DfE £333 million programme

PAC examines DfE’s £333 million programme into children’s social care

14-year evaluation faces scrutiny from committee

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has evaluated the Department for Education’s (DfE) £333 million programme on innovations in children’s social care to see what delivers best result for children in care.

The programme assembled by the DfE is a 14-year evaluation into innovations into children’s social care and the different methods used to provide good outcomes for children. The PAC evaluated this programme to see the benefits it has brought and what changes it has led to. They concluded the DfE stated has “further to go to embed a culture of evaluation in social care” in order to achieve better outcomes for children in care.

However, the PAC claimed that the spending of local authorities on children’s social care, roughly around £9 billion per year, represented good value as it “will often be a mere ’rounding error’ when compared to the scale of mainstream spending they can influence”. Despite this, the evaluation of the Innovation Programme, which was intended to improve outcomes for children in the social care system, as well as producing savings did not receive such praise. The PAC stated it “is not yet convinced the Department’s dissemination of learning from the programme is delivering widespread improvement”.

In addition to this, the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care considers that the Innovation Programme’s “scale and spread” approach is “limited” and there is “already enough evidence for investment in new approaches” and warning “the costs of inaction are too high”.

Dame Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, said:

“The Department for Education has established a proper approach to assessing whether its new programmes will actually deliver better outcomes for children in the care system and the taxpayer.

This is welcome. The test will be how it ensures that robust use of evidence to change the care system is not just a flash in the pan or dismissed as an expensive luxury at a time of cuts. It is vital that it is continued to make sure that these children receive the best support possible.

In an historic public spending squeeze, getting better outcomes for the money spent is a win-win that we all want to see.”

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