Foster care agency costs “scandalous” says Redbridge Council director

Foster care agencies are charging councils “increasingly scandalous” amounts of money, a Redbridge Council director has claimed.

The number of local children in care is on the up, due to the “combined issues of COVID and general isolation”, rising from 176 last April to 226 at the start of this year.

Figures obtained through the Freedom of Information Act show that, last year, the council was being charged up to £9,980 a week for every child in care.

Adrian Loades

At a people scrutiny committee meeting this week, council director Adrian Loades warned that the foster care market is “broken”.

He told councillors: “There are an increasingly narrower range of providers offering placements and, effectively, they are operating in a monopoly.

“The fees they are charging are, in my view, increasingly scandalous. Through these fees, they are taking money away from the care of children.”

At the same time, Mr Loades said, there has been “a very genuine increase” in children who need to be taken into care.


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He added: “Post-pandemic we’ve seen a whole host of pressures on families, who previously would have been able to manage with support or a child protection plan.

“The increase of mental health needs in children and adults and the increasing impact of poverty on families… has created significant complexities.”

Redbridge’s people directorate – which covers education, social care and public health – overran its £107m budget by £5m, much of which was due to a high demand on the children and families services.

Loades said at “London level” councils are starting to work together to commission more direct placements, which can be less costly than finding placements for children through agencies.

A recent report on the children’s social care business by the Competitions & Markets Authority found than two-thirds of England’s 80,850 looked after children are put into foster care placements, costing councils in England around £5.7billion a year.

Josh Mellor

Local Democracy Reporter