For several years Revolution Consulting has been studying the published financial statements of the largest providers of children’s social care services in the UK, with results published by the Local Government Association and others. We’ve recently been revisiting all of the new information filed at Companies House since the Competition and Markets Authority reported on their 2021/22 study of the sector. The picture emerging is increasingly informative for policy makers, commissioners, and the new pilot Regional Care Cooperatives.

Amongst a wealth of detail are some examples that will be of interest to those concerned with the sustainability of provider organisations that also report high debt levels. One example that caught our eye comes from the Aspris Holdco Limited accounts for the year ended 31 August 2022. Aspris is the relatively newly named group that was formed by the consolidation of the Priory Group’s children’s care and education operations with those of Sandcastle homes under the direction of their common Waterland Private Equity owners.

Amongst the details provided in the accounts is information about the loans carried by this new Aspris group of £165million:

“The Group’s Loan facilities are subject to a single financial covenant test which is assessed quarterly. This covenant assesses the total gross Leverage of the Group as a ratio to pro forma LTM EBITDA of the consolidated group at each quarterly test date. At the balance sheet date the covenant threshold was 7.4x, as at 31 August 2022 the ratio level was materially below this threshold at a level of 4.9x. This equates to £11.6m of headroom expressed in terms of pro forma LTM EBITDA.”

Commissioners and policy makers need to have access to the technical ability to decode this sort of statement. What does it mean? How is it important to assessment of sustainability? What should commissioners make of it? How could it be used to inform the sort of financial oversight imagined by the Care Review and in the Department for Education’s Stable Homes consultation? How could it be used to inform smart strategic commissioning?

The Aspris disclosure of bank covenant information is rare and voluntary, but is in keeping with the DfE’s intent to start with a voluntary regime of oversight.

We will be running a seminar on 15 June (11am) as more information emerges from our wider profit and debt study, including the following topics:

Profit and Debt: An extract of some key findings from the review of accounts filed in the last year.

Financial ratios, bank covenants and risk monitoring. A simple introduction.

What does the financial information mean for commissioners? What can local authorities do in the short term via commercial terms with providers?: Can commissioning change the way that local authorities and providers interact? 

Directors of Children’s Services, Commissioners, Finance officers and policy makers who would like to join the debate around this information should contact us via our contact page to reserve a place.



Today sees the release of the 9th “State of the sector” report by the Children’s Homes Association.

The results are based on a comprehensive annual survey of the association’s membership, a large majority of which are small organisations, often operating only one or two homes. The smaller providers make up a significant majority of the provision in the sector, a factor that is often overlooked by commentators who do not  look beyond the now out-of-date CMA market study that only considered a small minority of the (largest) children’s social care providers.

The dominant themes in this year’s report relate to the challenges of staff recruitment and retention and the rising costs of staffing and the impact of the highest cost inflation experienced since the studies began in 2015. Reduced profitability and reserves are anticipated by respondents as a result of the uncertainties around recovery of higher costs from local authorities. This situation leads to greater caution amongst some providers and therefore acts as a brake on further capacity investment. Given the clear and continuing evidence of increasing demand and the urgent need for additional capacity this should be seen as a warning sign for policy makers and commissioners.

The Government and Independent Review response to the CMA market study offers little other than a relatively undefined notion of regional care cooperative pilots in the next 2 years. With such a lacklustre and ponderous response from policy makers there is an opportunity for providers to take a more urgent and leading role in shaping the sector to better meet demand and needs. The survey report includes some non-partisan examination of the roles of public, voluntary and private sector in a mixed economy. It also examines both the operation of the current referral interfaces between purchasing authorities and providers and considers the appetite for alternative forms of contracting arrangements.

This is rich intelligence that has the potential to be developed into a set of pragmatic, balanced and sustainable models for purchasing bodies and providers alike.

The report can be accessed via the link below.

