Devolving budgets to social workers in Darlington

Giving social workers in Darlington the freedom to use budgets in creative ways to help children safely remain at home


Pilot / In progress

Estimated completion

March 2020

Focus areas

Professionals, Children & families



Delivered by

Darlington Borough Council

Evaluated by

CASCADE, Cardiff University

Key Figures

Local authorities 1
Grant size £360k

Darlington Borough Council is devolving budgets to frontline social workers and managers, giving individual teams the power to identify and test creative solutions aiming to safely prevent children and young people from entering care.

Families where children are at risk of imminently requiring a care order will be identified by a team manager. 30-50 of these families will then be randomly selected to have a budget of up to £10,000 allocated to them, and held by their social worker. Where possible, these budgets will be equally spread over three age cohorts: families with a child aged 0-4, 5-9 and 10-16 years old.

Social workers will be encouraged to be creative with their support to families. Budgets are suggested to be used for a range of purposes such as: academic support, financial support for the home, financial support for out of school activities, support for any extended family, access to external specialist therapy, and help to widen the reach of Family Group Conferencing.

The qualitative evaluation aims to help us better understand how the budgets are used and implemented, the potential mechanisms of impact, and contextual factors. This will involve collecting data from interviews, observations, focus groups and questionnaires conducted with social workers, as well as families who receive a budget. Randomised allocation of budgets will be piloted in Darlington and an exploratory analysis of  administrative data, including information about statutory care, will be conducted to compare the differences between families receiving, or not receiving the budgets.

The evaluation of the programme began in Spring 2019, and ran until March 2020.

The summary report and final report are now available.

The interim report (August 2019) was published in August 2019.