UK Children’s homes – 2023 insights


Children’s homes are critical in supporting and caring for vulnerable children who cannot live with their families for various reasons. According to the Care Standards Act of 20002, an establishment is defined as a ‘children's home’ if it provides ‘care and accommodation wholly or primarily for children.’ Children are defined as persons under the age of 18. Young individuals over 18 can also reside or stay in a children's home but they must be in a minority.

In this guide, we cover:

What is a children's home?

A children's home is a residential facility providing accommodation, care, and support for children and young people who cannot live with their families. It offers a safe and nurturing environment where trained and qualified staff members, including social workers, caregivers and support workers create an environment that caters for children's emotional, educational, and physical development3. The government regulates and supervises children's homes to ensure the wellbeing and welfare of children who may have experienced abuse, neglect4 or other challenging circumstances in their family life.

What does a children's home do?

Children's homes provide essential services and support to the children and young people in their care5. These include:

Accommodation: Children's homes offer a safe and secure place for children who cannot reside with their families.

Emotional support: Staff members in children's homes provide emotional support to help children cope with past experiences and build positive relationships.

Education: Homes provide access to education to ensure vulnerable children are supported in their academic endeavours and equal opportunities are available for learning and development.

Health and wellbeing: Enabling to the delivery of proper medical care, including regular check-ups and access to necessary healthcare services.

Life skills training: Helping children to develop essential life skills such as cooking, personal hygiene, money management and decision-making, to prepare them for independent living.

Therapeutic interventions: Supporting children who have experienced trauma or have specific emotional or behavioural needs receive therapeutic interventions, counselling, and other specialized support.

Why do children go into children's homes?

Children may enter children's homes for various reasons6, including:

Family breakdown: Providing temporary or long-term care for children whose families are experiencing challenges, such as parental illness, addiction, parental separation or domestic violence or other circumstances that would make it either unsafe or unfeasible for the child to remain at home.

Abuse or neglect: Children's homes offer a protective environment for children who have experienced abuse, neglect, or other forms of maltreatment. At the same time, appropriate interventions are undertaken to address their well-being and safety.

Foster placement breakdown: In some cases, foster placements may not work out for various reasons, and children may require alternative care arrangements.

Behavioural difficulties: Children's homes can provide the structure, guidance, and therapeutic services needed to support children with behavioural or emotional challanges.

Transition and rehabilitation: Children's homes support young people transitioning from other care settings, such as foster care, back into a family environment or independent living.

Risk of going missing: For children who repeatedly go missing or are at risk of exploitation on the streets, children's homes offer a stable and secure environment.

Unaccompanied minors: Children who arrive in the country as refugees or unaccompanied minors without family support may be placed in children's homes until suitable arrangements for their care and immigration status are made.

Different types of children's homes

As of 31 March 2023, there were 3,119 children's homes of all categories, a 9% increase (246 homes) over the previous year (2,873)7. There are four main categories of children's homes8. They include:

Secure children's homes9 specifically cater to children who pose a risk to themselves or others due to their behaviour. They provide safe accommodation, supervision, and support while helping young people address their challenges and receive appropriate interventions. There were 13 secure children’s homes as of 31 March 202310>.

Short break-only children's home11 offer planned and short-term stays for children with disabilities or complex needs, providing respite care to their families or caregivers. As of 31 March 2023, 170 children’s homes provided care exclusively for short breaks, offering 1,039 places. This is an increase compared to the number of homes recorded as short-break-only as of 31 March 2022, when 156 homes offered 982 places.

Residential special schools registered as children's homes12 provide education and care for children with special educational needs or disabilities who require a residential setting.

As of 31 March 2023, there were 56 recognised residential special schools as children's homes, giving 1,457 spaces. This represents a 10% decline in providers and a 7% decrease in places since March 2022, when these totals were 62 and 1,573, respectively. No residential special schools registered as children's homes opened between 1 April 2022, and 31 March 2023. This maintains the longer-term pattern of a progressively diminishing number of residential special schools recognised as children's homes and their potential capacity.

Children's homes generally refer to residential facilities that cater to a wide range of children's needs, providing care, support, and accommodation for those who cannot live with their families.

How many children's homes are there in the UK?

The number of children's homes may change over time due to the establishment of new homes or changes in registration or closure of existing homes influenced by various factors.

Approximately 400,000 (3%) of England's 12 million youngsters are in the social care system at any given moment. More than 82,000 of these children are in care. As of 31 March 2023, 152 local authorities in England were responsible for assuring and managing the proper delivery of social care services for children.

Year-on-year comparison for the period 31 March 2022 – 31 March 2023, the number of children's homes increased by 9% to 2,880 and the number of places increased by 7% to 10,818. This is consistent with a long-standing trend of the number of dwellings increasing faster than the number of spaces available.

What is a children’s home?

Homes vary in size, capacity, and the services they offer children. They are regionally spread to ensure that children in need have access to suitable care and support within their local community.

Government bodies such as Ofsted in England, the Care Inspectorate in Scotland, the Care and Social Services Inspectorate in Wales and the Health and Social Care Trust in Northern Ireland regulate children’s care homes to ensure the highest standards of care and protection.

Future perspective

UK children's homes remain vital in providing a safe and nurturing environment for vulnerable / at risk children and are integral to helping children thrive and overcome various life challenges. By understanding the purpose, service priorities and different types of children's homes, we can collectively work towards ensuring that every child has access to the care and support they deserve.

If you are in the process of assessing the viability of a new children’s home project or reviewing your current insurance and risk management programme, our specialist care sector team are here to help – call us any time on 0800 062 2325.

More information on children’s home insurance and our specialist care sector team is also available on this website.


The sole purpose of this guide is to provide guidance on the issues covered. This article is not intended to give legal advice, and, accordingly, it should not be relied upon. It should not be regarded as a comprehensive statement of the law and/or market practice in this area. We make no claims as to the completeness or accuracy of the information contained herein or in the links which were live at the date of publication. You should not act upon (or should refrain from acting upon) information in this publication without first seeking specific legal and/or specialist advice. Arthur J. Gallagher Insurance Brokers Limited accepts no liability for any inaccuracy, omission or mistake in this publication, nor will we be responsible for any loss which may be suffered as a result of any person relying on the information contained herein.