Childrens Transformation

The world we’re in

As budgets contract, most children’s services find themselves spending more on crisis care and cutting heavily on early help. We refer to this as system lock.

Spend per child in care has risen by 17% since 2011, and the number of children in care has grown by 6% (4,000) (Source: DfE). As investment in prevention and early intervention declines – until we can break this system lock – the numbers of children coming into care will only continue to rise. And without better commissioning intelligence, unit costs will only inflate.

Despite this spending, children who come into care continue to lag behind in every key indicator compared to children who remain at home. Regulatory pressure and central government intervention are now more likely than ever.

The surge in interest in alternative models of delivery and finance is therefore understandable, but they are not a panacea in and of themselves. If they are to add anything, they must open up new or better ways to ‘break the lock’.

Our insight

“We may live to regret not investing in early intervention … we may not just be shooting ourselves in the foot, we may be shooting ourselves in the head.”Alison O’Sullivan, President, Association of the Directors of Children’s Services (MJ Future Forum 2015)

To improve outcomes, get a grip on finance and performance, and build staff morale and capacity, children’s services must understand what drives local demand, and lead the local community in targeting and managing that demand. This means a system-wide preventative model underpinned by a theory of behaviour-based change.

Our experience tells us that up to 48% of looked after children cases could have been prevented with a different, more co-ordinated and more timely system response. And that outcomes for children who do come into care can be significantly improved, while costs are significantly reduced.

What this model looks like from place to place will be different, but form must follow function. The ‘function’ here is leading the local system to effectively target and manage demand.

How we help councils

We make a difference by helping our clients understand the challenges they face, and build on their strengths to reimagine, co-design and implement new ways of working. Examples of projects include:

  • Understanding the drivers of demand – and cost – in the system and with partners
  • Co-designing and implementing whole-system models of demand management
  • Making safeguarding and placement resources go further by focusing practice on need, developing new commissioning intelligence and achieving a better placement mix
  • Addressing workforce challenges
  • Designing different models of delivery / finance to meet the unique needs of each area, across whole systems or in specific areas (such as regional adoption agencies)

We work across the children’s services system – from early help, through safeguarding and social care, to SEND, placement and permanence, fostering and adoption, and education.

Get in touch

For more information about the work that we do in children’s services, please contact Olly Swann (Director – children’s services)