Measuring outcomes for children's social care services

This study is designed to produce a comprehensive outcomes framework for monitoring to children’s social care services, which is intended to encourage greater use of data to inform policy and practice relating to vulnerable children and thereby improve outcomes for children. It will complement the outcomes work done in relation to the particular projects funded by the Department for Education’s Innovation Programme,  providing a broader, independent consideration of the issues.

It follows on from a feasibility study undertaken by the Principal Investigator, Matt Barnard and colleagues, and funded by the Foundation, which found a weak relationship between Department for Education indicators relating to children’s social care services (CSCS) and Ofsted ratings of Local Authority (LA) CSCS, suggesting that the current indicators do not appropriately reflect the aims or effectiveness of these services. As a result of these findings, a wide range of key stakeholders agreed that further work was required to create a holistic, national framework that sets out in an explicit way the outcomes that are expected of CSCS and the indicators that can be used to measure those outcomes. This new study aims to deliver this.

It will do so by developing a theoretical model, based on a theory of change or logic model, which identifies expected outcomes for CSCS users and describes how these can be achieved in practice. This will be used to specify a framework of indicators that could be used to measure (some of) the relevant outcomes, followed by primary research to investigate the feasibility of LAs providing the necessary data for these indicators.

The development of the framework will involve desk research, interviews and discussion groups with policy officials and representatives of relevant agencies and professional associations and a Delphi consultation. An online survey of all LAs in England will also be undertaken to find out about their current collection and use of data. Four of the participating LAs will be selected for in-depth case study work to further refine the outcomes framework and related indicators, and, following this, case study work will be undertaken with a different four LAs to test whether the framework could realistically be used across the full spectrum of LAs. The case study phase will also involve consultation with service users.

Grant Details



Matt Barnard, NatCen

Ivana La Valle 

Grant Amount and Duration


March 2017 - February 2019