Children’s services primarily constrained by a lack of capacity, new report says

The Coram Innovation Incubator (CII) has released its second annual innovation report.

12/04/22

Children’s services primarily constrained by a lack of capacity, new report says

A new report from vulnerable children’s charity Coram is calling for radical innovations in children’s social care.

The Art of the Possible report is based on a national innovation survey, distributed to all children’s services providers at the end of 2021, which sought to assess where agencies are finding it possible to achieve positive change.

The report finds that the key barriers to innovation in children’s services relate to organisational workforce issues, growing demand and complexity, and the challenges involved in successfully embedding innovation so it is sustainable.

One of the key themes emerging from the survey was the challenges respondents reported in developing innovation internally and changing culture, and particular issues repeated by many were the difficulties around the recruitment, retention and wellbeing of their workforce.

Many felt that existing challenges had been exacerbated by the impact of the pandemic and did not feel equipped to manage this. This was said to apply to both the additional pressures on staff, as well as higher absence rates leading to less capacity to drive innovation.

“The survey shows that innovation in children’s services is primarily constrained by a lack of capacity and capability as well as the increasingly complex demands they face,” said Dr Carol Homden, CEO of Coram.

“The need for capacity is, however, even more pressing as the level of challenges for children continue to rise.”

Respondents to the survey said that collaboration, capacity and having an innovative organisational culture and a willingness to take risk were ‘critical’ to enabling change and innovation. The report also found that children’s services are better able to implement and adapt models which have been developed in other organisations.

Chris Spencer, Director of Children’s Services at Gloucestershire County Council, which has just joined the Coram Innovation Incubator, said this creativity in children’s social care was critical.

“In an ever increasingly challenging and unpredictable environment children’s services must remain agile and think the unthinkable. We must be creative, innovative and research focused if we are to serve our children well. Gloucestershire are proud to be part of this group of forward-thinking professionals who not only seek to scan the horizon for new ideas but to change it.”

The survey found that there have been specific improvements in the therapeutic support that services are able to offer to children, young people and families, as well as better methods of early intervention.

Children’s services providers responding to the survey acknowledged the value of capitalising on the potential of technology to assist service delivery. Almost two thirds (64%) of those surveyed reported the use of new technology in their service, with this figure rising to three quarters (75%) for local authorities. New technologies were being reported to support assessments, manage case notes, analyse data, and interact with children and young people in a new way via virtual or mixed reality tools.

Respondents reported that technology had a time-saving benefit as it enabled them to, for example, automate or digitise tasks that were historically completed manually, increase the efficiency of processes including data collection, collation and analysis and expedite response times to enquiries from service users or other agencies.

Kevin Brown, Strategic Programme Manager at Together for Children Sunderland, said that joining the programme will help to continue improvements for children.

“Through having collaborative discussions alongside public and private sector partners and focusing upon our shared challenges, we will push ourselves to look for innovative practice to overcome these challenges and improve the services that we provide.”

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