Why are we doing this?
Once developed, the Centre will develop a strong evidence base around effective interventions and practice systems in children’s social care, and will support their implementation by practitioners and decision-makers.
Its goal will be to improve outcomes for children and their families by supporting translation of evidence into better practice on the ground.
Commissioned by the Department for Education, the Centre is currently being established with support from a development team or ‘incubator’ and a research partner, but will aim to become a fully independent organisation by summer 2020.
What will the future Centre do?
The WWC’s broad scope will cover support for children from the point of referral through to permanence, including adoption, care-leaver support and targeted early help. Its focus will be on children’s social care practice in England, but it will draw on and share learning at the international level as well.
The Centre will target children’s social work practitioners, but its broader audience will include all practitioners and decision-makers working within children’s social care, including those in residential homes, healthcare, policing and policymakers.
The Department for Education has awarded two contracts to set up the Centre. These contracts will run in parallel up to June 2020 and include the What Works Centre development team - a consortium led by Nesta and its Alliance for Useful Evidence, in partnership with the Social Care Institute for Excellence, FutureGov and Traversum - and the What Works Centre research partner - who will start the development of the research base.
When fully established, the Centre will:
- collate and share existing research, evidence and data
- identify and support robust standards of evidence in children’s social care
- develop the evidence base by conducting new trials and evaluations
- translate existing and new evidence into easily accessible guidance and resources for practitioners
- drive and support the dissemination and implementation of findings into practice
- support practitioners and decision-makers to understand the importance and utility of research
- support the development of a coherent learning infrastructure to foster learning.
What is the development team doing?
The development team - led by Nesta and its Alliance for Useful Evidence - will work with the sector to establish a credible, independent and effective What Works Centre by summer 2020.
The group will establish what the Centre should focus on, how it should identify and share evidence, and how it should be managed and led.
The Centre will be established in three phases:
Phase 1: October 2017 - June 2018
During this phase, the development team will:
- engage with key stakeholders to inform the development of the Centre through a series of events, online engagement and advisory groups
- research how practitioners at different levels view, access and use evidence in their work, test how that could be improved (e.g. through both traditional methods and leading-edge digital approaches)
- research the policy environment and its future possible direction
- research the evidence base within the children’s sector
- develop the centre’s initial strategy
- establish a fully-designed organisation and start to appoint the executive team.
Phase 2: June 2018 – June 2020
This phase of work will be led by the new executive team of the Centre. It will include the recruitment of the remainder of the executive team. The development team will provide mentoring and support to the team, create a knowledge and learning infrastructure to support the use of evidence, and develop approaches to sector engagement on the journey towards independence.
Phase 3: June 2020 onwards
By June 2020, the development team’s role will come to an end and the Centre will be an autonomous, independent and sustainable organisation.
The establishment of the What Works Centre for Children’s Social Care forms part of the Department for Education’s wider agenda to develop a culture of learning across children’s social care.
The Centre will be rooted in previous experience and insights drawn from the best of the existing What Works Centres around how to create an effective force for evidence-informed change. It will also explore, test and adapt new approaches to engaging with the sector and disseminating learning about what works.
The Centre will join the What Works Network of seven existing independent Centres, and two affiliate members, promoted and supported by Cabinet Office. The network is underpinned by the principle that good decision-making should be informed by the best available evidence.
Existing What Works Centres include: the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), the Early Intervention Foundation, What Works Centre for Crime Reduction, and the Centre for Ageing Better.
Practitioners’ events: January 2018
The development team is running a series of events for practitioners to help gather detailed information and perspectives on:
- The key tasks and activities that social workers and colleagues perform
- How data and evidence might be made more readily accessible and useable
- How practitioners would like to get involved with the establishment of the centre
The events are aimed at:
- Children’s social work practitioners such as frontline social workers, team managers, principal social workers, senior managers, practice leaders (e.g. Heads of Service and Assistant Directors)
- Other practitioners in the children’s social care system (e.g. non-qualified workers in residential care, family support workers, personal advisers and independent advocates)
- Practitioners in other services relevant to vulnerable children and young people (e.g. education, health, youth work, and the youth/criminal justice system).
To find out more, register for updates on the What Works Centre. We will keep you updated on progress, including details of how to get involved in events or online activities. Sign up here. Or contact Jonathan Breckon or Greg Wilkinson for more information.
Who's working on this?
Nesta's Alliance for Useful Evidence representative:
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