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Strengthening Families, Protecting Children: Family Safeguarding Pilot Evaluation Report

This pilot evaluation explores early implementation of Family Safeguarding in Trailblazer Local Authority Cambridgeshire.

Focus areas

Whole system

THEMES

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Summary

This report presents findings from a pilot evaluation of the Family Safeguarding Model in Cambridgeshire. This was commissioned by the Department for Education as part of the Strengthening Families, Protecting Children (SFPC) programme. 

Family Safeguarding is a whole system approach to children’s safeguarding. This involves establishing multi-disciplinary children’s safeguarding teams where Specialist Adult Practitioners in domestic abuse, mental health and substance misuse are co-located with Social Workers. Staff use Motivational Interviewing, and a structured assessment and intervention programme with families. 

Objectives

This pilot aimed to provide early insights into the rollout of Family Safeguarding, and inform the next phase of the evaluation by asking three key research questions.

  1. Evidence of Feasibility i.e. Can the intervention be delivered as intended, is it acceptable to those delivering and receiving it, and what are the contextual facilitators and barriers?
  2. Evidence of Promise i.e. What evidence is there that the intervention mechanism operates as expected and that it can have a positive impact on outcomes?
  3. Readiness for Trial i.e. How consistently can the intervention be delivered and is the programme sufficiently codified to operate at scale?

How we went about it

We collected data through:

  • Interviews, focus groups and a survey of staff in Family Safeguarding teams
  • Interviews with families
  • Observations of social work practice
  • Administrative data about intervention delivery

Key findings

Many elements of the model were implemented as planned, even in the context of a global pandemic. There were challenges recruiting Mental Health Practitioner roles in particular, and staff reported varying confidence in case recording within the workbook.

Staff were mostly positive and welcomed the Family Safeguarding model. Motivational Interviewing training in particular was well received. Families also provided positive feedback about Adult Practitioners.

Staff felt they had a good understanding of the model. However, over half of staff felt they would benefit from more training and support.

Staff felt that Family Safeguarding increased shared responsibility and input from a range of professionals, that families received more immediate and intensive support and were empowered to make and sustain change.

Potential benefits of Family Safeguarding reported by staff and families included improved engagement of families, improved outcomes particularly for parents, as well as de-escalation of statutory involvement and greater momentum, i.e. less drift and delay in cases. This evidence is anecdotal and not evidence of impact. 

Implications

This evaluation only captures the early stages of implementation of the Family Safeguarding Model. Interpretation of findings from this pilot evaluation should also consider that Family Safeguarding in Cambridgeshire launched immediately before the first Covid-19 national lockdown. 

Based on what worked well in Cambridgeshire as well as ways in which delivery could be improved, when introducing Family Safeguarding in a new area local decision makers should:

  • Work with partners to establish locally tailored and flexible strategies for recruitment of Adult Specialist Workers, which consider local and national pressures that might affect recruitment of certain roles.
  • Support relationship building and knowledge sharing between Adult Specialist Practitioners and social care staff.
  • Ensure in-depth training for staff in respect of use of the workbook and the facilitation of group supervision.
  • Coordinate ongoing support and guidance for using the model, particularly the workbook. This should include support for teams outside of Family Safeguarding, as well as partners.
  • Ensure staff have time in their workload to develop and embed the necessary skills.
  • Facilitate consistent messaging and modelling of Motivational Interviewing from managers and senior leaders.
  • Review local systems and processes to ensure alignment with the workbook as far as possible. 

Next steps

An impact evaluation being led by What Works for Children’s Social Care is now being undertaken in five local authorities. This will consider the impact of Family Safeguarding on the likelihood of children being looked after. Details are set out in our trial protocol.

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