Children’s social care – what’s new?

January 29, 2021

By Lesley Curtis, Research fellow at PSSRU

In spite of a tumultuous year which has wreaked havoc on economies all over the world, it was business as usual for the unit costs report and our 2020 edition was published just before Christmas with the usual mixture of topical articles and schema.  Scroll down section one to chapter 6 and you will find our home for children’s services. We have noted in our preface this year that on the occasion furloughed staff have been the provider of data and therefore some of our estimates have been uprated; in children’s social care services however, it is only our CIPFA estimates which have been subject to this problem. Of course our costs reflect 2019/20 prices and therefore do not capture the full effects of any changes caused by the pandemic.

In spite of the difficult year we have all had, 2021 has begun with positive steps and the government has just launched an independent review of children’s social care. The review will take a look at the needs, experiences and outcomes of the children it supports, and what is needed to make a difference. One of the review’s theme is sustainability that will include understanding what is the most sustainable and cost-effective way of delivering services.

New unit cost survey

Also this month, findings from ‘the cost pressures’ survey were published. This survey forms part of the DfE’s wider ongoing work to understand children’s social care service costs and demand and the challenges and opportunities for further efficiencies in the delivery of children’s social care services. It is evident, that demand for unit costs will continue and we will endeavour to keep abreast of all new cost data using our contacts with health economists.

What was in our 2020 edition?

Our regular schema on children’s services were updated this year and new information was included from NHS improvement’s Reference Costs as well as an analysis of Section 251 data provided by the DfE enabling us to update our children’s care services.

We also included some new cost information from Round 2 of the Children’s Social Care Innovation programme; figures from the Bradford B Positive Pathways programme intended to enhance the services for looked after children amongst others, and the SafeCORE report aimed at families experiencing domestic violence.  Evidence is continuing to be collected over the next year. We will review this and update existing information and new reports accordingly.


How our report is used

Early on in 2020, we were pleased to be informed of a report on Price Trends and Costs of Children’s Homes produced by the National Centre for Excellence in Residential Child Care (NCERCC) and Revolution Consulting which provided new insight and reference for anyone involved in children’s social care. The research for this report is based on three extensive Freedom of Information disclosures by local authorities in England and reports average prices for 9,535 private and voluntary sector children’s homes.  This research found that average prices are in keeping with PSSRU costs drawn from section 251 and so readers can be doubly confident that our estimates are accurate.

We are currently doing our usual review of the literature with a view to identifying new information for next year’s volume.  So if you are working on a children’s social care cost study or know of any which are in the pipeline, please do contact either Lesley ( or Amanda (