young child sitting down on stairs with head in hands, ofsted reports children's homes

In 2022, the number of children looked after by local authorities in England rose to 82,170 – up 2% on 2021 and continuing the rise seen in recent years and as a consequence, the latest report from Ofsted found that increasingly local authorities are struggling with a last-minute dash to find homes for children coming into care.

In its latest report, Ofsted has found that the lack of enough suitable accommodation, and the need to find placements quickly, mean local authorities often struggle to plan for and meet their legal duty to offer sufficient accommodation for children in need of care.

Difficulty forecasting demand and the need for urgent placements leaves local authorities with little option but to respond to individual cases as and when they arise.

Some local authorities told Ofsted that a lack of time and resources for forward planning results in a last-minute response when a child comes into care. Even when local authorities can plan, there is often a lack of available accommodation and care for children with more complex needs.

Local authorities also noted the tension in their relationships with some private providers and their ‘power’ over the children’s social care market. Some suggested that providers can cherry-pick certain children, making it difficult for them to follow their plan and fulfill their sufficiency duty.

Conversely, other local authorities highlighted how positive relationships with providers mean they are better able to find homes for children with more complex needs and negotiate the cost of placements.

The research also found:

  • local authorities’ knowledge about providers and agencies is often held by individuals, which can be lost when there are staff changes
  • some local authorities are concerned about the aging population of foster carers in their area and their ability to plan for long-term placements.

For the full report, click here.

If you are a parent or other relative of a young person subject to local authority interest or intervention regarding how they are looked after, then please contact Andrew Wraith at Prism Family Law for more information at 0191 269 6871 or email [email protected] for help. We can help apply for legal aid funding for such cases, and even if funding is not readily available, we offer various options which may allow for you to be represented on a private fee-paying basis.


This document is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given.