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Valuing Care

We help to improve the life chances of children in care by strengthening the links between children's needs, the outcomes being pursued, and the financial resources available.

The challenge

Children and young people in care achieve their best outcomes when Children’s Services Departments tailor support to meet each individual’s unique needs. However, IMPOWER’s analysis has shown that the links between needs and spending levels are weak, and there is often no evidence that the best outcome has been delivered. While this is clearly not intentional, social workers, professionals and service providers have no shared language to describe the complex requirements of children and young people in care, and without a true understanding of needs, some children are left with no carers or placements. A new approach is needed.

Our solution

IMPOWER’s Valuing Care programme helps councils to improve the life chances of children in care (looked after children) by strengthening the links between children’s needs, the outcomes being pursued, and the resources available. By better capturing and reviewing the needs of looked after children, councils can make better decisions on support, placements and commissioning.

Our approach

We developed Valuing Care to complement existing assessment tools, working across different council service to co-produce a needs and outcomes profiling approach. Following assessment by social workers and other professionals, we then map the placement cost of every child in a council’s care against the needs of the individual child or young person.  From the example below, it is clear that there is no correlation between costs and needs. Some children with low needs have expensive support packages, and other children with much greater needs have less expensive support.

By mapping all children in this way, councils are able to demonstrate transparency and fairness over how resources are used across the system, and to make better decisions on support, placements and commissioning.

Our Valuing Care approach enables councils to bring greater transparency and fairness to the way resources are used by their Children’s Services Departments. This improves the life chances of children in care and ensures that every pound spent makes a positive difference.

Valuing Care enables councils to:

  • Assess, analyse and consistently codify the needs of children and young people in care
  • Show patterns of need by prevalence and complexity
  • Understand how resources are currently used to meet these needs
  • Identify actions to reduce cost without harming outcomes
  • Develop a commissioning approach and tools that support a targeted allocation of resources, linked to needs and a demonstration of outcomes
  • Review and strengthen their Sufficiency Strategy based on evidence of need, and develop a clear action plan to deliver it
  • Work with a range of stakeholders including social workers, commissioning, finance and providers to strengthen placement decisions and improve their outcomes
  • Provide a new footing for provider relationships, helping to re-shape the market
  • Apply behavioural insight to support the required change in culture.

“Valuing care gives us a tool to describe and quantify need. It looks across the whole child rather than focusing on particular, usually narrow, areas of risk. It will, over time, help us evidence reduced need, hopefully across all our outcome domains.

“It’s a great tool for our social workers to think about, and record, the needs of their children and we are starting to run reports which give us a ‘needs profile’ across our care population, something we have never been able to do – relying instead on anecdote about complexity. We also anticipate that it will lead to new conversations with children and young people, with our own foster carers and with independent providers.”

Marion Ingram, Operations Director Specialist Services, Hertfordshire County Council

“Through this project we’ve seen the importance of changing the way that social workers, commissioners and providers think about and approach providing care and support to children and young people. The tools and methodology developed through Valuing Care give us the means to capture and use intelligence about our children in a different way.

“But what really made the difference was us challenging ourselves to think differently about care placements and support. It is helping us to put the focus fully on the child and their outcomes, needs and life chances in a way that transcends our ‘day jobs’ as social workers, commissioners and providers and procedural boundaries. This is a change that we have witnessed at all levels of the organisation – from frontline officers to senior managers.”

Sue Harrison, Director of Children’s Services, Central Bedfordshire Council

Valuing Care – information for providers

A new approach to care placements can only be successful if it draws on the knowledge and experience of providers

We recognise that many providers have already established systems for needs assessment, allocation of support, and measuring outcomes. However, we believe that unless such an approach is applied universally, the impact will be limited – there will continue to be children and young people who cannot be placed, and sub-optimal placement decisions being taken. Local authorities must address this, and most importantly, they must work with providers to do so.

This isn’t about reducing prices; it is about improving the matching of placements, reshaping the market to meet need, and enabling both providers and commissioners to increase the positive impact of achieving outcomes.

Valuing Care has several specific benefits for providers:

  • Increases local authorities’ appreciation of the important role of providers in determining life outcomes
  • Improves information on and understanding of a child at the point of placement decisions, enabling better matching, initial support, and informed pricing discussions
  • Improves balance in initial assessments of a child, beyond presenting risk
  • Helps strengthen relationships with commissioners, beyond what procurement solutions enable, giving access to information that supports providers with strategic planning and development of provision
  • Provides an opportunity to explore new models of working with authorities, which could lead to reduced provider risk
  • Provides an opportunity to learn ‘what works’ more broadly across the sector.

Provider participation is a vital part of the Valuing Care programme and we would welcome your feedback and involvement. To get involved or share your views, please contact us.


Valuing Care brochure


Work with us

Relationships start with a conversation. Here’s how to get in touch.

Guest blogpost – Joanne Hewson, North East Lincolnshire council

The council’s Deputy Chief Executive reflects on working with IMPOWER.

September 2, 2020

Valuing Care in Stockton-on-Tees: what have we learned, and where next?

'We have already achieved better outcomes for some of our young people, and we think this could save us around £4.2m a year.' Martin Gray, Director of Children's Services at Stockton Council.

January 21, 2020

Setting Inclusive Ambition: why, who and how?

Inclusive Ambition must be set before embarking on a programme of change.

November 4, 2019

Guest blogpost: Valuing Care… a win-win-win for foster carer, child and children’s services?

"For the many local authorities I come across which are constantly seeking value for money and doing more with less, Valuing Care seems to be a powerful approach."

October 10, 2019

Guest blogpost: ‘We have doubled the number of new families opening their hearts and homes to children and young people in care’

Lisa Whelan is a Service Manager at City of Wolverhampton Council There are over 600 children and young people in Wolverhampton’s…

September 2, 2019

Why we are Valuing Care in Stockton-on-Tees

Martin Gray is Director of Children’s Services at Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council has recently signed up with IMPOWER…

July 1, 2019

Guest blogpost: Re-imagining value with Valuing Care – a new approach to commissioning

Our aim is to develop an understanding of value for money that is not simply a matter of cost, but a balance of cost, quality and outcomes that best serves the child’s needs.

June 20, 2019

NEW REPORT: Valuing Care Impact Update

Today we are delighted to launch a short report and video highlighting the impacts of our Valuing Care programme so far.

May 7, 2019


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