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Measuring outcomes for children’s social care services

Researchers: Dr Lisa Holmes | Ivana La Valle

Project overview

How do we know if children’s social care services make a difference? Development of an outcomes framework

The overarching aim of this study is to develop an outcomes framework for Children’s Social Care Services (CSCS) based on the views of those who plan, deliver and use these services, as well as the existing evidence base. More specifically the study aims to:

  • Develop a framework of the expected measurable outcomes for children from CSCS, and what intermediate outcomes (e.g. organisational and social work practice features) and improvements in services are necessary to achieve these ultimate goals
  • Identify a set of indicators that can be used to measure intermediate outcomes and outcomes for children who access CSCS, and that can help answer if and how these services have made a difference to their lives
  • Consider to what extent recommended outcomes could be measured using existing indicators, whether new indicators could be developed with existing data and what new data will be required

The outcomes framework will be developed to complement, rather than replace, national administrative data collected by the Department for Education.

This study follows on from a feasibility study by the research team, and funded by the Foundation, which found a weak relationship between Department for Education indicators relating to 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 study aims to deliver this.

The study includes four research components: a rapid evidence review; four in-depth case studies; consultations with CSCS users; and, workshops to validate the emerging research findings.


  • Dr Lisa Holmes
    University of Oxford
  • Ivana La Valle

  • Ash Patel
    Programme Head, Justice
    Nuffield Foundation
  • Director, Justice
    Nuffield Foundation

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We aim to improve people’s lives by funding research that informs social policy, primarily in Education, Welfare and Justice. We also fund student programmes that give young people skills and confidence in science and research.

We are an open, collaborative and engaged funder that offers more than money. Through connecting the individual projects we fund, we strengthen their collective impact and give voice to an overarching narrative.