Following the Department for Education’s publication of the new Children’s Social Care National Framework, our Deputy Chief Executive Donna Molloy explains how we are working to support the Framework through the creation of evidence-based Practice Guides for leaders and decision makers.
Last week, the Department for Education published the Children’s Social Care National Framework, an important step in setting clear direction for the sector. Whilst the Framework is statutory guidance, its aim is to support the sector to strengthen support for children, young people and families – through explaining the principles behind children’s social care, and the purpose of children’s social care, as well as the factors which can enable good practice.
It is crucial that local leaders and commissioners have access to the latest evidence about how to achieve the outcomes in the new Children’s Social Care framework. We are pleased to be working to produce a set of new Practice Guides, based on high-quality research evidence. The Practice Guides will draw on the evidence to make practical recommendations to senior leaders about designing and delivering services. We believe these guides will be a useful step in providing local leaders with the information they need about what works, for whom and in what context – something which is often missing in children’s social care.
Each Practice Guide will be based on a systematic review of evidence. Over the past six months, we have commissioned two systematic reviews for the first set of Practice Guides, with a third underway. We are also working with IPC Brookes on an audience research project, which will support our understanding of how senior leaders make decisions when funding, designing and delivering services and help us frame our recommendations.
Our first Practice Guide will be on Kinship Care. The Centre for Evidence and Implementation (CEI) are currently carrying out a systematic review of policies, programmes and interventions that aim to improve outcomes for kinship carers and their children. While we know that the number of children in kinship care is continuing to grow, there are still significant gaps in the evidence base around effective interventions for kinship carers and the children they care for – and we need to better understand what support makes a difference to these families. Our Kinship Practice Guide is due to be published in summer 2024.
Our second Practice Guide will focus on parenting interventions, practices and programmes for 0-10 year olds and is due to be published in late 2024. Again, we have a systematic review underway to inform this work. The guide will look at practice which aims to improve outcomes for vulnerable children and their parents, focusing on families who are experiencing multiple and complex needs. Evidence shows that parenting interventions have the potential to improve the wellbeing of children supported by early help and children’s social care services, however it is important that we identify which interventions and practice elements are effective, and in which contexts these interventions work.
We are also commissioning a systematic review on mentoring and befriending practice. Mentoring & befriending interventions are increasingly being seen as a low-cost strategy for early intervention, with the goal of supporting children and young people to improve their wellbeing, achieve personal growth, and establish secure and loving relationships within their communities. However, we need to improve our understanding of what effective practice looks like in this context, as well as the barriers and enablers to successful implementation of these interventions
The National Framework acknowledges the need for evidence based working in the sector: leaders need to be confident using evidence; practice supervisors should be mindful of emerging research, and local areas should consistently be using evidence-based programmes – but there is work to be done to support the sector in working in this way, and Practice Guides are one piece of the puzzle. By presenting high-quality evidence in an accessible way and making actionable recommendations that are relevant to the current context, we hope that our Practice Guides will provide the sector with the tools to achieve these objectives. Practice Guides will give senior leaders access to evidence on what works for specific populations experiencing specific challenges, ultimately informing the design of services in local areas. However, the success of Practice Guides also rests on their ease of use and continued relevance to decision makers, and we are invested in supporting senior leaders and decision makers to understand and use the guides, which will be reviewed and updated regularly ensure they adapt to the evolving nature of children’s social care practice.
As the What Works Centre for Children & Families, we will always champion better use of evidence in the sector, but we are mindful of the challenges of implementing a more evidence-based way of working. We hope our Practice Guides, alongside the guidance in the National Framework, will support the sector in this goal, and continue to work closely with partners in the sector to ensure we can provide meaningful and useful input.