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Counting the human cost of supported accommodation

BBC Newsnight worked with Spend Network to report on supported accommodation for looked after children. This forms part of their series Britain’s Hidden Children’s Homes.

At present, over 5,000 looked-after-children are living in “supported accommodation”. Supported accommodation are homes that provide support but not care to children under 18. These homes are outside Ofsted’s mandate for registration or inspection.

The BBC and the Open Contracting Partnership used our data and analysis for the quantitative base for the Newsnight investigation. Spend Network has one of the largest databases on public sector spend data in the country. Included in this data are the ‘bank statements’ of most UK public sector entities. We matched these statements to major providers of supported accommodation using our algorithms and human verification. From this we built a picture of the overall supported accommodation market, its size and regional variation.

We also learned about the deeper human costs. Some councils paid two providers up to £28,000 a month for a particular child to be accommodated. For one particular child, the child’s council paid more than £15,000 per month for their accommodation and support. This was despite the child lacking bare necessities such as bedding, food or cooking equipment. In another similar case, a council paid £2,000 a month for a child to live in a house without essential household and living items. By contrast, one provider could earn up to £74,000 in fees a month for just six children.

This report is an important reminder of the value of open data for better outcomes around public spending. We are proud to work with the BBC and the Open Contracting Partnership to make this happen. You can learn more about Newsnight’s findings on here or on BBC’s website:

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