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How four local authorities are improving outcomes for children by focusing on needs

Dominic Luscombe

On Monday we hosted a virtual shared learning event chaired by Kate Dexter, Assistant Director for Children’s Social Care at Norfolk County Council.

We were delighted that four county councils (Norfolk, Lincolnshire, Oxfordshire and Hertfordshire) joined the event to share the different ways in which they have used the Valuing Care approach to improve outcomes for children and to reduce the costs of care.

IMPOWER’s Valuing Care approach helps social workers, individually and as teams, to produce a profile of needs of individual children and groups of children, and to track this over time. This data is used to improve support and outcomes for individual children, and help local areas meet the needs of children, manage providers, and plan future support and provision.

For the first time, we were able to look at aggregated needs data across these four authorities (a sample of circa 4,000 children and young people, representing 5% of the care population) and what this can tell us about the needs of children in our care and the impact of care and support.

My three big takeaways…

  1. Focusing on needs has driven significant impact on outcomes for children and the cost of care: Norfolk, Lincolnshire and Oxfordshire gave compelling examples of how they have used and developed the Valuing Care approach to improve outcomes for children. A theme was using this approach to identify and support children to be reunified with families or transition to family placements. Another was changing approaches to engaging care providers to drive focus on needs, and on strengthening matching between children and foster carers. All three local authorities cited impressive impact on outcomes and significant reductions in cost.
  2. There is an opportunity for systematic focus on needs to drive improvement at regional and national level: In discussion a number of colleagues highlighted the role that adopting this approach as a systematic way of understanding and responding to needs at a local, regional or national level could play in responding to the challenges well-articulated in Josh McAllister’s recent independent care review. Our learning is that this focus on needs is the key to unlocking changes in practice, commissioning and the market needed to address the sufficiency and budgetary pressures experienced by so many nationally.
  3. Care and support can be better matched to needs: Our sample covers approx. 5% of England’s care population and shows us the profile of needs for our children broken down by age, gender and ethnicity, all of which generating fascinating insight. A key finding here is that children’s level of need often does not correlate with the level of support and the cost of care. This reflects what we already know – often sufficiency rather than need drives decisions around support. This approach gives us the tools and intelligence to start to address this. For example, by identifying children with relatively low needs in residential settings that could be better supported in a family environment.

If you’d like to find out more or get involved in future shared learning events please get in touch.

Written by

Dominic Luscombe

Delivery Director, IMPOWER



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