The Realigning Children's Services Programme: evaluation

An evaluation of the first and second tranches of Realigning Children’s Services (RCS) was carried out to improve the effectiveness of the programme in its third tranche.

Chapter 1: Introduction

Blake Stevenson was commissioned by the Centre for Excellence for Looked After Children in Scotland (CELCIS), on behalf of the Scottish Government, to evaluate the Realigning Children's Services (RCS) programme.

RCS is a multi-faceted programme which aims to provide support and challenge to a number of Community Planning Partnerships (CPPs) to drive improvement in their joint strategic decision-making in relation to children's services. RCS is now working with a third tranche of CPPs, but this evaluation focussed on the support provided to CPPs in Tranche 1 and Tranche 2 of the programme.

Policy context

The RCS programme was established to support the Scottish Government's wider agenda of improving the wellbeing of children in Scotland through early intervention and preventative service delivery.

This policy agenda was given a legislative basis through the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014, which provides wide-ranging provisions aimed at delivering better outcomes for children and young people in Scotland. These provisions, which have not yet commenced, include duties on local authorities and NHS health boards to provide a 'Named Person' service for every child and family in Scotland, and to develop a Child's Plan for any child where there are concerns about their wellbeing.

In particular, Part 3 (Children's Services Planning) of the Act aims to improve outcomes for children and young people by requiring local authorities and health boards to take a joint strategic approach to the planning and delivery of services. As a result, legal responsibility for the planning of children's services and related services is now held jointly by local authorities and health boards.

Part 3 of the Act places a duty on every local authority and its relevant health board to jointly prepare a three-year Children's Services Plan (CSP) for the area of the local authority which, according to the Scottish Government's Statutory Guidance on Part 3, should:

  • articulate how various services will work together to best safeguard, support and promote the wellbeing of all children in the area concerned;
  • ensure that any action to meet needs is taken at the earliest appropriate time and that, where appropriate, action is taken to prevent needs arising;
  • be most integrated from the point of view of recipients; and
  • constitute the best use of available resources.

Although RCS was not established as a direct result of the Statutory Guidance (which was published later), the approach and objectives of the Statutory Guidance resonate closely with the resulting requirements on CPPs and provides direction on the processes that need to be implemented for effective children's services planning. These include:

  • undertaking a joint strategic assessment;
  • identifying and agreeing a manageable number of priorities;
  • creating a shared vision of what will be achieved;
  • developing outcome indicators;
  • agreeing which activities will be delivered in order to realise the vision, on the basis of detailed cost-benefit analysis;
  • deciding how those activities will be resourced;
  • consulting on and publishing a CSP detailing the actions to be taken, by whom, and when;
  • holding persons to account for delivery of activities identified in the CSP through appropriate governance arrangements; and
  • monitoring progress against the CSP[1].

Programme background

RCS built on the experience of Evidence for Success: a programme developed and run by the Dartington Social Research Unit and trialled by the Scottish Government. This programme identified the evidence needs for informing each stage of the policy cycle. The RCS programme was tasked with building an approach, drawing on several of the key elements of the Dartington[2] model, which could help CPPs to improve the joint strategic commissioning of their services for children and young people.

The RCS team began working with the first tranche of CPPs in 2015 with the aim of:

  • enabling effective local planning partnerships;
  • increasing the use of evidence; and
  • increasing investment in preventative and early intervention approaches.

The RCS logic model (Appendix 1) details the short, medium and long term outcomes for the programme. As the logic model shows, the short term outcomes are centred on commitment to the programme, meaningful participation, evidence of use of the data and evidence that knowledge and learning is being shared. All of which, in the medium term, should lead to local infrastructures that enable evidence-informed joint strategic decision-making.

The RCS programme has worked with five CPPs in the first two tranches; Clackmannanshire, West Lothian and South Lanarkshire (Tranche 1), and North Lanarkshire and Falkirk (Tranche 2).

