Alastair Stewart: Something is wrong in the child care sector, without reform it will get worse and cost us billions

A new report concludes that without reform of the sector, 100,000 children could be in care by 2032 costing the taxpayer £15bn

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I want to talk about the child care sector.

Last month, an independent report concluded that if the system isn’t reformed, 100,000 children could be in care by 2032, up from 80,000 now, at a cost to you - the tax payer - of £15bn, up 50%!

Already, huge amounts of tax-payers money is spent on it though, as always, many say not enough.

But that isn’t what I want to focus on today, but whether or not what is spent is spent well and why far too many children in care suffer dreadfully.

Two stories caught my eye last week: a remarkable investigation on the BBC into one of the biggest care providers, Calcot Services for Children, and some work done by the FT’s Martin Barrow on the huge profits being made in the sector, some of it by groups owned abroad, especially in the middle east.

Martin wrote : “Over the past two weeks I have reported on the financial accounts of just three children's social care companies who were paid more than £600 million between them by local councils in just one year”.

Last month, a government-commissioned review of children’s social care highlighted what it called a “broken” market that failed to meet the needs of too many vulnerable children.

The author of the report , Josh MacAlister, said the BBC’s revelations about Calcot raised several wider issues including profiteering, inadequate services and weak system oversight. “This is yet another example of the need for a radical reset to the children’s social care system.”

To their credit, Calcot said that it was grateful to the BBC “for highlighting what it considers to be safeguarding issues” and added: “The sector is rightly subject to stringent regulation and the company prioritises safeguarding all children in its care. It has a history of more than 30 years caring for and educating vulnerable and challenging children. It is known for achieving positive outcomes and is highly regarded by Ofsted and the local authorities with which it works.”

But remember, this is your money, spent looking after some of the most vulnerable in our society.

Something’s wrong in the system and I have reported on too many cases of abuse - even fatalities of young folk - in care, or recently out of care, to nod it through.

They always pledge to learn the lessons - clearly they don’t…..

You, as tax-payers deserve better; and, for sure, vulnerable children in care deserve better.

The Education Secretary - Nadhim Zahawi says he is ready to meet the challenges set by that independent review and will set out plans for bold and ambitious change in the coming months.”.

And some of the biggest children’s charities welcomed the review, saying: “It provides a once-in-a-generation opportunity to fix a struggling system".