In 2017/18, the national average unit cost expenditure on children’s social care was £774 per head, signifying a 9.18% increase in expenditure since 2014/15. 

  • The unit cost expenditure in the North East was 20% higher than the national average at £894.55 per capita in 2017/18.

  • The North East has also seen the most significant growth in costs between 2014/15 and 2017/18 with an increase of 14%.
  • On national average, the expenditure on children’s social care has increased by 9.18% over those four consecutive years. 

Cost growth in Children’s Services has become the biggest financial issue in County, Met and Unitary Town Halls in all regions of England.  The biggest drivers tend to be the Looked After Children population and increasingly the impact of growth in SEND. 

But beyond the overall numbers of children needing help, many Councils will be experiencing change in the level of acuity or complexity of a smaller number of children.  

In many cases it is difficult to effectively prevent or delay this complex demand, and attention is rightly shifting to the supply of services.  In some cases (for example in children’s residential care), scarcity in the sector is driving very high costs. So, a big question for Councils is whether or how they decide to intervene in these markets.

Over time, not only the national average unit costs for children's social care have increased. Since 2014/2015, also the number of children social care assessments has grown by 11.9% (read more about it here)And nationally, on average 64 per 10,000 children were looked after by a local authority in 2017/2018 (find out more about the implications of this here). 

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CFO Insights  is an online analysis tool that gives those aspiring to improve the financial position of their organisation instant access to insight on the financial performance, socio-economic context and service outcomes of theirs and every other council in England, Scotland and Wales. The tool provides a three-dimensional lens through which to understand council income and spend by category, the outcomes for that spend and the socio-economic context within which a council operates. This enables comparison against others, not only nationally, but in the context of their geographical and statistical neighbours.

We have also launched Adult Social Care Insights - the online analysis tool for local authorities to better understand their Adult Social Care services and system performance, enabling the intelligible visualisation of usually disparate and complex datasets. The platform looks at the services using 5 lenses: Council context, Demand, Services provided, Costs and Outcomes - allowing councils to assess their performance now and benchmark it against peers in ways that haven't been possible before. Reach out to us at for more information.