Yorkshire local authorities are under pressure to reduce their reliance on privately-run children’s homes after they spent £150m on fees in just three years.
As the annual costs for two Yorkshire authorities passed the £10m mark, politicians are backing calls for major changes to the private care system which sees hundreds of young people from Yorkshire sent to homes across the country.
There are concerns that children in private care many miles from home are more vulnerable to sexual exploitation.
There are just under 100 private care homes across Yorkshire, with clusters in disadvantaged areas with cheaper property prices, heightening fears that children may be more vulnerable to abuse.
Councils chiefs have admitted they do not know locations of some private homes and small homes can open without planning permission.
Weekly costs for some homes are over £5,000 per child and those authorities with large numbers of vulnerable children in care are facing huge rises in bills.
Leeds Council’s annual bill for external residential provision reached £14m last year, double the bill for 2009-10, as the number of Leeds children in private care outside the city rose to over 100 and those in private care locally tripled to 24.
A special Leeds committee conducted an inquiry into private care homes.
Councillors are concerned that small-scale homes can open without planning permission and without notifying the local council.
Its chairman, Coun Judith Chapman, has written to Children’s Minister Edward Timpson calling for greater regulation and for private homes to notify child welfare boards if a child goes missing.
She said: “We hope to be instrumental in influencing any change which will protect and enhance the lives of children and young people in care.”
A Department for Education spokesman said urgent reforms were a priority.