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Evaluating the transformation of children's social care practice

The Department for Education has published its second round report on its Children’s Social Care Innovation Programme, and IPC has been heavily involved in the evaluation of the scheme.

In Hampshire, the IPC evaluation explored how to transform children’s social care practice through the lens of a successful ‘Hampshire Approach’, capturing the practice and outcome benefits of an ambitious whole system transformation programme led by Hampshire Children’s Services.

‘The Hampshire Approach’ used learning from previous innovations in children’s social care to develop a highly relationship- and strengths-based model for social work practice, focused on helping families to make changes and become more resilient.

Implementation of practice change paid particular attention to:

  • practice innovation – rethinking what happens at the interface between practitioners and families, and providing clear, consistent support, training, and supervision to achieve this;
  • service innovation - rethinking all aspects of service provision and pathways into and through provision; and
  • system innovation – rethinking how organisations in a system operate, providing the right conditions for practice to flourish.

Key messages that emerged about effective implementation from the Hampshire experience included that it:

  • takes time (up to 2-3 years to design, implement in a staged way and begin to embed consistently);
  • requires effective, consistent leadership across all levels of the organisation including modelling of the desired practice changes;
  • is also only possible when practitioner training, practice tools, and processes, and also support for families, are consistently working towards rather than against the desired outcomes and ways of working.

Outcome improvements in the region of 12-15% were observed in the context of an authority that, pre-transformation, was already considered ‘good with outstanding features’ (now rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted) suggesting that, with sufficient and well-directed investment, there is still room for improvement across many local authority children’s services and not only those that are required to improve from a lower base.