From education to employment

Children’s social care innovation programme: insights and evaluation

The Children’s social care innovation programme (CSCIP) was launched in 2014 to test and share effective ways of supporting vulnerable children and young people who need help from children’s social care services. The programme has supported 94 projects through £200 million of investment.

The programme focused on:

improving life chances for children who receive help from the social care system
encouraging innovation by experimenting and replicating successful new approaches
creating better incentives for innovation and ways of sharing what works
creating a strong evidence base
getting better value across the children’s social care sector


Round 1 took place between 2014 and 2016. Local authorities were asked to submit applications rethinking:

children’s social work (improving the quality and impact of children’s social work)
support for adolescents in, or on the edge of, care (improving the quality and impact of services)

Round 2 took place between 2016 and 2020. It looked to build on the successful innovations found in round 1 (known as scale and spread).

Round 3 (the targeted funding opportunity) took place between 2017 and 2020. We asked for applications in 4 policy areas where there was a need to quickly develop and test new approaches. These 4 areas were set out in the Department for Education’s (DfE) policy paper on putting children first: vision for children’s social care.


DfE funded projects across local authorities and public sector organisations to develop and test innovations that would help children’s social work practitioners and leaders.

There is a full list of projects (MS Excel Spreadsheet, 44.2 KB) that includes name, location, summary and funding amount.

Partners in practice

Some of the local authorities that set up round 1 projects which showed the best impact have gone on to become Partners in practice. The Partners in practice programme is running alongside the Children’s social care innovation programme.

It aims to be a genuine partnership between local and central government by bringing together the best practitioners and leaders in children’s social care to improve the system.

Through the programme the Partners in practice are:

continuing to demonstrate what works and encourage innovation to create understanding of the conditions needed for excellent practice to flourish
encouraging sector led improvement through peer support to authorities which need to improve
supporting DfE to shape and test policy on wider programmes and reform

You can view overall evaluations of Partners in practice in:

You can also view individual evaluations for:

Achieving for Children (Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames, and London Borough of Richmond) (PDF, 434 KB, 50 pages)
Hampshire County Council (PDF, 478 KB, 68 pages)
Leeds City Council (PDF, 817 KB, 74 pages)
Triborough – Westminster City Council, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, and London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham (in partnership) (PDF, 1.53 MB, 88 pages)
Lincolnshire County Council (PDF, 719 KB, 54 pages)
North Yorkshire County Council (PDF, 3.27 MB, 74 pages)
Islington Council (PDF, 5.29 MB, 102 pages)

The second round of Partners in practice have not been individually evaluated. These are:

Doncaster Children’s Services Trust
Essex County Council
Camden London Borough Council
Tyneside Alliance (North Tyneside Council and South Tyneside Council in partnership)
Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council
Cheshire West and Chester Council

Strengthening families

The Strengthening families, protecting children programme aims to enable more children to stay at home in stable family environments so that fewer children need to be taken in to care. The programme is investing £84 million over 5 years to improve services in 18 local authorities that have high or rising numbers of children in care.

These local authorities will be supported to embed one of 3 models, which have the most promising evidence from the innovation programme of safely reducing the number of children being taken into care. These models are:

family valued
family safeguarding
no wrong door

Supporting families

The Supporting families: investing in practice programme adds to the learning so far from DfE’s Children’s social care innovation programme. It has provided over £17 million to enable 45 local authorities to adapt one of 3 of the most successful targeted innovation programme projects. These were projects that have the strongest evidence of successfully keeping families together.

These projects are:

family drug and alcohol courts supported by the Centre for Justice Innovation
a model of family group conferencing supported by Daybreak
the Mockingbird family model supported by The Fostering Network

Evaluation approach

DfE commissioned independent research organisations to evaluate projects to understand what has and has not worked and why. Rees Centre and University of Oxford co-ordinated the evaluation of round 1 and Opcit Research co-ordinated the evaluation of rounds 2 and 3.

DfE oversaw this process through the evaluation advisory board. Board members included the chief social worker, representatives from the What Works Centre incubator, as well as senior DfE officials.

The individual project evaluation reports have been grouped by theme on this page. Practitioners and leaders can find examples of best practice and evidence of what has worked.

Overarching evaluations have been published in:

Other overall evaluations are published on University of Oxford’s website including methods for testing new approaches and conditions needed for innovation.

From the independent evaluation of round one we identified 7 key features of practice and 7 associated outcomes common to successful innovation projects that lead to positive outcomes.

