Supporting scaling innovation in children's social care

Strengthening families, protecting children programme 

With Department for Education

SPFC is a five year Department for Education programme to support local authorities to improve their work with families, and safely reduce the number of children entering care.

Eighteen local authorities (the ‘adopters’) will implement three different successful whole system innovation projects, with the support of the authorities who first developed them (the ‘innovators’).

Innovation Unit is working alongside both the innovator and adopter authorities, leading a range of activities to support the complexity of culture and practice transformation.

The problem


children in care - the number increased by 21% between 2009 and March 2020.


of looked after children experienced three or more different placements in 2019-2020.


of looked after children were placed more than 20 miles away from their homes

The programme


The Department for Education is investing £84 million over 5 years to support 18 local authorities in their work with families, to safely reduce the number of children entering care. The SFPC programme is supporting these local authorities to adopt and adapt one of the 3 most successful system level innovations developed through the DfE’s children’s social care innovation programme projects into their own area.

Innovation Unit, alongside our partners Mutual Ventures and SCIE, is delighted to be the support partner for this Programme. We are working closely alongside the ‘innovator’ and ‘adopter’ authorities to support the successful adoption and adaptation of these innovations into new contexts and learning across the programme and beyond. In this work we are drawing on our deep experience of supporting the scaling of innovation to new contexts.

The innovators and their innovations


Leeds City Council’s Family Valued is underpinned by the relational principle of working with children and families, rather than doing things to or for them. It develops: a foundation of restorative practice training for all staff; an intensive programme of leadership, culture and practice development; creation or expansion of the Family Group Conference service; and working with local leaders to critically review local systems and structures, to identify where reform is needed to reduce pressures and create the time and space needed for relational working. A cost benefit analysis of the use of FGCs found an average saving of £755 per family when compared to ‘business as usual’ social work without FGCs, due to families spending less time in the system.

Hertfordshire County Council’s Family Safeguarding is a whole family, strengths based approach to child protection. Child safeguarding work is undertaken by a multidisciplinary team of children’s social workers, adult mental health practitioners, substance misuse and probation officers, working together as one team. The teams use Motivational Interviewing, a strengths-based conversational approach, as a shared model of practice. Recording is transformed in the model by using the Family Safeguarding workbook, which guides social work practice with families, providing space with all practitioners involved in the family to contribute to analysis and share decision making. Family Safeguarding has resulted in positive outcomes for children and adults in Hertfordshire, including a 60% reduction in the number of children on children protection plans for 5 years.

North Yorkshire County Council’s No Wrong Door is both an integrated service and approach to supporting adolescents in or on the edge of care. The model combines a defined culture and practice with a range of services, support and accommodation options. At the heart of the model is a residential Hub, which provides short-term placements and outreach (Edge of Care) support, and is the base for a multi-disciplinary team of specialists working under a shared practice framework. In North Yorkshire, young people referred to No Wrong Door spent 45% less time in residential placements compared to before NWD was implemented.

The adopters

Family Valued

  • Darlington Borough Council
  • Warwickshire County Council
  • Newcastle County Council
  • Coventry Council Council
  • Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council
  • Sefton Council

Family Safeguarding

  • Cambridgeshire County Council
  • Walsall Council
  • Lancashire County Council
  • Telford & Wrekin Council
  • Wandsworth Borough Council
  • Swindon Borough Council

No Wrong Door

  • Middlesbrough Council
  • Rochdale Borough Council
  • Norfolk County Council
  • Warrington Borough Council
  • Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council
  • Leicester City Council