The number of children in council care in England has risen by 12 per cent, with overall costs calculated at £3.4bn.
There were 68,110 children in care on 31 March 2013, including 42,228 who had suffered abuse or neglect. This figure had risen by 12 per cent or 7,210 in the previous four years, according to figures from the Audit Commission.
Experts said the bleak reality is that children in care are more likely to have mental health problems than their peers, more likely to end up homeless and are also more likely to be excluded from school than other children.
Councils in England spent £3.4bn in 2012-13 caring for these vulnerable young people, who represent 0.6 per cent of all under 18-year-olds in England.
Helen Berresford, of the 4Children charity which is working towards an integrated approach to children’s services, said: “There is a high financial cost to councils of caring for these vulnerable young people – but there is an even greater social and economic cost to not giving the support they need.
“We need a system of early and intensive support for struggling families.”