Reflections on the LGA's recent report, and the 3 key areas that need to be focused on
Understanding variance has outlived its usefulness in terms of driving improvement in the sector. The new ‘V’ on the block is value, which is much more useful, as our ground-breaking Valuing Care approach is now demonstrating.
To date, 5% of the country’s children in care have benefitted from the approach. While it is still early days, the results achieved by the five councils involved so far couldn’t be more compelling:
- Over 3,500 children have a clearer alignment between their needs, care plans and outcomes;
- 14% more children in care are now accommodated by council foster carers;
- Evidential, outcomes-based contracting is taking place;
- There are overall reductions across all domains of need, and;
- £2.8 million will be saved this financial year (by just two of the five councils).
If we could get to a point where the nation’s children in care could all benefit from a system that could demonstrate a clear correlation between needs, outcomes and investments made, that would not only improve the life chances of thousands of children who experience care, but would also result in ‘good’ savings of over £300 million. The value of the services being provided to children would be demonstrable, to the delight of the Department for Education (DfE), HM Treasury and others.
Over the last few weeks IMPOWER have had several meetings with the DfE to explore what role the Valuing Care approach could play in addressing Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) pressures, as well as their response to the children’s social care recommendations from the Public Accounts Committee.
In relation to the huge potential of Valuing Care, colleagues from DfE (and many other people) have asked us “Why aren’t more councils working this way?”. This is a valid – and reassuring – challenge, and one that we are actively addressing. We are now recruiting local authorities for the second wave of the Valuing Care programme, with the latest addition being Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council – welcome on board Martin Gray and the team!
One of the things I love most about the approach is how the participating councils, having established the new ways of working, have put their own stamp on it locally. From foster carer matching, to placement stability and targeted step-downs – it’s our local authority partners who are pushing the boundaries (and us!) to look at other areas of service delivery using a value lens.
Just this week, we have commenced an exciting joint project with Norfolk, Hertfordshire and Oxfordshire County Councils, looking at the potential for applying the principles of Valuing Care to young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND). These three councils have lived and breathed Valuing Care for a year now, and have recognised that a consistent capturing and tracking of needs is essential if young people are to succeed and prosper within (and outside of) their education – from birth to adulthood.
We embarked upon this journey because we recognised that there was something fundamentally flawed with how placements were commissioned in this country; the system does not work for anybody as it stands – councils, central government, providers, carers, or children and young people. Valuing Care has proved that there is an opportunity to do something about this, and to redefine value across children’s services – I urge all involved to grab this opportunity and make it happen.
Variance has dominated much of the children’s services narrative for too long now – it’s time to move the debate on to value. The public purse needs this, but more importantly, so do our children and young people.