A SINGLE troubled tearaway is costing taxpayers £1,400 a DAY to look after, a Sun on Sunday investigation can reveal.
The bill – enough for a night in a suite at The Dorchester luxury hotel in London – racked up by cash-strapped Hull City Council is spent on housing the dangerous youngster in a secure unit miles away from his home.
It works out at an eye-watering £10,200 a week, or £531,000 a year.
By contrast, it costs an average of £64,000 a year to keep some of Britain’s most dangerous cons in a category A jail – or £41,000 to send a child to Eton.
Details of the tab run up by Hull, which wants to hike council tax rates by almost three per cent, emerged in our probe into the vast sums spent by councils on children’s care.
Around 5,000 children are currently housed in children’s homes in England and Wales, with almost 200 in secure units.
Many are privately run, leading to huge bills for taxpayers.
But an official review in 2016 found many councils had failed to negotiate costs, while government auditors said few council staff “had a proper grip on cost effectiveness”.
Our investigation asked councils across England and Wales to disclose the money they spent on children put in care homes outside their region.
The so-called “distance placements” often happen because local authorities’ own resources are already at breaking point.
FAILED TO NEGOTIATE COSTS
But they cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of pounds each year and have been criticised by MPs for making it “more likely for children to go missing” from care – just like victims of the Rotherham and Rochdale child abuse scandals.
Reading Borough Council revealed one child had been placed 200 miles away in a children’s home in Denbighshire, North Wales, at a cost of £234,000 a year.
Another was sent to a home in North West Leicestershire, also costing £226,000, while another was housed in Herefordshire (£128,000).
Other councils also recorded vast bills, with Devon County Council spending £1,671 per day on a single child – a rate working out at £610,000 over a whole year.
In Liverpool, 70 children housed in children’s homes were each costing taxpayers more than £100,000 a year to care for.
Eleven of those cost more than £200,000, and two cost more than £300,000 – helping push this year’s likely bill for external placements to more than £20 million.
Redbridge Borough Council, East London, said one child cost £536 per night to house elsewhere – more than a superior room at The Ritz.
Meanwhile, Northamptonshire County Council – which declared itself effectively bankrupt last year – said it spent £297,000 on a place at a children’s home miles away.
‘CAN LEAD TO DRUG-RELATED CRIME’
Most of the 150 councils who run social services departments refused to disclose costs or failed to answer our questions properly.
And Labour-run Brighton & Hove Council even claimed taxpayers had no right to know how it spends their money because it could damage its “commercial interests”.
Our probe comes three years after ex-Barnado’s chief Sir Martin Narey carried out an official review into children’s homes.
His report noted: “There has been a signal failure to obtain reasonable value for money when using them.”
And while giving evidence at a Commons hearing, Labour MP Ian Austin revealed one private firm had bragged it could make an 18 per cent return in a single year for investors.
Natasha Finlayson, chief executive of children’s care charity Become, said: “There’s a clear proven link between children being placed away from home and going missing.
“That can lead to exploitation both sexually or for drugs-related crime,as we’ve seen with the ‘county lines’ issues.”
She added: “Any placement in a standard non-specialist children’s home costing more than £5,000 per week is unjustifiable and means that excessive profits are being made out of vulnerable children.
“Councils should be opening more children’s homes which serve a number of local authorities in the same area.
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“That way you pool costs, places and resources – and get better value for money.”
Tory MP William Wragg, a member of the Commons Education Select Committee, said: “There hasn’t been the progress on these issues there should have been.
“Council budgets are skewed because they’re spending so much on care placements, without concentrating on preventative measures.”
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