Buckinghamshire Council spent £1.8 million a year on one child’s care in an unregistered home, it can be revealed.

The unitary authority shelled out more than £1 million for the care of a single child on four occasions over the last 12 months.

The money was spent on the rental accommodation of children in ‘unregistered placements’, according to figures for the 10 most expensive children’s care cases in 2023-2024 disclosed to the Bucks Free Press under the Freedom of Information Act.

Cllr Stuart Wilson, the leader of the council’s opposition ‘IMPACT’ group of Independent, Green and Labour councillors, said: “We have a moral and statutory duty to look after our most vulnerable children.

“It is deeply disturbing that Buckinghamshire Council is forced to use unregulated children’s homes not approved by Ofsted.”

Anita Cranmer, the council’s cabinet member for education and children’s services claimed the unitary authority has seen an ‘unprecedented rise’ in costs for specialist care placements for children with complex needs.

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She said: “This is due to a range of factors including the rise in demand for such care and a shortfall in appropriate provision.

“We have a statutory duty to find the appropriate care for each child and will explore all options available.”

The councillor said the rising care costs were part of a national trend affecting all councils, some of which have been forced to declare effective bankruptcy in recent years.

Bucks Council has not declared bankruptcy but has still found its services squeezed children and adults’ social care.

These two areas, along with temporary accommodation for homeless people and transport for vulnerable children to get to and from school, soak up 71 per cent of the council’s overall budget.

During the last financial year, the council said its ‘provisional outturn’ for children’s services was £112 million.

It also revealed that some of the other most expensive children’s care cases during this period were as follows:

£913,797 – An unregistered placement, rent for property and support costs. Moved placement mid July 2023 to an unregistered residential placement

£770,474 – An unregistered placement, rent for property and support costs. Moved placement in November 2023 to a council owed property with council employed staff supporting them, an unregistered residential placement

£683,410 – Started the financial year in an external residential placement care only. They moved into an unregistered placement at end of June 2023 to October 2023 with rent and support costs

Cllr Wilson said: “Once again, this Conservative government is allowing our most vulnerable children to be put at risk and taxpayers to ripped off by profiteering venture capitalists.

“The IMPACT Alliance opposition group been putting pressure on Buckinghamshire Council through our scrutiny to address this issue in the long term.”

However, he welcomed the council’s commitment to owning its own children’s homes in this year’s budget.

Cllr Cranmer claimed the council is sometimes left with ‘no choice’ but use more costly placements.

She said: “Continuing to pay for such placements in the longer term is not sustainable and so the council is in the process of looking at a range of options to reduce costs but ensure the appropriate, quality care is available.

“This includes a plan to create ten new council-run children’s homes and developing new supported living facilities for care leavers by refurbishing three council-owned properties.”