Adolescents facing complex risks

Achieving Change Together (ACT)

A new approach to safeguarding young people at risk of exploitation using a complex safeguarding framework.

ACT, child sexual exploitation project evaluation

B Positive Pathways

Combining 4 tried and tested models (No Wrong Door, Mockingbird, Signs of Safety and PACE) into an integrated support service.

B Positive Pathways project evaluation (PDF, 897 KB, 92 pages)

A single, integrated service to support young people at risk of gang involvement, child sexual exploitation and youth crime.

Sefton Community Adolescent Service project evaluation

Contextual Safeguarding Pilot

A new approach to understanding and responding to young people’s experiences of significant harm beyond their home environment.

Contextual Safeguarding Pilot project evaluation (PDF, 3.55 MB, 88 pages)

Family and Adolescent Support Hub (FASH)

A multidisciplinary rapid reaction team to support young people on the edge of care using bespoke interventions for the whole family.

Enfield Family and Adolescent Support Service project evaluation

Gloucestershire Innovation

A unified, authority wide approach for adolescents including dedicated multi agency teams, integrated attachment theory and restorative practice.

Gloucestershire Innovation project evaluation

Inside Out

A personalised intervention for children who have had multiple moves combining a range of placement options with intensive coaching support.

Inside Out project evaluation (PDF, 1.66 MB, 70 pages)

No Wrong Door

An integrated service for young people facing complex risks with 2 hubs providing a range of accommodation, services and outreach support.

No Wrong Door project evaluation

Right Home

Multi agency support for 16- to 19-year-olds at risk of homelessness, including flexible accommodation options and personalised support.

Right Home project evaluation

Alternative delivery and finance models

Children’s Services Transformation Programme

Developing an alternative delivery model for children’s services, embedding signs of safety to ensure a ‘team around the child’ approach.

This project ended and has no evaluation.

A joint venture for regional children’s social work across 14 councils to create a shared workforce development infrastructure.

FutureSocial project evaluation (PDF, 1.1 MB, 57 pages)

Making Integration Happen

Establishing a council owned delivery model to conduct all statutory duties for children’s education, community health and social care.

Making Integration Happen project evaluation (PDF, 1 MB, 51 pages)

Newham Delivery for Children

Creating an independent trust, decoupling commissioning and delivery across early help, care leaving, safeguarding, special educational needs and disability (SEND) provision and social care.

This project ended and has no evaluation.

North London Commissioning

A sub regional approach to commission 35 residential placements for young people in north east London, testing the use of block provider contracts.

North London Commissioning project evaluation (PDF, 368 KB, 38 pages)

North of Tyne Collaboration

Collaboration across the North of Tyne area, including health services, to improve practice, services and outcomes for children and young people.

North of Tyne Collaboration project evaluation (PDF, 485 KB, 25 pages)

Restructuring children’s services to an integrated care organisation, including early help hubs and pooled budgets with adults’ social care.

This project ended and has no evaluation.

South East Together Dynamic Purchasing System

A regional dynamic purchasing system to support commissioning of placements in independent special schools and children’s homes.

South East Together Dynamic Purchasing System project evaluation

Care leavers and staying close

Care Leavers Partnership

A co-designed, needs led model of support for care leavers.

Care Leavers Partnership project evaluation (PDF, 1.29 MB, 70 pages)

Elm House (Staying Close, North Tyneside)

Smoothing the transition to independent living with semi independent accommodation opposite an existing residential home.

Elm House (Staying Close, North Tyneside) project evaluation (PDF, 540 KB, 47 pages)

Local Area Co-ordination for Care Leavers

Easing the transition for care leavers into secure community placements and positive living, work, learning and social situations.

Local Area Co-ordination for Care Leavers project evaluation (PDF, 1.9 MB, 65 pages)

Staying Close (Portsmouth)

Developing accommodation adjacent to an existing residential unit and a separate 5 bed house to accommodate care leavers.

Staying Close (Portsmouth) project evaluation (PDF, 3.57 MB, 58 pages)

Staying Close (St Christopher’s)

Providing semi independent accommodation for care leavers in Ealing and Hounslow and opportunities for young people to return to their children’s home.

Staying Close (St Christopher’s) project evaluation (PDF, 805 KB, 72 pages)

Staying Close (Bristol)

A range of staying close options for children living in and leaving children’s homes to support the transition to independent living and adult services.

Staying Close (Bristol) project evaluation (PDF, 695 KB, 77 pages)

Staying Close (North east Lincolnshire)

An integrated pathway for care leavers including a staying close contract, partnership working, family group conferencing and sibling style peer support.

