A small number of children and families in Leeds have a disproportionate impact on limited social care resources, with repeated demand for services raising the costs of provision and pressures experienced by these services. Since 2010, 25 local multi-agency partnerships have been in place across Leeds, with just six of these accounting for 50% of referrals received by social care. Leeds has a clear aim: to safely and appropriately reduce the number of children unnecessarily coming into care.
Family Valued is a package of resources embedding restorative practice as the ethos across all services interacting with young people in the city, while developing family group conferencing as an offer to all families subject to an Initial Child Protection Conference, including in cases of domestic violence.
Targeted deep-dive training has been delivered to over 6,000 practitioners from across the children’s workforce and beyond, including the NHS, police, youth offending teams, housing and social work, 800 school staff and 500 staff from the third sector. The use of family group conferencing has been expanded to a level not previously seen in the UK, with over 600 conferences held in 2016 including in cases of domestic violence. In addition, services have been commissioned specifically for families experiencing domestic violence or who had a child taken in to care. Weekly data on progress is displayed visibly across the council to inspire and motivate staff.
Family Valued has continued to run beyond the funding period of the Innovation Programme. New staff are being embedded in existing structures to ensure the continuity of the service and the new approach to domestic violence is being mainstreamed into practice in services across the city. The approach is being scaled nationally through the government’s Strengthening Families programme launched in 2019.
DfE funded independent evaluation from 2017 found that:
- in the first year of the programme, the number of children looked after was reduced, with a 13% decrease in child protection plans and children in need
- the use of family group conferencing creates estimated savings of £755 per family, as a consequence of reduced average time spent in the social care system (from 34 weeks to 24 weeks)
- the number of children in need in the target localities is now falling at a faster rate than the city average.