Independent Review of Children’s Social Care: an opportunity for evidence-led reform

23 May 2022

Today’s publication of the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care presents the opportunity for future reforms of children’s services to be research-led and evidence-generating.

As part of our remit to create and promote evidence-based practice in children’s social care, What Works for Children’s Social Care (WWCSC) were pleased to provide independent research support to the Review. Today we are publishing a series of reports commissioned to inform the Review’s understanding of a number of target areas and recommendations. Over the summer we will be putting the spotlight on this new work, ranging from research on children in need plans to residential care, and sharing our findings with the sector. 

Whilst there is much in the Review for the children’s sector to unpack in the coming weeks, WWCSC welcomes the renewed focus on evidence-informed practice. The Review’s proposal for a new National Children’s Social Care Framework has the potential to support all those working in children’s services to draw on the best available evidence on how to support families.

WWCSC has already begun an ambitious programme to evaluate interventions in children’s social care, many of which feature in the Review. We hope that our forthcoming findings on, for example, the impact of Family Safeguarding, Family Valued, No Wrong Door, Family Group Conferencing, Family Drug and Alcohol Courts, the Mockingbird Family Model and our Social Workers in Schools trial, will inform any future National Children’s Social Care Framework. Alongside this, a national system of agreed outcomes developed with children and families, researchers and practitioners would allow us and others to further improve how we measure the impact of services.

The Review proposes substantial changes to the way children’s services are organised and delivered, with the introduction of Family Help. Alongside this, the Review highlights the need for an integrated What Works Centre to have a greater impact for children and families and we welcome this recommendation as an opportunity to ensure that changes to practice are robustly evaluated.

We also welcome the Review’s vision for improved data collection and linkage across public services. There is huge potential to benefit children, families and care leavers by improving data quality and its use within services. National and local government should work with any new National Data and Technology Taskforce to develop a strategy to make this a reality.

Aoife O’Higgins, Director of Research at What Works for Children’s Social Care said, “The publication of today’s Review provides great potential to put research at the heart of children’s services – with a new National Children’s Social Care Framework, clear agreed outcomes and better data collection and use. We hope the government will draw on the findings from our research, also published today, in their response to the Review. Whilst there is much in the Review for the sector to reflect on, WWCSC will be leading the call for careful evaluation of future changes so we can measure the benefits for our children, young people and families.”

Notes to editors:

About What Works for Children’s Social Care

What Works for Children’s Social Care seeks better outcomes for children, young people and families by bringing the best available evidence to practitioners and other decision makers across the children’s social care sector.

Our research looks at the point of referral through to permanence, including adoption, care-leaver support and targeted early help. We focus on children’s social care practice in England and draw on and share learning at the international level.

Engagement and co-design are central to our approach and we are working in close consultation with leaders, practitioners, children and young people, families and researchers across the sector to:

  • Identify gaps in the evidence, and create new evidence through trials and evaluations
  • Collate, synthesise and review existing evidence
  • Develop, test and publish tools and services that support the greater use of evidence in children’s social care
  • Champion the application of robust standards of evidence in children’s social care research.

Evidence provided to the review by WWCSC: