Children’s care home places can cost three times more than an education at Eton College, MPs have heard.
During a House of Commons Education Committee hearing, Labour MP Ian Austin said that private companies were making large profits from the child care system. One brochure for a four-bedroom care home promised investors an annual profit of £625,000 if it was full, regardless of the outcomes for the children.
The MP asked Sir Martin Narey why the costs were so much higher than they would be if a child was sent to a top boarding school like Eton. “For this sort of cost you could hire a hotel room and two to three members of staff”, Mr Austin said.
Sir Martin is a government adviser who is currently conducting a review of children’s homes in England. He defended the high costs because children at Eton are “well parented, very confident, have lots of support and don’t have lots of behaviour problems”.
There are around 8,000 children in residential care, he told the committee. He said that these were “the most challenging children in England” and needed a lot of supervision.
However, Sir Martin claimed that a care home placement costs around £3,000 per week, while a foster placement was only £800. As a result, he was “sympathetic that local authorities want to try fostering two or three times before a child is sent to a children’s home”.
There should be “more consideration taken in finding the right type of foster carers” for children in care, Sir Martin insisted. There should also be “more emphasis on matching the particularly challenging children with the particularly experienced foster carers”. These steps, in addition to better paid foster carers, could “avoid the need for residential care”, he claimed.