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Research and reports for children’s services improvement

This page highlights research reports and materials relating to children's service improvement.

High-cost children’s social care placements survey

In October and November 2023, the Local Government Association sent an online survey to all councils providing children’s social care in England. The purpose of the survey was to assess the frequency and costs arising from high-cost children’s social care placements, as well as to explore reasons why the costs of certain placements are particularly high.

Evaluation of the LGA Sector Led Improvement programme for Children’s Services report 

This report presents the findings of the evaluation, undertaken in July 2020 by Shared Intelligence, of the Children’s Services SLI Programme delivered by the LGA. The evaluation assessed the extent to which support has led to improvements in children’s services; with specific identification of the parts of the offer that have led to positive impacts. It also examined whether there should be a change in focus of the offer to help better address the issues and challenges councils are facing.

NAO report: Evaluating innovation in children’s social care

This report published in June 2022 examines the Department for Education’s approach to funding innovative practices in children’s social care, through the Children’s Social Care Innovation Programme and related interventions. It sets out how evaluation informed policy development and funding

NAO report: pressures on children's social care

This report published January 2019 sets out recent trends in pressures on children’s social care and the response of both national and local government to these pressures. It also sets out analysis we conducted about what is causing variations in children’s social care demand and activity between different local authorities

DfE: Children's social care: stable homes, built on love

This now closed consultation published February 2023 set the government vision for reform of children’s social care. The strategy is based on recommendations from 3 independent reviews. Views were sought on:

  • support and protection for children and families
  • support for kinship carers, and wider family networks
  • reforms to the experience of being in care, including corporate parenting
  • support for the workforce
  • delivery and system reform.

And separate consolation were sought on:
Children's social care national framework and dashboard - GOV.UK (
Child and family social worker workforce - GOV.UK (

Multi-agency inspection of child protection 

As a result of concerns regarding the effectiveness and proportionality of the Ofsted Single Inspection Framework, we, alongside the Association of Directors of Children's Services (ADCS) and Solace, have developed an alternative, multi-agency inspection model. This model learns from the failings of the current inspection regime for children's services and seeks to place children's outcomes at its centre.

Some of these concerns were subsequently taken on board by Ofsted in the development of the Inspection of Local Authority Children’s Services (ILACS) framework, which has resulted in the inspectorate taking a more proportionate approach. For more information, access the ADCS's ILACS resource pack.

LGA children's services improvement action research

The following two project reports are intended to complement one another. Together, they attempt to describe how local areas can drive and sustain improvement and make best use of external improvement support to help them in their improvement journey. 

Action research into improvement in local children's services

The first report 'action research into improvement in local children's services', undertaken by Isos Partnership and commissioned by the LGA, sought to answer the following two central questions:

  • What are the key enablers of (and barriers to) improvement in local children’s services?
  • How can the system as a whole facilitate and support improvement in local children’s services?

A separate report on the practical implications for portfolio holders and senior leaders is also available.

Enabling improvement 

The enabling improvement report explores the following two questions:

  • What is the role of improvement support and how can it be effective in supporting the improvement journey of a local area’s children’s services?
  • What are the relative strengths and key ingredients of different models of improvement, and what are the circumstances in which each model is most likely to be effective?