What Works for Children’s Social Care (WWCSC) is launching two new research projects, supported by funding from the government’s Evaluation Accelerator Fund (EAF).
The funding will be used to research strategies to support kinship carers and special guardians, and to evaluate the effectiveness of the ‘Staying Close’ residential care programme to support care leavers.
Whilst kinship care and residential care are two areas of growing interest, there are currently some gaps in evaluation. Research is needed to understand what works and make sure any changes and new initiatives are evidence-based – in order to, ultimately, improve the outcomes for children and young people in care.
The ‘Staying Close’ programme aims to provide stability and a safety net into adulthood for young people leaving residential care. The programme provides safe accommodation and bespoke packages to help develop young people’s confidence and skills for independent living, as well as supporting their emotional health and wellbeing. Pilot evaluations of the programme so far suggest young people benefit from the programme and the Department for Education announced £36 million funding for the Staying Close program in April 2022. 15 local authorities have been successful in bidding for funding to roll out the programme in their areas this year, in addition to the eight pilot sites. Our evaluation will now look for robust answers to whether the Staying Close programme works to improve young peoples’ outcomes in a wider number of local areas, how it can be implemented most effectively and its cost effectiveness for local authorities. Two other What Works Centres, Centre for Homelessness Institute and College of Policing, will be partnering with us on this research.
In our kinship care research, we will evaluate the impact of local authority strategies to support kinship carers and special guardians, and how this affects children’s outcomes. The Independent Review of Children’s Social Care placed significant emphasis on the importance of lifelong relationships for children, with these two types of care considered important viable routes to achieving loving, lifelong relationships for children. However, there is currently limited evidence on which strategies work to increase the number of kinship carers, and whether these improve outcomes for children. We are delighted to be working alongside Kinship, the charity for kinship carers, on this research. Where interventions are shown to be effective, we will also produce practice guides for local authorities to provide accessible information about good implementation. This will help to improve the effectiveness of interventions.
Aoife O’Higgins, Director of Research at What Works for Children’s Social Care said,
“This new funding will allow us to find much-needed answers to questions about what works in children’s social care.
“The ‘cliff-edge’ that many care leavers report experiencing when they leave care, in terms of the sudden loss of support and lack of preparation for living independently, must be addressed so young people are supported in their transition to independent living as an adult. Staying Close is one potential way of providing that support, and through research we can evaluate what works to have the best possible outcomes for children and young people, and learn how to implement the programme in the best way possible.
“Similarly, kinship care and special guardianship orders allow children to build long-lasting, loving familiar relationships. Our research will help the sector understand whether different interventions and strategies increase the number of kinship carers and special guardians and what impact this has on children’s outcomes.”
Minister for Children and Families Brendan Clarke-Smith said,
“Making the move from care to independent living can be daunting for any care leaver, so it’s vital that the right support systems are in place.
“The Staying Close Programme takes an innovative approach to developing the confidence and skills of these young people leaving care. Initial results from the pilots are encouraging and the rollout of the programme in additional areas will support many more young people.
“Having a solid evidence base, directed by good data, is key to understanding how to improve children’s outcomes – so this new research into the impact of kinship carers is particularly welcome.”
Notes for editors
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.
Kinship is the leading kinship care charity in England and Wales. We’re here for all kinship carers – the family members and friends who step up to raise children when their parents aren’t able to. We want every kinship family to have the recognition, value and support they need and deserve.
We offer kinship carers financial, legal, practical and emotional support and understanding from the moment they need it, for as long as they need it. Our expert advice, information and guidance helps with complicated and stressful decisions that so many kinship families have to make. We’re always there to support them through difficult times and celebrate the good. Kinship carers are strong and determined. Together, they are powerful.
We help them build communities of support and action by connecting families locally and across England and Wales. We’re at the heart of kinship networks, partnering with and influencing service providers, local and national government and other organisations. We give everything we have to fight for each family and their rights, changing society until every kinship family is recognised, valued and supported.
For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit the website www.kinship.org.uk
About the Centre for Homelessness Impact
The Centre for Homelessness Impact (CHI), is a member of the What Works Network. It advocates for an evidence based approach to ending homelessness for good. The CHI supports organisations in the field of homelessness and beyond to make evidence-led decisions and to adopt evidence-led practices.
About the College of Policing
We’re the professional body for the police service in England and Wales.
Working together with everyone in policing, we share the skills and knowledge officers and staff need to prevent crime and keep people safe.
We set the standards in policing to build and preserve public trust and we help those in policing develop the expertise needed to meet the demands of today and prepare for the challenges of the future.
About the Evaluation Accelerator Fund (EAF)
The EAF is a flagship programme for the Evaluation Task Force (ETF), run jointly by Cabinet Office and HMT, providing specialist support to ensure evidence and evaluation sits at the heart of spending decisions.