The Minister for Children and Families celebrated the achievements of the Department for Education’s Children’s Social Care Innovation Programme at the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) annual conference on 6th July 2017. The programme funds local authorities, voluntary sector and independent providers to test new approaches to delivering improved outcomes for children and young people and support the social care workforce.
The Minister’s speech included reference to the Leeds City Council (LCC) ‘Family Valued’ programme, which was the largest of the first round of funded programmes and was evaluated by ICF, with partners the University of Nottingham, University of Sheffield and impact specialists The RTK.
Family Valued was an ambitious system change programme at the ‘scale and spread’ end of the innovation spectrum – building on work already undertaken and evidence of what works to take restorative practice to a much wider scale. It aimed to: create a default approach across children’s services and its key partners that was restorative; expand Family Group Conferences (FGCs) so that all children who might otherwise be removed from their homes are supported to develop and meet an alternative plan; ensure that LCC will work with the family to support them in helping to decide what needs to happen in all cases where there are concerns about the safeguarding or welfare of a child.
The ICF-led evaluation found that there were statistically significant reductions in the: number of looked after children (CLA); rate of CLA per 10,000 population; number of child protection plans; number of children in need. Other outcomes show a trend in the desired direction, for example rates of re-referral for domestic violence, which is not yet statistically significant. A Cost Benefit Analysis (CBA) found savings from 760 families attending an FGC as a consequence of less time spent in the social care system that are estimated at £755 per family. If intended outcomes are achieved and sustained, these savings will increase.
There was a successful expansion of the FGC service, now operating on a scale not seen elsewhere in England. Quantitative and qualitative data suggests positive outcomes for families, including for those experiencing domestic violence. There was a consistent, strategic focus on embedding restorative practice in social work. It created more open, harmonious and skilled social work practitioners and teams, which prevented some children from entering care and secured better outcomes for children and families.
As well as providing formative learning for LCC, the final evaluation report includes recommendations for other authorities considering FGCs and restorative practice.
See the report in the download link above.