CHA Spring 2023 final


Today sees the publication of our State-of-the-sector market study of children’s homes, commissioned by ICHA.
ICHA May 2022 final

This comprehensive study enhances the information available to policy makers as they consider the many recommendations arising from the CMA and the Independent Care Review, both of which placed primary importance on the perspective gained from study of the largest providers. It is essential to state that the top 10 providers account for only 1/3rd of children’s homes, and therefore any strategy needs to consider the role of the majority small and medium providers.

As the most up to date and comprehensive picture of the sector, the state of the sector report illustrates growing staffing and workforce pressures that risk undermining the ability of providers to respond to escalating need and demand. These are increasingly severe issues that require urgent attention.

When it comes to consideration of the way forward for commissioning, there is undoubtedly a need for innovative solutions in risk sharing and relationship development. Last weeks’ national children’s commissioning and training conference heard from Dan Turnbull of the CMA about their findings and had also hoped to hear directly from the chair of the Review, Josh MacAlister, but over 400 attendees were disappointed when he did not attend his allotted slot on the main platform.

Having personally had the chance to hear first hand from dozens of commissioners at the event, and through recent webinars for the LGA, it is clear to me that many have reservations about the regional structure put forward.

I would urge Will Quince to ensure his implementation team engage with commissioners and providers at a level of detail that the main reviews could not achieve.

There are a range of options not considered by the larger studies that merit proper debate and consideration.

Profit Making and Risk in Independent Children’s Social Care Placement Providers FINAL 2022

Our latest update for the Local Government Association confirms the growth in size and profitability of the largest children’s services providers.

The CMA have recommended actions to address the imbalance they described in the sector, but in our view these do not go far enough, and do not recognise the important role of the smaller providers that were not included in these studies.

At the core of the challenge is the need to protect children from the influence that commercial factors might have on decisions made that impact on their lives. This includes decisions made in commissioning, procurement and in service delivery.

The pan-national scale of the larger providers renders ineffective the different national agendas and the CMA proposals for a patchwork of sub-national commissioning. It is time for bold and assertive engagement with providers to reduce volatility, secure long term access to services where they are needed, and to partner with the economic efficiency that the results in our study clearly demonstrate.

It is time to re-cast the out of date price-per-week models and to break down commercial barriers and attitudes. It is time to support robust and long term study of the know-how that exists in service provision and the impact that providing the right services in the right places at the right time can help children to achieve.

The CMA clearly identify that individual local authorities cannot do this alone. We’re therefore calling on Ministers and the Care Review to grasp these challenges.

In this month’s CYPNow – a discussion of the remedies proposed by the CMA’s interim report.

More than 9 months into the Independent Review, the CMA are clearly signalling that they will be handing a set of recommendations for improvement in local authority market engagement early in 2022. Anyone who has been around the sector long enough to have absorbed previous reviews and studies may feel that much being studied and commented this time around is not saying anything we haven’t seen or heard before.

The clock is ticking on both reviews to start to deliver tangible improvements.




The CMA published its interim report from the UK-wide Children’s social care market study last week.

Readers of over 80 pages in the report and 60 pages of appendices are invited to comment on it all by 12 November.

I for one welcome a couple of weeks to properly absorb the report, but my first thoughts are these:

  1. The CMA are not advocating for moves to restrict prices or profits as the way forward.
  2. Instead they identify the flaws in the current market as:
    “fundamentally a symptom of the underlying problem of insufficient supply of appropriate placements and the difficulties faced by local authorities in engaging effectively in this market”.
  3. The CMA did not find significant differences in assessed quality between local authority and independent provision.

These conclusions set up potential tensions around the UK.

Scotland and Wales are both adopting positions that potentially conflict with the CMA’s position, and in England the chair of the Independent Review is maintaining his position that “indefensible profits” are being made.

In an interview with my professional body, the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales earlier this year I described the risks of the various reviews producing a set of recommendations that can’t be properly funded, link below.

I’d now add to this a concern that the various ongoing reviews appear to be heading in different directions, and different countries within the UK are also diverging in approach.

