Case Study

Evaluation of Local Authority Sector Improvement for Children’s Social Care Services

Client: Department of Education | Sectors: Social Policy

We have been commissioned, alongside Ipsos MORI and the Rees Centre at the University of Oxford, to evaluate the support provided by the Department for Education to Local Authority Children's Social Care (CSC) services across England.

There is a rising number of local authority CSC services at risk of failure. Ofsted inspections conducted between 2013 and 2017 found 30 authorities to be inadequate and 60 requiring improvement. This trend is expected to increase up to 2020, at considerable cost to the public purse. 

The evaluation aims to assess the effectiveness and impact of the Department’s suite of intervention and improvement support programmes on local authority performance. It also aims to determine which approaches and models can be considered to be most effective, to understand the significance of local context on these interventions, and finally to assess their value for money.

The Ecorys-led partnership has adopted a mixed-methods approach to the evaluation. This includes desk research, analysis of administrative data-sets, surveys of leaders of local CSC services, and in-depth case study research in local authorities at different stages of their ‘improvement journey’. 

The project will conclude in spring 2020 with a final set of recommendations to the Department for Education to optimise their support for CSC services at national, regional and local levels.

The rising number of Local Authorities who are at risk of failure may be caused by gaps in information sharing and poor supervisory practices. As a result, interventions have been implemented recently that aim to support local authorities to improve their children’s social care services, such as the launch of Regional Improvement Alliances and Partner’s in Practice. 

Whether or not these interventions have been successful is an important question for the Department of Education, and ideally further programmes could be implemented in the future that develop on any perceived strengths of this initiative.
The evaluation has the potential to have a wide social impact, as by making recommendations that will optimise CSC services, the lives of the children being supported are likely to improve. This could result in increased stability for children and their families as well as more efficiently meeting safeguarding needs.  

Key Experts

Laurie Day Technical Director