The government’s What Works Centre for children’s social care has announced a new fund for children’s services providers to partner with it at Community Care Live today.
The centre is looking for between four and eight local authorities or children’s trusts to work on two projects, which will form part of a new ‘Change Programme’. Twenty-one providers are already involved in projects for the centre, developing tools for use by social workers or exploring research areas.
The first of the two new projects is focused on devolving budgets to social workers in order to help them directly support families. Small devolved budgets have been tried by Achieving for Children, the social enterprise that delivers children’s services in the Kingston, Richmond and Maidenhead council areas. This proposal looks to allow social workers to have access to larger preventative resources.
The second, meanwhile, involves exploring basing social workers within schools. A total of up to £2 million, provided by the Department for Education (DfE), will be allocated to partners across the two projects.
The What Works Centre, announced back in 2015, has been being developed by the charity Nesta over the past year, with Cardiff University acting as a research partner.
Part of a network of 10 facilities covering different areas of social policy, it aims to make useful evidence available to social workers and managers, to inform practice and service design, and is intended to be fully operational by 2020.
‘Moving services closer to families’
According to the What Works Centre, the projects have been targeted based both on reviews of existing evidence and from its engagement with local authorities and trusts over the past year. The centre is soon due to publish a report examining key systemic issues with children’s social work, which staff and managers within children’s services have highlighted.
Sir Alan Wood, the chair of the What Works Centre, said the organisation urgently needed to “get evidence of what is working promoted widely, so effective practice in improving outcomes for children can become more widespread”.
He added: “To achieve this we are keen to test and evaluate, in partnership with practice leaders, new approaches developed from their day to day work. Our Change Programme aims to do this [by moving] services and decision-making closer to families.”
Donald Forrester, a professor at Cardiff University’s school of social sciences and the What Works Centre’s research director, said the he hoped the Change Programme will “tap into the enthusiasm, commitment and creativity that are at the heart of great services – and [we will] then be able to share what we learn across the sector”.