Staying Close (North east Lincolnshire) project evaluation (PDF, 664 KB, 87 pages)

Staying Close, Staying Connected

Offering 70 care leavers in Norfolk and East Cambridgeshire the option to stay close to their children’s home by living in ‘moving on’ houses.

Staying Close, Staying Connected project evaluation (PDF, 1.02 MB, 108 pages)

Staying Close, Leaving Care Doesn’t Mean Care Leaves You (Suffolk)

A support package to young people in 4 of Suffolk’s local authority residential care homes and 3 private sector care homes.

Staying Close, Leaving Care Doesn’t Mean Care Leaves You (Suffolk) project evaluation (PDF, 825 KB, 87 pages)

An alternative to foster care in 8 local authorities for young people with ongoing social care needs
by supporting them to move to a ‘shared lives’ home from the age of 16.

Shared Lives Care Leavers project evaluation (PDF, 721 KB, 94 pages)

Staying Close (Fair Ways)

A secure, 4-year accommodation pathway for young people making a transition from residential care.

Staying Close (Fair Ways) project evaluation (PDF, 2.86 MB, 53 pages)

The House Project

Supporting young people who are leaving care in Stoke-on-Trent and Warwickshire to work together to refurbish their own future homes.

The House Project evaluation (PDF, 1.19 MB, 115 pages)

Child sexual exploitation or abuse

Aycliffe Secure Centre

A specialist secure therapeutic environment for young people suffering trauma as a result of child sexual exploitation.

Aycliffe Secure Centre project evaluation (child sexual exploitation)

Safe Steps

Two specially adapted children’s homes for girls identified as at risk of sexual exploitation with a focus on social pedagogy and relational security.

Safe Steps project evaluation (child sexual exploitation)

South Yorkshire Empower and Protect

A community based, sub regional delivery model for young people at risk of child sexual exploitation.

Empower and Protect project evaluation (child sexual exploitation)

Edge of care and children in need

Brighter Futures

A multi agency support team for adolescents working alongside advanced in house foster carers.

Ealing Brighter Futures project evaluation

Longitudinal project evaluation for Brighter Futures (PDF, 789 KB, 54 pages)

Compass Service

Developing a virtual residential school bespoke therapeutic education model for children in and on the edge of care.

Compass Service project evaluation

Coventry Children in Need

Adopting and adapting the FACT22 model of targeted support to children in need using cross sector working and personalised interventions.

Coventry Children in Need project evaluation (PDF, 1.29 MB, 81 pages)

Creating Strong Communities

A safer communities model based on family group conferencing, signs of safety, restorative practice and outcomes based accountability.

Creating Strong Communities in north east Lincolnshire project evaluation – round 1

Creating Strong Communities in north east Lincolnshire project evaluation – round 2 (PDF, 813 KB, 95 pages)

Face to Face Pathways

A multi agency predictive model of care for 11 to 24 year olds including care leaving support, systemic fostering units and pathway co-ordinators.

Face to Face Pathways project evaluation (PDF, 2.49 MB, 72 pages)

Family Group Conferencing

A new model of family group conference for all families on the brink of court proceedings aiming to place children within their family network.

Daybreak family group conferencing project evaluation

Longitudinal project evaluation for Family Group Conferencing (PDF, 712 KB, 42 pages)

Families Achieving Change Together

Supporting children assessed as being a child in need focusing on domestic abuse, parental mental ill-health and substance abuse.

Children in need: Project Crewe evaluation

Longitudinal project evaluation for Families Achieving Change Together (PDF, 1.83 MB, 67 pages)

Right Balance for Families

Multi agency support for children in need aged 10 to 13 focusing on mitigating harm during the transition into early adolescence.

Right Balance for Families project evaluation (PDF, 2.25 MB, 96 pages)

Safe Families for Children

Keeping more young people at home through early intervention, edge of care provision and volunteer led respite care for families during times of crisis.

Safe Families for Children project evaluation

Step Change

Improving outcomes for young people on the edge of care or custody in Barnet, Harrow and Hounslow through functional family and multisystemic therapy.

Step Change project evaluation

Female genital mutilation (FGM)

FGM Early Intervention Model

Placing specialist FGM workers within midwifery services in 5 London boroughs to provide information, emotional support and practical care.

Female genital mutilation Early Intervention Model project evaluation

National FGM Centre

Establishing the National FGM Centre to directly support girls and families and to share learning on best practice with local authorities across England.

