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NCB to partner with researchers to evaluate Care Review reforms

National Children’s Bureau will work with researchers and economists on an evaluation of major family help and social care reform programmes.

22/01/24

NCB to partner with researchers to evaluate Care Review reforms

The National Children’s Bureau (NCB) has launched a five-year independent evaluation of the reforms to family help and children’s social care.

The Families First for Children Pathfinder and Family Network Pilot schemes have been established by the Department for Education as part of the Government’s Stable Homes, Built on Love strategy for children’s social care. They will test key reforms, drawing on evidence and existing good practice from other government programmes, to protect children from harm and offer the right help to families at the earliest opportunity.

The NCB will join researchers at Verian and Alma Economics and the findings of the evaluations will influence future national strategy.

A Department for Education spokesperson said the organisations were chosen to lead the evaluations following a competitive process.

“The Families First for Children Pathfinder and Family Network Pilot programmes represent an opportunity to test out new approaches to transform support for the nation’s most vulnerable children and families.”

“We look forward to seeing their findings.”

The first wave of local areas participating in the Pathfinder are Dorset, Lincolnshire, and Wolverhampton, testing system transformation in four key areas: family help, child protection, family-led solutions, and multi-agency safeguarding arrangements.

Separately, the Family Network Pilot is testing the introduction of Family Network Support Packages. Family Network Support Packages will look at how to unlock barriers to enable family networks to provide support for children to stay safely at home, when it is in their best interests, through financial and other practical means. The pilot is taking place in seven local authorities: Brighton and Hove, Sunderland, Gateshead, and Telford and Wrekin, with Staffordshire, Hartlepool, Hammersmith, and Fulham, starting delivery in summer 2024.

While this element of reform is also included in the Pathfinder, the objective of running a standalone pilot is to understand the impact of this policy and build an evidence base by testing the reform in isolation. This will allow policymakers to gain a best-practice evidence base and clarify tangible outcomes from the pilot’s proposed system changes, which will inform future decision-making and policy implementation.

The evaluation team says it is committed to taking on board the voices of families and children with lived experience.

The early work of the evaluation partners will be to establish a clear methodology and success criteria for the evaluation. This includes co-designing the evaluation strategy with our different stakeholders. The evaluation team is engaging with wider governmental and sector partners, providing analytical expertise, offering independent advice and guidance, and developing an ethical evaluation approach which is adaptive to the challenges and sensitivities of the children’s social care sector.

Alex Hurrell, Head of Evaluation at Verian, added: “Through our dynamic and rigorous evaluation approach, we aim to deliver vital learnings on the design and delivery of the programme and its impact on children and families.”

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