Coventry has highlighted the national issue of the cost of children’s residential care and the impact this has, both on outcomes for children and local authorities’ budgets, in a BBC interview.

Cllr Patricia Seaman, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, was a guest on the BBC Politics Midlands programme hosted by Rob Mayor on Sunday.

The episode is available to watch now on the BBC iplayer.

Councils across England say there is a national shortage of suitable housing and foster parents for the rising number of children in care. They believe that children "should be placed as close to their existing family networks and support systems as is possible and appropriate".

Many children are placed in private care homes that can cost £10,000 a week, with the bills putting already creaking council budgets under more pressure.

Cllr Seaman told how some of Coventry's most vulnerable children have been moved to care homes hundreds of miles away from where they grew up.

Some children in care require specialist facilities, but the Council admits too many children are living far away, due to a lack of suitable homes in the Midlands. 

The Become charity, which supports children in care and care leavers, found more than 17,000 children were living more than 20 miles away from the people and places that matter to them each year - and that figure has been increasing annually for a decade.

Cllr Seaman said:

"This is a growing national problem. It's a market that’s broken and the government knows it’s broken."

The councillor said the rising cost of children’s care was "why the finances of so many councils are in such dire straits", and said Coventry is investing in five new care homes in the city to help children and young people stay near home.

She suggested the cost of children’s care placements in private homes should be capped.

The most expensive private placement last year cost £18,000 a week - almost £1m a year for a child in the Council's care.

The programme was broadcast during Foster Care Fortnight - an annual opportunity to focus on the wonderful work of foster carers and both the day-to-day and lifelong difference they make to children who are not able to live with their birth parents, and to recruit more carers.

The theme of Foster Care Fortnight 2024, organised through The Fostering Network, is #FosteringMoments and local foster carers have been sharing their own special moments on their personal fostering journey.

Cllr Seaman, said:

“Through sharing people’s stories and memories, we hope to raise the profile of foster care, whilst celebrating the vital work of foster carers in Coventry and across the UK and hopefully will inspire more people to consider fostering with their local authority.”

If you are interested in fostering with Coventry and want to find out more, please give the team a ring on 024 7683 2828 or visit our website.

Published: Tuesday, 21st May 2024