National female genital mutilation centre: evaluation – round 1

National female genital mutilation centre: evaluation – round 2 (PDF, 731 KB, 55 pages)

Fostering and adoption


Developing and testing the AdOpt parenting programme to build the skills of adoptive parents.

AdOpt parenting programme evaluation

Better by Design

Bringing young people in ‘out of borough’ residential care back to local foster carers in the London boroughs of Richmond and Kingston upon Thames.

Supporting young people in care: Better by Design evaluation project

Cornerstone Adoption Support Programme

Adopting and adapting the FACT22 model of targeted support to children in need, using cross sector working and personalised interventions.

Cornerstone Adoption Support Programme evaluation

Permanent Improvement project

Data led, practice based improvement framework, focused on permanency and securing adoption and long term foster placements more quickly.

Adoption: Coram’s ‘permanence improvement’ project evaluation

Adoption: Coram-i ‘permanence improvement’ project evaluation – round 2 (PDF, 2.48 MB, 116 pages)

Supporting Long Term Foster Placements

Taking on delegated statutory responsibilities for children in foster care in Stoke-on-Trent, combining corporate parenting and supervisory responsibilities.

Supporting Long-Term Foster Placements project evaluation

TACT Peterborough Permanency Service

Securing permanency for young people in care through asset based assessment and training to develop foster carers’ confidence and skills.

TACT Peterborough Permanency Service project evaluation (PDF, 528 KB, 46 pages)

Looked-after children

Children Looked After Project

Developing outcomes based commissioning and standardising best practice for looked-after children across 8 London boroughs.

Children Looked After Project evaluation (PDF, 799 KB, 80 pages)

Lifelong Links

Lifelong Links aims to ensure that a child in care has a positive support network around them to help them during their time in care and into adulthood.

Lifelong Links evaluation report (PDF, 1.62 MB, 68 pages)

New Orleans Intervention Model

An infant mental health approach to improve outcomes for babies and young children in foster care.

New Orleans Intervention Model project evaluation

North London Children’s Efficiency Programme

A regional placements team and joint commissioning of short term residential units to provide intensive therapeutic support to young people at risk.

North London Children’s Efficiency Programme evaluation

Mockingbird Family Model

An extended family hub model of foster care in 10 local authorities providing short breaks, peer support, joint planning and training, and social activities.

Mockingbird Family Model project evaluation – round 1

Mockingbird Family Model project evaluation – round 2 (PDF, 1.02 MB, 107 pages)

Young people’s mental health

Belhaven Services

Establishing a residential home for young people with mental ill-health.

Belhaven residential care project evaluation

Cambridge Multisystemic Therapy Services

Spinning out Cambridge’s multisystemic therapy service for adolescents into a staff run mutual.

Cambridge Multisystemic Therapy Services project evaluation

Multisystemic Therapy for Family Integrated Transitions

Evaluating the use of multisystemic therapy (MST) in Northamptonshire and Leeds to support young people returning home to their family or long term carers.

Multisystemic Therapy for Family Integrated Transitions project evaluation


Testing the effectiveness of multisystemic therapy for young people with problem sexual behaviour.

STEPS-B, National Implementation Service project evaluation

Crisis and step down support for young people with significant mental health issues, combining social care, child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS), specialist foster and residential care.

Specialist Health and Resilient Environment (SHARE) project evaluation

Exploring how technology can support young people in care

A consortium of technologists, designers and academics exploring how digital tools can support young people to cope with trauma.

How technology might help young people in care: project evaluation

Extended HOPE Service

An overnight respite service and out of hours provision for 11 to 18 year olds in the early stages of emotional and mental health difficulties.

‘Extended HOPE’ project evaluation

Support for parents facing complex risks

Family Safeguarding

A redesign of Hertfordshire services to the most at risk families. New multidisciplinary family safeguarding teams brought children’s social workers and specialists in adult mental health together to work closely with schools and better support families.

Family Safeguarding project evaluation – round 1

In round 2, this whole system approach scaled across Hertfordshire, Luton, Peterborough, Bracknell Forest and West Berkshire.

Family Safeguarding project evaluation – round 2 (PDF, 1.5 MB, 127 pages)

Culturally Attuned Family Support

Early help to better match support for army service families and Pakistani-Mirpuri families.

Culturally Attuned Family Support project evaluation


A multidisciplinary approach to tackling domestic abuse, incorporating systemic and therapeutic work with families, children and schools.

NewDay project evaluation (PDF, 1.72 MB, 103 pages)


A multidisciplinary approach to supporting families in which there has been domestic abuse, including conflict between children and their parents.

