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NIS Seminars, 'Evidence Into Real World Practice in Children's Services: Creativity and Innovation in Challenging Times'

 

The seminars, hosted by Leeds City Council and Birmingham City Council in November 2016, provided opportunities to hear about the latest research findings, policy developments and local implementation of evidence based interventions as part of wider reform and systems change.

We were grateful to both Helen Jones (previously DfE) and David Fairhurst from Spring Consortium who chaired the days.  The Birmingham event was opened by Samantha Olsen, Deputy Director Children’s Social Care Reform and Innovation at the Department of Education, who highlighted the current policy landscape for children’s services. 

At both events, Local Authorities and provider organisations shared their experience of implementing evidence based services as part of innovative system reform.  We heard from Saleem Tariq, Chief Officer at Leeds City Council, who have shown that with careful strategic planning, approaches such as MST, RESuLT and others can be woven into service reform to deliver quality services where it matters most. Dawn Roberts, Assistant Director Birmingham City Council, showed how their improvement journey featured a strong vision, creative use of approaches such as MST and a commitment to strengths and evidence based social work practice as a route to success.

Opportunities were offered to catch up on current research.  Professor David Berridge (Bristol University) spoke on the current children’s residential services in England, and gave a taster of the positive outcomes of the recently conducted evaluation on the RESuLT training programme for children’s homes.  Dr Lisa Holmes (Loughborough University) shared some of her key research on the costs of implementation and value for money.  Her suggestions that effective cost calculation of services aids informed commissioning, and the potential value for money of evidence based interventions when cost assessed well, were key points to take away. 

Funding challenges were discussed, and we heard about the progress of Essex and Manchester Local Authorities, whose evidence based services were funded through Social Impact Bonds.  Andrew Levitt from Bridges Ventures (bridgesventures.com) urged attendees to recognise the real opportunities that outcomes contract investment provides for financing programme set up.

Importantly, young people and families had a voice too.  A young person who had participated in an MST intervention shared his reality based wisdom and experience during a workshop, and we had the ‘premiere’ viewing of the draft NIS film, that included views and feedback from parents involved with MST, TFCO, TEND and AdOpt amongst others (see evidencebasedinterventions.org.uk).

Workshops on the range of evidence based interventions were ran by local authority professionals.  We heard from Leeds on their use innovative use of MST CAN for children experiencing abuse and neglect, as well as their implementation of RESuLT and AdOpt.  Oxfordshire spoke about their children’s residential provision and the role the RESuLT programme plays in their creative service development across the county.  Northamptonshire County Council spoke about their use of MST FIT for effective and safe return home of children from care and we heard from Dudley on their use of KEEP to support their foster carers effectively.  The NIS also presented on the video interaction based TEND programme for children aged 0 -4.

Key questions were discussed by panels on both days.  How do you identify what you are setting out to change? How do you then establish an intervention that can affect the change at a scale that has impact and can be sustained over time?  What are the steps needed to set about measure the impact you intend to have - to not only measure outcomes, but ensure value for money into the bargain?