Children and Young people who need care and support need the adults around them to design, operate and fund systems to provide for that care and support. I would suggest that children and young people are unlikely to benefit from divided opinions, directions and positions being taken by those adults. Perhaps it is time for the new Minister for Children and the Education Secretary to bring parties together to reconcile and redirect?


Today sees the release of the second update report in this series of studies for the Local Government Association.


In this work we are commissioned to provide financial indicators about the largest children’s services sector providers. This can be a technical area and we urge readers to take care in their use and interpretation of the content. We’re always ready to help users to understand the work and invite you to contact us with questions and clarification requests.

This is all the more important as we have seen evidence in the social media and elsewhere that misstates our findings in previous reports. At this time of particular focus on the sector from the Independent  Review and the CMA it is essential that this information is correctly understood.

We are planning a further webinar to discuss findings. If you are interested to attend please email or use the details on our contact page.


We are also interested to hear from organisations that would like to see this type of study repeated on a regular basis and who may be interested in becoming shared owners of the information and analysis.



034_CYP_250521 SR Research

A review of recent research evidence related to children’s care commissioning for C&YPNow

Today sees the publication of Revolution Consulting’s latest update report investigating the profitability and risk levels amongst the largest independent providers of children’s social care services.

This research is commissioned by the Local Government Association, and updates information first provided in this format in February 2020.

Much has changed in the intervening year, not least as a result of the wide and dramatic impact of the Coronavirus pandemic. The full impact on local authority finances and on those of their providers, including those studied in this report, will become increasingly apparent during the further disclosures and financial reporting during the coming year. Further updates to this work are therefore planned during 2021.

The announcement in January 2021 of the commencement of the long-awaited Care Review includes clear indication that one area of focus for the work will be on the impact of increasing demand, high and rising prices and the perceived unresponsiveness of some parts of the market (sic). Questions to be addressed include asking who is best to provide value for money and sustainable services, and also where accountability should lie. The role of independent sector services, how they are commissioned, and by whom, therefore seems to fit squarely in the crosshairs of the review.

The importance of the availability of high-quality information about the sector in the coming year cannot therefore be understated. In addition, there is an imperative that the information is properly understood and interpreted. Some of the information available requires technical knowledge from those with qualified accountancy backgrounds to aid understanding for all readers. It also benefits from first-hand insights gained through direct experience within the sector and a continuing dialogue with those directly involved all around the sector.

Revolution Consulting is therefore offering a series of on-line seminars in the coming weeks.

These will include an overview of the materials covered in the published reports and will also include the opportunity to explore the implications of the findings with fellow councillors, directors, commissioners, policy makers, providers and other interested parties.

“Hear insights from the information in the study directly from the author”

If you are interested in securing a place to attend one of these events, and to receive further information about them please contact us via or via email

Please identify your organisation and your role so that we can provide you with the appropriate seminar details.

A number of free places are available, and will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.

In her April 2020 inaugural address, Jenny Coles, the new President of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, discusses the possibility of “huge spikes in demand across the children’s social care spectrum” as a result of the Coronavirus outbreak.

If this forecast turns out to be true it will have a huge impact on a children’s services sector already in financial crisis before the virus struck. By November 2019 local authorities in England reported overspending their children’s services budgets for 2018/19 to the tune of £800m (Local Government Chronicle [LGC], 2019), with even higher spending anticipated for 2019/2020.

With the Treasury having to take unprecedented steps to prevent economic collapse since March 2020 the situation post-Coronavirus will be anything but normal. There may be little or no capacity for additional funding for local authorities and further forms of austerity cannot be ruled out.

Wholesale reappraisal of how all local authority services are funded and provided looks inevitable, with children’s social care and the way in which the services for the sector are commissioned and stewarded an essential ingredient needing redesign.

This discussion paper written by Andrew Rome, Director of Revolution Consulting, supported by IPC’s Director Keith Moultrie, considers how the historic commissioned interfaces with independent providers can be transformed to survive the aftermath of these unprecedented challenges. Supply management childrens services post crisis

For more information contact Keith Moultrie, Director of the Institute of Public Care, Andrew Rome, Director, Revolution Consulting