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The potential for developing the capacity and diversity of children’s social care services in England

Independent research report

This report considers the potential for developing the capacity and diversity of provision of children’s social care services in England.

The economic and policy context of the report can be summarised as:

• Growth in demand for public services generally, including children’s social care;
• Austerity and pressures on public funding which will continue for the foreseeable future, creating an imperative for better performance within constrained funding envelopes;
• A concern that there is insufficient progress on improving outcomes for vulnerable children receiving social care and more should be done to accelerate this.

The Advisory Panel at the Department for Education (DfE) encouraged the authors of this report to be ambitious and we have sought to be so, while being aware of the need to balance the desirability of considering bold solutions against the imperative to have fully understood the risks of new and inevitably not fully tested ways of working to deliver better children’s social care services.

It has been pointed out to us by colleagues at our ‘challenge’ meeting that change is disruptive and it is important to be aware of any associated costs. We appreciate that any transformation comes with risks but believe these risks can be managed as evidenced by the experience of other public sector transformation programmes and more recently with the setting up of the Trust model for children’s social care in Doncaster.

In addition, transformation itself brings longer‐term benefits for the service user. We do not therefore believe that these understandable concerns should stand in the way of measured reform, which gives an expectation of improved outcomes in the medium to long term.

We present in this report a range of options (Section 1.12, Table 1), which, depending on the extent and pace of implementation, could transform the children’s social care sector into one of the leaders in the public sector for commissioning and service innovation. This cannot be achieved in the short term. Realistically, the transformation we envisage would be a process consisting of incremental steps over several years, and would need a coherent long‐term vision and a consistent policy framework.