Community health

Children’s services and special education market grows under pressure of demand

By - Integrated Care Journal
Children’s services and special education market grows under pressure of demand

The fourth edition of LaingBuisson’s Children’s Services UK Market Report has been published, covering; special education, foster care, adoption, children’s residential care, leaving care, safeguarding, guardianship and other services.

The report estimates the market for social care services for children and young people and special education services in the UK to be worth £15.38 billion in calendar 2018.

As of 31 March 2018, LaingBuisson estimates that 95,855 children were being looked after in care in the UK. This represents growth of 9 per cent in the past 5 years, and 28 per cent in the past 10, with many children and young people presenting with complex and multi-layered needs.

This increase in demand came at a time when local authorities were asked by central government to constrain budgets to reduce public sector debt, meaning that increases in spending to meet rising children’s care and special education demand have come at the expense of other services for children and young people, and other council services.

The main sectors of children’s and young people’s services in which the independent sector is active are special education, residential care and fostering. In March 2019, there were 499 special schools and 106 special colleges operated by the independent sector in England, and an average of 20-25 new school developments have been registered in both 2018 and 2017.

The main driver for this is the prevalence of children with EHC (Education, Health and Care) Plans or Statements, estimated at 2.9 per cent of pupils in England as of January 2018. Children’s care providers have also responded to the growing need for joined-up care, therapy and education.

The number of children in foster care has risen by 8 per cent in the past five years. One-third are placed by independent fostering agencies. The government has plans to get local authorities and the independent sector working collaboratively to ensure sufficient high-quality fostering placements, for example, by providing seed funding for joint recruitment drives.

The rise in the number of children cared for in residential settings is even sharper, at almost 17 per cent in the past five years for the UK. Within this market, the independent sector is sought out for innovation and new development and plays an important role in providing specialised services in the right type of setting for more vulnerable children with complex needs.

Representatives with children’s social care have pressed for higher funding commitments from the government. The Local Government Association predict that a funding gap for children’s services in England will be in the order of £2 billion by 2020 and more than £3 billion by 2025.

To-date additional government funding to support innovation and best practice initiatives remains a far cry from substantial investment indicated by this funding shortfall. The 2019 Spending Review will provide some clarity on future government funding commitments for children’s services and special education.

The full report can be purchased here.

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