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Evaluation of transformational reforms to family help and children’s social care in the UK begins

18 January 2024

Verian to work with National Children's Bureau and Alma Economics on the evaluation of major family help and social care reform programmes.

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Verian is joining The National Children’s Bureau (NCB) and Alma Economics in a five-year independent evaluation of pioneering reforms to family help and children’s social care. The findings of the evaluation will influence future national strategy on how best to meet the needs of the nation’s most vulnerable families and children.

The Families First for Children Pathfinder and Family Network Pilot schemes have been established by the Department for Education as part of the Government’s Stable Homes, Built on Love strategy for children’s social care. They will test out key reforms, drawing on evidence and existing good practice from other government programmes, to protect children from harm and offer the right help to families at the earliest opportunity.

The first wave of local areas participating in the Pathfinder are Dorset, Lincolnshire, and Wolverhampton, testing system transformation in four key areas: family help, child protection, family-led solutions, and multi-agency safeguarding arrangements.

Separately, the Family Network Pilot is testing the introduction of Family Network Support Packages. Family Network Support Packages will look at how to unlock barriers to enable family networks to provide support for children to stay safely at home, when it is in their best interests, through financial and other practical means. The pilot is taking place in seven local authorities: Brighton and Hove, Sunderland, Gateshead, and Telford and Wrekin, with Staffordshire, Hartlepool, Hammersmith, and Fulham, starting delivery in summer 2024.

 

While this element of reform is also included in the Pathfinder, the objective of running a standalone pilot is to understand the impact of this policy and build an evidence base by testing the reform in isolation. This will allow policymakers to gain a best-practice evidence base and clarify tangible outcomes from the pilot’s proposed system changes, which will inform future decision-making and policy implementation.

 

The evaluation team is committed to taking on board the voices of families and children with lived experience, ensuring that the beneficiaries of the programme are heard.

Verian, Alma Economics, and NCB bring unique insight and expertise to ensure the delivery of an objective, evidence-driven, and robust evaluation of this policy programme.

The early work of the evaluation partners will be to establish a clear methodology and success criteria for the evaluation. This includes co-designing the evaluation strategy with our different stakeholders. The evaluation team is engaging with wider governmental and sector partners, providing analytical expertise, offering independent advice and guidance, and developing an ethical evaluation approach which is adaptive to the challenges and sensitivities of the children’s social care sector.

Anna Feuchtwang, CEO of the National Children’s Bureau, said:

The careful evaluation of different ways of providing children’s social care are a necessary next step in responding to the findings from the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care. We look forward to collaborating with the local areas taking this work forward, and sharing findings as they emerge.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said:

“The Families First for Children Pathfinder and Family Network Pilot programmes represent an opportunity to test out new approaches to transform support for the nation’s most vulnerable children and families. Following a competitive process, we have appointed Verian, Alma Economics, and the National Children’s Bureau to evaluate the programmes. We look forward to seeing their findings.”

Alex Hurrell, Head of Evaluation at Verian, said:

“Verian is very excited to be leading this highly important evaluation, with our partners, Alma Economics and the National Children’s Bureau. Through our dynamic and rigorous evaluation approach, we aim to deliver vital learnings on the design and delivery of the programme and its impact on children and families, which will contribute to the effective implementation of the Government’s children’s social care strategy, ‘Stable Homes, Built on Love’.”

Nick Spyropoulos, Managing Director of Alma Economics, said:

“We are delighted to be working alongside our partners Verian and the National Children’s Bureau to deliver this important evaluation that will play a vital role in guiding the implementation of the Stable Homes, Built on Love strategy. Alma will lead the economic and impact evaluation of the Families First for Children Pathfinder and Family Network Pilot schemes, drawing on our extensive experience conducting robust evaluations, including specifically in the area of children’s social care. This includes key contributions to the landmark Independent Review of Children’s Social Care.”

 

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