Children in care who are sent home only to later return to care cost the government £300 million a year, according to new research commissioned by the NSPCC.
The resulting report highlights the high number of children who are reunited with parents or other family members after spending time in care. Over 10,000 children return ‘home’ each year – 35 per cent of all children who lose their ‘looked after’ status, making it the most common outcome for children in care. However, between 30 and 60 per cent of such children later return to care when their reunion breaks down.
But the high price of failed reunions could be comfortably offset, the report claims, with an investment of just £56 million in better social support services for such families when a child does return home. Support for a single family could cost as little as £3,000 a year, compared to an average cost to the taxpayer of more than £60,000 for every child who returns to care.
Tom Rahilly is head of looked-after children at the NSPCC. He said: “Given around half of children who return home from care end up going back into care again, the support we provide to these families urgently needs rethinking. The Department for Education needs to strengthen the rules so that both children and families get the help they need.”
He added: “Repeatedly moving in and out of care can profoundly damage our most vulnerable children, compounding and intensifying the traumatic experiences and difficulties they face.
The research was carried out by researchers from the Centre for Child and Family Research at Loughborough University.
Read the report, entitled Supporting children and families returning home from care, here.
The NSPCC was one of a coalition of charities which campaigned earlier this year for children in foster care to be given the right to stay with their foster families beyond the age of 18.
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