Staffordshire's Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) outlined the need for the service to increase the number of in-house foster carers in the service by 65 by 2013/14 (at a rate of 20 per year after an initial increase of 5 foster carers in 2012/13). This represents a 40% increase per year on current rates. If achieved this change in foster carer mix would save the service approximately £1.25m per year and ensure more in-house carers to meet the increased demand as a result of the projected rise in looked after children.
iMPOWER worked closely with the Fostering Team to deliver a standalone demand management project providing behaviour change insight and techniques to gain a better understanding of the motivations of current foster carers. This was then used to shape a strategy for recruiting the additional capacity required.
Our experience of using behaviour change on other projects, including fostering services, meant we were able to design an approach that was relevant to the service and allowed for significant co-production on the final deliverables.
iMPOWER helped define the necessary outcomes to meet the MTFS, conducted external marketing research, produced baseline reports and delivered a toolkit for improving recruitment, as well as a financial model mapping the savings based on implementing the iMPOWER recommendations.
We co-produced every stage of the project to ensure buy-in from all relevant team members as well as engaging directly with foster carers themselves. Our approach involved meeting regularly with the service managers to share weekly findings and receive their input. These views were then taken into account when facilitating workshops with current carers to ensure their inclusion in plans for the development of the service.
Effective Stakeholder Engagement
We formed a strong working relationship with all members of the team involved in the administration, recruitment and retention of foster carers. We met with individual team members to understand their role and the work undertaken within the team and any issues or ideas they had about the service. We explained the purpose of the project, updated them on progress, worked on deliverables together and ensured we were sensitive to the reorganisation issues they were experiencing. This enabled us to build a rapport that meant that the staff understood why we were undertaking the project and that we valued their input into the final report.
Delivering Real Benefits
The behavioural insight and research, along with the financial model, provided a solid basis for Staffordshire to be able to recruit more in-house carers and achieve their identified savings. iMPOWER was also able to evidence the importance of a dedicated marketing and recruitment post within the fostering team and build this into the financial model.
- Assessment of the service and ability to achieve savings using a ‘do nothing’ compared to ‘implement recommendations’ approach.
- Clarified roles and responsibilities within the team and agreement to develop a specific communications and recruitment role
- Edited and analysed workshop footage showing the motivations of different cohorts of foster carers.
- A clear set of recommendations laying out how the service could match and exceed the MTFS targets.
- A series of tools to equip wider council teams, including the Communications and Customer Insight teams, to target their communications and revise their processes to enhance the success of recruitment drives.
- Co-production of a new Information Evening format in order to ‘sell’ the benefits of caring for Staffordshire.
iMPOWER is a values led consultancy dedicated to the reform of the public sector.