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Six local authorities to work with the What Works Centre to try to reduce the need for children to be in care

25 January 2019

Press Release

Announcing the partner local authorities who will be working with the What Works Centre for Children's Social Care on our exciting Change Projects

Following a high level of response from 33% of local authorities in England to our call for Change Project partners, the What Works Centre for Children’s Social Care has today announced the names of the six local authorities that it will work with on the two initial project areas:

  1. Locating social workers in schools to work with children and families
  2. Empowering social workers to take decisions – over budgets – to prevent the need for children to enter care.

The two project areas, which have a total budget of £2.4 million, focus on the key issues that the Centre identified through its initial engagement and research work with the sector and key stakeholders.

The selected partners will work with the Centre until March 2020, subject to the signing of sub-contracts that have been issued this month. The aim is to see if bringing social work expertise closer to where children are located and allowing social workers to take decisions at that point will help reduce the need to refer children to statutory processes and also reduce pressure on the ‘front door’ of children’s social care.

The projects will focus on empowering social workers in decision making, providing earlier help to children and making better use of available resources. A rigorous pilot evaluation will be managed by the Centre’s research partner, Cardiff University’s Children’s Social Care Research and Development Centre (CASCADE) who will work with each local authority on project set-up and evaluation. It is hoped the successful pilots will lead to larger scale evaluations from 2020.

Sir Alan Wood, Chair of the What Works Centre for Children’s Social Care, said of the projects: ‘There has been an unprecedented increase in the number of children in care in recent years and we owe it to all families to offer the best possible opportunity to avoid the need for care. With these two projects, we want to test the hypotheses that if you empower social workers to take decisions about providing support to families or in utilising (or not) statutory procedures without the need for further referral, then more timely decisions can be made, enabling earlier interventions to help children remain safely at home.’

Speaking about the partnerships, Michael Sanders, new Executive Director of the What Works Centre for Children’s Social Care said: ‘I’m really looking forward to working with our new partners and am very excited by these Change Projects. They represent a huge opportunity to make a real impact for both social workers and for the children and young people they work so hard to serve, as well as to advance the evidence base. The pilot evaluations, led by CASCADE, will allow us to move towards identifying how to best design programmes like these to maximise the likelihood of success in improving outcomes for young people and their families, as well as to understand their feasibility for larger scale delivery in the future.’

The partners will begin work on their projects in the coming weeks. Professor Donald Forrester, Director of CASCADE, research partner for the What Works Centre for Children’s Social Care, looks forward to this next phase of research: ‘The number and quality of applications we received was far higher than we anticipated – which indicates the energy there is in the sector to explore new ways of delivering services. We selected projects to allow for comparison of different ways of empowering social workers and families across the two areas. All projects will be evaluated by CASCADE for the What Works Centre and we will report initial findings to the sector in 2020. We know that is a short time period and the plan is for promising approaches to be rolled out and evaluated robustly.’

The Change Partner Project Summary Change Project partners – Darlington Borough Council, Hillingdon Borough Council, Lambeth Borough Council, Southampton City Council, Stockport Borough Council and Wigan Council – have welcomed the opportunity to work with the Centre:

“Southampton has already embarked on a change journey to strengthen locality working with schools and other partners. Becoming a Change Partner with the What Works Centre for Children’s Social Care provides us with an excellent and very timely opportunity to go further, by testing out putting social workers in schools and benefiting from being part of a bigger research project. We are fully committed to working with the University of Cardiff to find out what works and to embedding this learning in our local practice.”
Hilary Brooks, Director of Children’s Services, Southampton City Council

“We are really pleased to be working with the What Works Centre on the social workers in schools change programme. This is a great opportunity to develop, test and evaluate Stockport Family’s model of placing social work in the heart of communities within the borough’s schools, to better meet the needs of Stockport’s children, families, schools and communities.”
Councillor Colin Foster, Stockport Council’s Cabinet Member for Children and Family Services

“We are looking forward to working with the What Works Centre and Cardiff University in maximising the effectiveness of placing social workers in our schools. In Lambeth, we use what we call our ‘Children at the Heart of Practice’ model, which means working alongside families and the wider community, to provide appropriate, holistic support to tackle issues early. We believe this opportunity will provide real insight into targeted, locality-based provision and help ensure this early intervention really delivers positive outcomes for our most vulnerable children and families.”
Councillor Jennifer Brathwaite, Deputy Leader of Lambeth Council and Cabinet Member for Children & Young People

“We are delighted to have been successful in our bid to be involved with the What Works Programme. Having budget-holding social workers who can quickly purchase resources and services for families is a new and exciting way of working. We hope that it will make a huge difference in the success of our plans to help more children remain safely at home with their families when they need it most. We are also looking forward to sharing our learning with others.”
Councillor Jenny Bullen, Cabinet Member for children and young people at Wigan Council

“At Hillingdon, we are delighted to have been successful in our bid to be part of this research project, the work stream is coherent with our ever evolving models of practice that keep young people and children at the heart of all we do, empowering our social workers to work restoratively with young people to enable the best decision making and outcomes.”
Julie Kelly, Assistant Director Safeguarding at London Borough of Hillingdon

“As a small authority, we are particularly pleased to have been chosen to participate in this exciting work. The funding will give us the ability and confidence to be innovative when supporting families in Darlington. It will enable us to understand further about what works to get families back on track, and we are keen to share our learning widely.”
Cyndi Hughes, Lead member for Children in Darlington Borough Council

Notes to editors

Media enquiries
Guy Goodwin, Head of Communications
wwccsc@nesta.org.uk
07583 146982 / 02073612631

About the Change Project partners
Each Change Project partner will be working with the Centre on a specific project as follows:

Locating social workers in schools to work with children and families:
Lambeth Borough Council,
Southampton City Council,
Stockport Borough Council.

Empowering social workers to take decisions – including over budgets – to prevent the need for children to enter care:
Darlington Borough Council,
Hillingdon Borough Council,
Wigan Council.

Change Partner Project Summary For a summary of the Centre’s work with these initial partners see this downloadable summary.

What Works Centre for Children’s Social Care
The What Works Centre for Children’s Social Care is a new initiative that 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 mission is to foster a culture of evidence-informed practice. We will generate evidence where it is found to be lacking, improve its accessibility and relevance to the practice community, and support practice leaders (e.g. principal social workers, heads of service, assistant directors and directors) to create the conditions for more evidence-informed practice in their organisations.

Children’s Social Care Research and Development Centre (CASCADE)
CASCADE is concerned with all aspects of community-based responses to social need in children and families, including family support services, children in need services, child protection, looked-after children and adoption. It is the only centre of its kind in Wales and has strong links with policy and practice.

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