Isn’t government efficient at doing things?

The report, seen by The Daily Telegraph, exposes how councils in England are spending more than a £1 billion a year to care for fewer than 4,900 children. It calculates that councils now spend an average of £4,000 a week — or £208,000 a year — to place one child in a home, several times what it could cost to educate them at some of Britain’s top public schools.

To be entirely fair Eton only runs 8 months of the year. But it also provides a rather better education than these poor mites are getting.

Also to be entirely fair this sum being spent by the councils won’t actually include their education, that’ll be in the standard schools budget.

What the fuck are they spending all that money on?

Unity, you know?

25 thoughts on “Isn’t government efficient at doing things?”

  1. What the fuck are they spending all that money on?

    I expect the only answer you will get to that question is a general assertion it is racist to ask. Maybe sexist. Given so much of British social spending seems to have become outdoor relief for third rate sociology graduates – mainly female. Who can forget the fetish rituals carried out in the office that was supposed to be protecting Victoria Climbie?

  2. 24 x 7 adult supervision – that’s really a minimum of 4 people per slot. 4 people probably need a manager in local authority terms.

    Call that £120k pa for every carer, just on salaries. We used to double salary cost as a rule of thumb for employee cost. That’s £4600. How many children per carer?

    And then you have food (call it £100 a week), accommodation (they’ll all have to have single rooms), maintenance, a large senior management team with plush offices, etc …

  3. Couldn’t we just send them all to Eton? Perhaps they could be put up in a respectable country house hotel during the holidays.

    It would save us a few quid and the kids would be far less likely to be buggered than in a ‘care’ home.

  4. There is a problem with the way this story is presented. Whilst some of the care is probably expensive and badly provided, there are some schools that deal with the seriously traumatised emotionally disturbed children. I remember reading an article about such a place, it was several times more expensive than Eton, but they had to have unbelievable amounts of resource. They cannot be sent to the likes of Eton.

  5. @SMFS
    Back before the Climbie case hit the papers, a close friend was a social worker in that office. Herself, lass was exactly what you’d hope a social worker would be. Out of the inner city of one of the British Isles’ less desirable localities, Been there, done it, street wise, hard as nails. Frightened the hell out of me. Once saw all 5’2″ of her intimidating 18 stone of club doorman. “Yer want te do what! Search me bag? Ye kin fook off can’tcher?” Can remember her .bitchin’ over a bottle of Black Bush. She was trying to cope with a case load of over 30 active files whilst having to backstop a co-worker couldn’t handle four. She reckoned the woman was taking the piss. Treated the office like a drop-in centre & did damn all when she was there. But, of course,, her ethnicity precluded anyone in the office noticing. This.this was the Haringey bequeathed by Bernie Grant. Slightest criticism’d bring a discrimination inquisition down..
    Give you 3 guesses who the woman was.

  6. bloke in spain – “This.this was the Haringey bequeathed by Bernie Grant. Slightest criticism’d bring a discrimination inquisition down..”

    Yeah. So when you have someone who presides over this sort of dysfunction, what do you do with him?

    Gurbux Singh, the former chief executive of Haringey council (before becoming the chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality), said that there was nothing he could have done to prevent Climbié’s death

    “Give you 3 guesses who the woman was.”

    Hard to say really. So many of them would have to work hard to meet that standard, I mean, treating the place as a Drop In Centre would be an improvement:

    Carole Baptiste, Arthurworrey’s first supervisor, initially refused to attend the hearings, but subsequently gave vague responses to the inquiry,[106] and said that she had been suffering from mental illness at the time.[107][108] Baptiste’s own child was taken into care a few months before Climbié’s death.[106] Arthurworrey said that, in their meetings, Baptiste spent most of the time discussing “her experiences as a black woman and her relationship with God”, rather than child protection cases, and that she was frequently absent.[109] Baptiste admitted she had not read Climbié’s file properly.

    But it was all racism wasn’t it? Institutional racism or something.

  7. @Ken – Winston Smith’s blog amazingly (given the make-up of the judging panel) won the Orwell Prize and was the basis for a book (Generation F) which made scary reading.

  8. @SMFS
    Very strange place Haringey. Once saw an ad in the local, Some sort of council scheme to provide premises for small business start ups. (For some unaccountable reason the Council seems to own or control numerous small industrial units across the borough) Thought it might be worth investigating so rang the displayed number. Conversation goes something like this.
    “Hulloo. Jabber, jabber, jabber. hulloo”
    “Hello. Do you speak English?”
    “Jabber, jabber, jabber. Hulloo”
    “Vous parlez francais? Habla espanol?”
    Living in London can give you a diverse experience & quite a lot of the jabber was familiar if not comprehensible. One of the West African language groups. Nigerian at a guess.
    So the Business Premises department’s put someone answering the phone, doesn’t speak any English. Nor anything else of interest.
    Which gives a clue why local authority expenditure can be so astronomical. Their function has become to provide what they consider an appropriate working environment for their employees. That’s their primary purpose..What’s supposed to be achieved is not even a secondary purpose. It’s solely to provide a justification for the expenditure involved. Not achieving is even preferable, It provides an opportunity for even more spending.

  9. Just want to change a few words of that.
    For “…to provide what they consider an appropriate working environment for their employees.”
    “…to provide what they consider to be an appropriate environment for those who need to be employed by the public sector”
    It’s closer to the truth.

  10. Two more issues with that article, specifically Gove’s statement that “more than half of children’s homes are in areas with above-average crime levels”.

    Firstly, we’d expect half of anything to be above average and the other half below average.
    Secondly, there’s the question of chicken and egg. Chances are the parents live in a rough area (as one would expect of dysfunctional families). If you want the kids to be placed near their parents, then the homes have to be in rough areas too. All above board.

    The Eton comparisons are interesting but misleading. If you misbehave at boarding school you get kicked out; but if you misbehave at one of these institutions they have to hire more guards / social workers to keep you in line.

  11. Andrew M

    Your point 2 is good. But on point 1 although we expect half of all areas to have above average crime and half to be below there is no reason why the homes have to be in above average crime areas per se. It would be possible that they were all in below average crime areas, although your point 2 shows why this might not be the case.

  12. From one of the comments on Ken’s Winston Smith link:

    “There is at least one staff member for each child in care at all times, two if the child is more of risk to themselves or others. ”

    So that’s simple. I assumed £20k for the staff and £40 for the manager to get my £120k – these aren’t extravagant salaries. You can probably get away with 3 rather than 4 staff members to fill a shift rota – although it makes holidays and mass lurgie rather difficult to handle.

  13. Firstly, we’d expect half of anything to be above average and the other half below average.

    In this case, I think Gove can be given a pass. You’re correct (using certain fairly sensible assumptions and a reasonable experimental design) that if a monkey threw darts at a map, half of them would land in areas with above-average crime rates and half below. But that does not preclude us from asking whether a monkey throwing darts at a map is a suitable basis for selecting the locations of children’s homes.

    Your second point, in fact, suggests not. And I agree entirely: I am slightly surprised that as few as a half of children’s homes are in areas with an above-average crime rate.

  14. Philip Walker,

    Read Winston Smith. I’m not surprised that some of the homes are in lower crime areas. The section 20 of the 1989 Children’s Act is clearly being misused.

  15. Reading Winston Smith, I came to the conclusion that placing a home in a low crime area is often sufficient to turn that in to a high crime area.

  16. Thanks. First time I’ve seen that figure.
    The other side is that there are nearly 100,000 kids in council “care” buggering service (so cared for that they end at the wrong end of any list of human failure from prison to alcoholism to homelessness to illiteracy to metal disability and that a vast number taken into care aren’t actually suffering but simply “at risk”)

    That comes to about £20 K to the obscene child abusing parasites we call “social” workers.

  17. Of course more homes than you’d expect are in lower-crime areas. Someone has to run them, and they’d rather work somewhere more expensive with higher pay.

  18. A more apt comparison is in Independent Special Needs Residential Schools. Some schools of this type operate 52 weeks of the year i.e. the children are always present, (some are open almost all year but not Christmas)

    Prices vary for this sort of provision, but the figure you quote, £208,000 is not untypical, it may be a bit high.

    The difference is, of course, that these children are the most difficult, complex, disabled children in the country and need high levels of staffing and other forms of input – speech therapy, that sort of thing.

    A more accurate comparision is Residential EBD, which tends to be £25k to £50k per year, but this is only for 38 weeks of the year, so extending this to 52 weeks would probably approximately double the staffing/running costs.

    However, those placements do usually educate the child as well, whereas Children in Residential Care Homes are usually taught in already existing provision.

    Most of it is wasted in the bureaucracy.

  19. Near me is a school for those kicked out of other schools. Extremely high resource cost per child than most places, what with very small class sizes, external contractors (who take on one or two kids for specialist help) and of course management of staff relevant for a small school. Figures per child would show massively because of the help given, rather like a child in care will show massively in figures because of the help given.
    So overall this looks like a non story.
    Now if they were comparing the kids in care to the adults in care (hospital, prison, care home or whatever) the cost may be able to be put in context.

  20. Paul and Martin your figures only apply to the direct costs in “care homes”. There is clearly an awful lot of council bureaucracy going on, including things that Booker has mentioned of paying out £25K for court opinions from “experts” who “diagnose” without ever seeing the kids.

    Or it is possible that this cost is not included in the initial figure Tim quotes in which case reality is far worse.

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