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Better by Design

Bringing young people in out-of-borough residential care back to local foster carers, while working with young people on the edge of care to support them to stay at home.

Project Description

Adolescents with complex social care needs are at a particularly high risk of poor outcomes, with some families resistant to traditional approaches to social work that lack the flexibility needed to respond to the often disruptive lifestyles of young people, often placing families in unfamiliar environments, making them increasingly likely to disengage from care.

Better by Design comprises a range of innovations to better support groups of adolescents across Richmond and Kingston-upon-Thames. The project aims to migrate young people in out-of-borough residential care back to local foster carers trained in the Better By Design practice model.

Transitions back to local foster care are via a short-stay residential setting supported by specially trained Innovation Family Workers, who also support young people on the edge of care with the aim of preventing escalation to care. A longer planning period has enabled systems to be better integrated, with a ‘drip-feed’ approach working to slowly build and develop the system.



The DfE-funded independent evaluation published in 2016 highlighted some of the challenges to delivering hub services for low incidence and high needs young people. The project has provided learning around the potential of the Better by Design approach and the need to ensure high occupancy rates to manage the unit costs of hub services. It has also highlighted the importance of clear referral pathways, supporting children at the right time and the need for closer supervision of the project by social workers.

Lead Organisation

Achieving for Children

This is a Partner in Practice


Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames

London Borough of Richmond upon Thames

University of Birmingham


Richmond and Kingston




Funding Information

Funding theme: Rethinking support for adolescents

Total amount awarded


Round 1 Feb 2015

Other information