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Stability Index: overview and initial findings

The Stability Index is a new initiative by the Children’s Commissioner to measure the stability of the lives of children looked after by local authorities. The purposeis to shine a light on the issue of stability, to monitor trends, and, working with local authorities and others, to support improvements to stability.

In this iteration, the Stability Index measures three aspects of children’s experiences of care - placement moves, school moves, and changes in social worker. To measure placement moves and school moves, we analysed data from the Children Looked After Census and School Census on children who were looked after on 31 March 2016. To measure social worker changes, we carried out a pilot data collection involving 22 Local Authorities across nine regions.

The current findings are exploratory, intended as a first step in the long-term development of the Stability Index. We will now work with a handful of authorities, virtual school heads, fostering agencies and children to test the underlying drivers of instability, and to determine how the Index should develop over time. Our ambition is to develop the Index so that it provides data not just on what is easy to measure, but also gets closer to assessing the lived experiences of looked after children.

We do not wish to add undue burdens upon local authorities and other agencies, but rather to make the most of data that is already collected. However, it is apparent that much of what we know matters to children in care is not recorded systematically and centrally, so approaches based on linking and analysing existing data will only take us so far. We will therefore work with others to improve what is recorded and how it is used, but we will also seek to ensure that the results of that minimise or reduce burdens while manifestly adding value.

While our findings are preliminary, our analysis provides important new data and insights on the experiences of stability for children in care. The full findings and analyses are described in the technical report. This paper provides a summary.