The programme has supported the CPPs through two distinct strands:

An evidence programme that involves gathering data on the experiences of children and young people and the mapping of children and family services expenditure, to support joint strategic commissioning and improve service delivery at a community level. This includes the Child Wellbeing Survey Programme, three health and wellbeing surveys: one with pupils in primary school, one with secondary school pupils, and face-to-face interviews with parents with younger children. The primary and secondary schools responses are linked to local administrative data through a data sharing exercise to get a fuller picture of the respondents' demographics and involvement with children and family services. The evidence programme also includes the mapping of children and family services and their expenditure in each participating CPP area.

A development and facilitation programme to establish governance structures in local CPPs that support the implementation of joint strategic commissioning practice through a three-day training programme, as well as learning and practice events. The facilitation aspect of the programme involves a wide range of support provided by the team to help local stakeholders to progress discussions, understanding and implementation of evidence based policy making for their children's services.

The two strands of the RCS programme are delivered through a three-phased, nominally 18-month delivery model.

Figure 1.1 RCS programme delivery model (Scottish Government (2016), Realigning Children's Services Programme Overview)

Figure 1.1 RCS programme delivery model (Scottish Government (2016), Realigning Children's Services Programme Overview)

The RCS programme has been delivered through a core team based in the Scottish Government Children and Families Directorate, and is overseen by the RCS Programme Board chaired by the Scottish Government's Director of Children and Families. The Board is also supported by the RCS Strategic Partnership Group (which provides information and advice) and the RCS Research Advisory Group (which provides guidance on survey work).

The team is led by the RCS Programme Manager, and the team structure is summarised below.

Figure 1.2 RCS Programme Team structure

Figure 1.2 RCS Programme Team structure

Evaluation approach

The overall aim of this evaluation was to improve the effectiveness of the RCS programme. It will achieve this by identifying lesson learned by the RCS core team and CPPs, determining the impact of the programme including whether the programme has supported CPPs to implement joint strategic commissioning for children's services, and by providing recommendations for the future direction of the RCS programme.

To do this, a set of key research questions were used that explored the following themes:

  • communication and engagement with RCS programme principles;
  • value of the data and evidence gathered;
  • effectiveness of the support provided to CPPs;
  • achievement of short term outcomes; and
  • the lessons learned through the delivery of the RCS programme.

The full list of the evaluation questions is included in Appendix 2.

The Blake Stevenson evaluation team carried out the evaluation over three stages which is summarised in Figure 1.3.

Figure 1.3 Evaluation approach

Figure 1.3 Evaluation approach

In the first stage, a detailed inception meeting with RCS team members provided a valuable insight into the delivery of the programme in each CPP and a discussion of the evaluation approach. This helped to refine the methodology and timetable and made the team aware of potential issues or sensitivities that could impact on the evaluation.

Following the meeting, an inception report summarised the agreed evaluation activity. Then, RCS documents were reviewed, including RCS programme monitoring documents and reports, materials used as part of the evidence and development strands, governance and financial data, and updates on activities and progress across each CPP.

This review helped to inform the fact finding calls conducted during the planning phase. These telephone discussions, alongside the reviewed documents, shaped the area visits and follow up interviews with stakeholders in the five CPPs.

In total, 35 CPP stakeholders were interviewed during the evaluation, including head teachers, social work and health practitioners, senior staff in children and families services, public health and health improvement. By CPP area, there were:

  • 4 interviewees from Clackmannanshire;
  • 7 interviewees from Falkirk;
  • 10 interviewees from North Lanarkshire;
  • 10 interviewees from South Lanarkshire; and
  • 4 interviewees from West Lothian.

In addition, four members of the RCS programme team and their line manager were also interviewed.

A list of relevant questions and topics to be discussed with interviewees were prepared in advance of the interviews, which were semi-structured in nature, to guide both the interviewer and interviewee. This ensured that a range of key evaluation topics were covered whist allowing flexibility to cover other relevant issues. Upon completion of the interviews, a thematic analysis of all primary and secondary data was carried out.

Report structure

The remainder of this report is structured as follows:

  • Chapter 2 details stakeholders' experiences of the RCS programme;
  • Chapter 3 explores the impact of the RCS programme, including identifying the short term outcomes of the programme and examples of change; and
  • Chapter 4 provides a summary of the key findings from the evaluation, including considerations for the future delivery and direction of the programme.



Back to top