SafeCORE project evaluation (PDF, 745 KB, 52 pages)

Creating Space for Change

Expanding the Pause intervention to an additional 16 areas of England, providing intensive support to women at risk of repeat removals of their children.

Creating Space for Change project evaluation – round 1

Creating Space for Change (Sussex) project evaluation – round 2 (PDF, 1.66 MB, 128 pages)

Family Drug and Alcohol Courts

Helping parents involved in court based care proceedings to overcome the substance misuse that has put their children at risk of serious harm.

Family Drug and Alcohol Courts project evaluation

Family Valued

Embedding restorative practice across services including family group conferencing, domestic violence prevention and pre-birth assessment.

Family Valued project evaluation

Growing Futures

A whole community response to domestic violence that supports perpetrators to change their behaviour.

Growing Futures project evaluation

Longitudinal project evaluation for Growing Futures (PDF, 770 KB, 76 pages)

Positive Choices

Support for young people at high risk of becoming pregnant or experiencing the removal of a child.

Positive Choices project evaluation (PDF, 518 KB, 76 pages)

Residential care

Building My Future

An intensive, therapeutic short break service for young people who have learning difficulties, autism or a mental health condition.

Building My Future project evaluation (PDF, 1.16 MB, 66 pages)

Triborough alternative provision (TBAP) Residence

A residential educational setting outside London to support young people at TBAP academies who are in or on the edge of care or the youth justice system.

Triborough alternative provision (TBAP) Residence project evaluation

Doing What Counts: Measuring What Matters

A motivational social work model built on motivational interviewing and assessing the quality of practice on the outcomes that matter to families.

Doing What Counts: Measuring What Matters project evaluation

Focus on Practice

A comprehensive skills development package incorporating systemic practice, signs of safety, motivational interviewing and parenting programmes.

Focus on Practice project evaluation


A leadership development programme for first tier line managers in children’s social care.

You can read:

Learning Into Practice

Improving the quality and enabling better use of learning from serious case reviews.

Learning Into Practice project evaluation

Implementing the Reclaiming Social Work approach in 5 local authorities (Derbyshire, Buckinghamshire, Harrow, Hull, and Southwark), with ‘keeping families together’ units for teenagers on the edge of care.

Scaling and Deepening the Reclaiming Social Work Model project evaluation

Longitudinal project evaluation for Scaling and Deepening the Reclaiming Social Work Model (PDF, 838 KB, 75 pages)

Signs of Safety

Implementing signs of safety as a whole system approach in 10 local authorities to allow practitioners to think critically and analyse information.

Signs of Safety project evaluation

Round 2 evaluation of MTM’s Signs of Safety pilots (PDF, 582 KB, 69 pages)
Round 2 evaluation of MTM’s Signs of Safety pilots: appendices (PDF, 1.81 MB, 63 pages)

Families First

Establishing 10 integrated, mixed skill social work teams using reflective and holistic practice to work with families with the most complex needs.

Families First project evaluation

Longitudinal project evaluation for Families First (PDF, 526 KB, 60 pages)

Family Insights

Using data led, needs based segmenting to create specialist social work units focused on families with similar support needs.

Families Insights project evaluation

Stockport Family Model

Community based, cross agency social work teams linked closely with schools underpinned with restorative practice.

Stockport Family Model project evaluation

Longitudinal project evaluation for Stockport Family Model (PDF, 832 KB, 66 pages)

Active Agents for Change

A range of projects rethinking early intervention, child protection and care including co-located multi agency specialists.

Social care innovations in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight – Active Agents for Change

Slough Children’s Services Trust Transformation Programme

A dynamic enhanced hub model of early help to children in need, including domestic abuse assessment, signs of safety and systemic practice.

Slough Children’s Services Trust Transformation Programme evaluation (PDF, 1.28 MB, 87 pages)

An outcomes based practice model and accountability framework for social workers as part of Dorset’s ‘forward together for children’ initiative.

Reinvigorating Social Work project evaluation (PDF, 4.32 MB, 78 pages)

Young people with disabilities

Residential Migration

Specialist placements and co-produced care planning to allow disabled young people from Hertfordshire and Staffordshire to transfer to local foster care from out of area placements.

Residential Migration project evaluation (PDF, 336 KB, 33 pages)

An iterative, co-designed learning model in 5 local authorities (Cornwall, Bromley, Enfield, West Sussex and York) to develop and test streamlined, co-produced assessment models for disabled children and their families.

Social Care Assessments for Disabled Children project evaluation

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