-person inspections were suspended.
Failings at almost a third of them were discovered. Reports revealed they were cited for unsafe restraint practices or putting children at risk of sexual or criminal exploitation.
Conditions at several were found to be so horrifying that inspectors blocked the owner from admitting more residents.
Owners of the new children’s homes arranged lucrative admissions of children with complex problems, which cost councils more than £200,000 per person per year on average. However, Ofsted found they often hired support workers who were ill-equipped to manage, putting the children at risk of harm. Some homes relied on low-paid young recruits working long shifts.
The average fees for privately run children’s homes are £4,100 a week, roughly five times the cost of keeping an adult in prison. Local authorities are legally responsible for children in care and rely on private providers because of a shortage of places and budget cuts.
The leader of an independent review of children’s social care today described the struggling system as like a “tower of Jenga held together with Sellotape”. The review, led by Josh MacAlister, a former teacher, found that in nearly 135,000 cases where a child was suspected of suffering significant harm they were not put on a protection plan. The figure has risen threefold over the past decade.
Among Ofsted’s findings:
- Children were able to steal knives from one home and take them to school.
- Staff dropped a young person off at the home of a drug dealer despite being warned by police to avoid the area; at another run by the same company a child was discovered riding a bike on a motorway hard shoulder.
- A young person at a third home was found weaving through traffic and high on drugs. On another occasion inadequately trained staff locked themselves in a car when a resident became violent. One of the three people who set up the home was a scaffolder prosecuted for having an eight-inch knife behind the sun visor of his van.
Source: The Times
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