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Following the publication of the independent review in May 2022, the Government has published its strategy and consultation on children’s social care, Stable Homes, Built on Love. The strategy and consultation was published on 2nd February 2023.  It responds to the recommendations made by the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care and also to the Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel report into the tragic murders of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes and Star Hobson; and the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) Review into children’s social care placements. 

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Independent review of children’s social care puts cost of poor outcomes at £23 billion per year

PRESS NOTICE issued Friday 26th November 2021

Independent review of children’s social care puts cost of poor outcomes at £23 billion per year

The independent review of children’s social care today publishes new analysis which estimates the financial and social cost of children’s social care. The report adds to the case for changing the current system so that children’s social care better guarantees that children can grow up with safety, stability and love.

Children who need a social worker often experience poorer outcomes than average in health, wellbeing, education and employment. They are sadly also more likely to go on to experience homelessness, abuse alcohol, spend time in prison and have shorter lives. 

The two main findings are: 

  • The social cost for each child that needs a social worker is estimated at £14,000 a year and up to £720,000 over their lifetime. Applied to those of all ages who have ever needed a social worker as a child,  the estimated social cost totals £23 billion a year.
  • England spends £13.1 billion per year on children’s social care and associated public services. Spending on children’s social care is usually considered to be the £10.5 billion directly spent by Local Authorities – this report shows the total is estimated to be almost 25 percent higher with an additional £1.2 billion spent by central and local government on care proceedings and £1.3 billion spent on additional public services provided to children who need a social worker. 


Speaking to the National Children and Adult Services Conference Josh MacAlister, chair of the independent review of children’s social care, will say: 

“The toll of early adversity, loss and trauma for children who have social care involvement is substantial and is borne acutely over a lifetime by children themselves. The moral case for change is indisputable. 

“Through this report we want to add weight to the case for changing children’s social care, adding hard headed economic analysis. 

The cost of poorer outcomes, which amongst other things includes impacts on health and wellbeing, losses in productivity, and higher spending on public services, is estimated at an eye watering £23 billion a year



  1. The full report is here and technical reports explaining the methodology can be found here and here.
  2. The independent review of children’s social care was announced in January 2021 and will report in Spring 2022. Josh MacAlister is leading the review which has a wide ranging and ambitious scope. The review is a chance to look afresh at children’s social care. It will look at issues through the perspective of children and families throughout their interactions with children’s social care, from having a social worker knock on the door, through to children being in care and then leaving care.
  3. Alma Economics was selected to produce the underpinning analysis on the costs associated with the children’s social care system and the cost effectiveness of the review’s recommendations. The review’s recommendations will be costed by Alma Economics and published alongside the final report in Spring 2022.

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