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Cost of caring for Gloucestershire's vulnerable children continues to increase

By jrmaidment  |  Posted: March 16, 2014

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The cost of providing Gloucestershire’s children with the care they need continues to increase, statistics show.

The average weekly cost of residential care placements for children in the county has steadily risen in each of the last three years.

In the third quarter of 2011/12 a placement cost £2,640 while in 2012/13 that rose to £3,184.

That figure grew again in the third quarter of the current financial year with the average fee hitting £4,054.

Gloucestershire County Council, the authority in charge of making sure children who need care are provided for, has partly attributed the latest increase to one “exceptionally expensive” placement which started and finished in the last quarter.

However, even disregarding the one off “emergency response”, the average cost of a week of care has still grown sizeably – in the second quarter of 2013/14 it stood at £3,305.

The wider trend of increasingly expensive care is largely down to increasing demand for services.

Councillor Paul McLain, cabinet member for young people, explained: “We make no apologies for taking children into care if it’s the right thing to do; if that means spending more on keeping them safe then it’s a price we’re willing to pay.

“There is no doubt that because we’ve put more of a focus on child protection and increased the awareness of the issues we’ve seen the demand rise.”

Statistics published in a county council performance report also show the cost of foster placements outside of Gloucestershire is on the up too.

The average weekly cost of external foster placements – placements outside of Gloucestershire used when there are no placements in-county that are suitable – has risen in each of the last three years.

In the third quarter in 2011/12 it stood at £782, in 2012/13 it was £833 and in the third quarter of the current financial year is was £837.

However, the cost of internal foster placements has stayed roughly the same over the last three years.

In the third quarter of 2013/14 they cost £524 against a target of £565.

The county council has stressed that while the procedures for caring for the vulnerable have not changed, demand has increased and that’s why costs continue to rise.

Shire Hall is trying to tackle growing demand by employing, training and supporting social workers and by working with a number of external organisations.

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