Use, learning and impact of Valuing Care
The five councils that have been involved in developing Valuing Care are Hertfordshire County Council, Oxfordshire County Council, Norfolk County Council, Central Bedfordshire Council and North East Lincolnshire Council.
All of these councils are now working to change the culture around care by transforming the conversations between and behaviours of those involved, and by improving core processes, forms, systems and panels to enable that shift.
In addition to these core changes, each council is using Valuing Care with a slightly different focus.
Hertfordshire County Council
Hertfordshire have also used the Valuing Care approach to support the development of its local outcomes framework, the ‘Outcome Bees’ (shown below). Each of the six Outcomes Bees is aligned with two related Valuing Care needs domains. As a result, Hertfordshire can now better demonstrate that by reducing associated needs outcomes are improving overall.
Another area of focus for Hertfordshire is placement stability. In addition to using Valuing Care to flag breakdown risks in existing placements, Hertfordshire – one of the first Ofsted-led matching pilot sites – are making the most of the approach to ensure placements are carefully and evidentially selected and given the right support to meet needs in the first place. As part of this, further guidance is being developed for the team around the child to explicitly link the Valuing Care assessment, care plan and review approach to other evidence-based practice tools.
Norfolk County Council
Over the past year, the number of children accommodated by Norfolk County Council foster carers has increased by 14%, providing annual savings of approximately £1.2 million.
The Norfolk commissioning team have used Valuing Care to evidence sufficiency gaps by demonstrating how different placement support and provision will benefit young people with particular needs patterns, for example unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. This evidence has allowed them to secure funding for the development of new semi-independent, fostering and other placement support schemes.
In addition, Social Work and Placement Team Managers as well as Independent Reviewing Officers inform the needs assessments and reviews, and practitioners routinely work through cases together at team meeting team using the Valuing Care framework.
Oxfordshire County Council
As Sarah Duerden, Strengthening Placements Lead for Oxfordshire, explains:
“The first step in the process has been to develop profiles of each child or young person in a consistent way that also produces a well-rounded picture of each individual, including strengths and ambitions. We have used the Valuing Care needs assessment approach to do this and also to provide the agenda for profiling meetings. These meetings are attended by the child’s social worker, their key worker from the residential home and other relevant professionals involved with the child. The approach enables an informed and holistic discussion about each individual, and allows professionals to highlight areas of need and to consider the strengths and challenges faced when caring for this individual.
“I have been surprised by how rich these conversations can be, even though the approach itself is simple. It gives structure to our discussions but is straightforward enough for practitioners from a range of agencies to pick up, meaning that we get all parties contributing.
“Out of 20 children and young people we have profiled in this way we are actively searching for 10 foster placements. For the remaining 10 young people, the process provided the evidence to either say they were appropriately placed or that joint funding with health or education needed to be explored.
“To ensure children also play a part in this process, they are encouraged to write their own personal profile which we attach to the placement request form. For each child, we then plan what support would be needed when they move to a family setting and set out the child’s goals for the immediate and distant future.
“The next step, which is a new method of searching for a placement, has been to invite providers of placements along to an event, where they can learn more about some of the children we are searching for placements for. This approach gave us a way to share the ‘softer’ information about each child with providers. The key worker from their residential home and their social worker were again involved, and could talk about what it was like to care for the child on a day-to-day basis.
“So far we have managed to step down five of the ten young people, with another three placements in the process of being agreed.”
In Oxfordshire’s recent Ofsted report, the Valuing Care approach was an important way to demonstrate the progress of children in care, and the framework is now included in all provider placement agreements.
The council is now working with providers to explore the potential for outcomes-based arrangements in which a level of payment is linked directly to needs reduction.
As well as better outcomes for the young people involved, the council currently estimates this work alone will provide savings of up to £1.6 million over 2019/20, with further benefits anticipated from other work that Valuing Care enables, such as reunification.
Central Bedfordshire and North East Lincolnshire Councils