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New Data Strategy and Children’s Social Care reform strategy – opportunity to widen the ambition through a focus on children’s needs?

by | Dec 19, 2023 | Children's social care, Local government transformation, Medium term financial strategies | 0 comments

For the first time, this data provides an in-depth picture and breakdown of the needs of England’s care population, the connection with cost, and the impact of care on children and young people over time.

On Friday DfE published an update on its Children’s Social Care reform proposals. This included a Data Strategy and a new Children’s Social Care National Framework. The progress on this is welcome and there is an opportunity for all involved to be more ambitious – by using data on children’s needs to improve outcomes and reduce cost nationally and regionally.

We recently published a new report with the County Council’s Network: Valuing Care – Using data to improve children and young people’s lives which sets out a blueprint for this, demonstrating the impact of using data on needs and cost at scale. Across 3,500 children and young people this report provides an in-depth picture and breakdown of the needs of 4% of England’s care population, the connection with cost, and the impact of care on children and young people over time.

Critically, this report shows how this data can be used to affect change. Several councils have already used this intelligence to identify and deliver opportunities to reunite children and young people with their family, and to support children in residential homes to move into family homes. Other local authorities have used this intelligence and approach to change how they engage providers and commission care at an individual child and population level. Some key examples of impact:

  • Positive changes to care for 45 children and ‘good’ savings of £5.8m in Lincolnshire over 18 months
  • Reduction the in average unit cost of 11% for external fostering in Norfolk since 2021
  • A 14% increase in utilisation of fostering households in Norfolk since 2021.

A key finding from our report is the lack of connection between needs of children and the cost of their care, evidencing that it is market pressures and sufficiency challenges driving the significant increases in cost experienced nationally. Our analysis shows that 10% of children relate to 51% of the expenditure of care, and that savings of up to £800 million could be achieved nationally by supporting the 7% of children with the highest costs in care which matches their needs. It also shows that a third of children in the sample have high levels of needs around emotional health and attachment, while longer periods of time in care further increase levels of need.

In the context of the government’s social care reform agenda we believe this approach could help  change how we manage and commission care for children and young people. For example, Regional Care Cooperatives could involve authorities coalescing around shared data on need, cost and provision and using this intelligence to manage the market.

We’re planning a series of shared learning events in the New Year to agree how we can use these insights and this approach to improve outcomes for children and families. A focus will be further work to quantify the potential benefits at a national level, another will be on how this can further strengthen approaches to care commissioning and foster carer recruitment/ retention/ utilisation.

If you’d like to get involved in a discussion around how we can use this insight to affect change – please get in touch with me directly.