The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has launched a study into the lack of placements and soaring costs in children’s social care market.
The CMA said it was in a ‘unique position to lift the lid’ on the sector and examine concerns around the high prices paid by local authorities and inadequate supply of appropriate placements for children in their care.
Depending on what it finds, the CMA said it will either issue guidance to businesses and the public, make recommendations to the industry or to government or, if appropriate, launch a full investigation into the market.
The launch of the study comes after concerns have been raised by other organisations about private sector provision of children’s social care making high profit margins.
A recent Local Government Association report found that some independent providers of children’s residential and fostering placements are achieving profits of more than 20% on their income.
The study will examine whether high levels of profit have been made at the expense of investment in recruiting and retaining staff, and providing quality services.
‘We are concerned that some children are not getting access to the right placements due to a lack of availability in the system, and that rising prices are putting further pressure on stretched local authority budgets,’ said CMA chief executive, Andrea Coscelli.
‘The CMA is in a unique position to use its powers to look into this. But children’s care is not a market like any other – our clear and overriding priority will be about identifying ways children can get better care. This will include examining the concerns raised about the role of private sector providers, which has grown in the last few years, as well as the role of public and third sector providers.’