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 4: Conclusions and recommendations

As the Tranche 3 CPPs begin their RCS journey, the programme has benefitted from a clearly defined remit with core elements that have proved to be realistic, achievable and effective in supporting CPPs to develop the skills to gather and use evidence to inform joint strategic decision making.

As a result of the RCS programme, the CPP stakeholders in Tranches 1 and 2 have improved their:

  • collaboration and multi-agency working;
  • understanding of local need and how that aligns with service provision;
  • use of evidence to inform decision making;
  • collective understanding of what the local priorities should be; and
  • knowledge and skills about approaches that can bring about change.

This had led to several changes in approach to policy and practice, from head teachers using their data to inform PEF spending and school improvement plans, to local partners creating partnership data dashboards and amending their Children's Service Plan.

Each aspect of the programme reinforces the other and it is this combination of elements that makes RCS work. The CPPs need the local data to underpin the future decision making, but they need the support to interpret the evidence and then help them to take action to use it.

CPPs welcomed and needed the encouragement, practical support and challenge provided by the RCS team. They valued the knowledge and insight it provided and the way it worked in responding and meeting their needs so effectively.

The extent of the CPPs' ability to engage and embrace the programme was affected by several factors relating to visible leadership, the history of local partnership working, motivation for joining RCS, their response to austerity measures, effectiveness at engaging local partners and the stability at the top level of their organisations. These factors could help or hinder the progress that was made.

RCS programme recommendations

Based on the evaluation findings, there are immediate to short term recommendations for the programme that would further enhance the impact of the programme, some* of which have already been made for Tranche 3. These are:

Recommendation 1: The RCS team should be cognisant of the factors that affect CPP progress, in particular the top level commitment and this should translate and be maintained amongst the senior and middle managers tasked with implementing the programme. Some consideration should be given as to how the Executive sponsors can be more visible and active throughout the lifetime of the programme.

Recommendation 2*: The sample survey of parents of 0-8 years olds was limited in the extent to which the evidence it produced could be used CPP wide and it was expensive to administer and this should be, and has been removed from the programme.

Recommendation 3: The mapping exercise needs to have more immediate benefits for those completing it and a better understanding of how it will be used. Specialist support to analyse the information and model changes and their short to long term cost savings is likely to encourage completion of the map and provide more use of it by the CPPs.

Recommendation 4*: The three development days would have an even greater impact if they delivered at times that relate to the CPPs' stage within the programme. This is a change that will benefit Tranche 3.

Recommendation 5: The workshops and learning exchanges provide opportunities for CPP representatives to share learning and offer mutual support were particularly useful to CPPs. There could be more frequent opportunities for the tranches to come together and learn from each other.

Recommendation 6: Once a CPP has completed the programme, the RCS team should continue to maintain a level of engagement with the team. This could involve an annual visit to discuss progress, or remaining as a consultancy resource (capacity permitting) available to CPPs engaged in repeating aspects of the initial programme themselves. This engagement between RCS and CPPs will also assist in the ongoing evaluation of the programme.

Recommendation 7: The RCS team play a critical role in the programme and the current vacancies need to be filled as quickly as possible with the appropriate staff, particularly the RCS manager post, to avoid a loss of momentum and progress with Tranches 2 and 3.

Recommendation 8: Scottish Government should maximise the knowledge gain within the team so that it can inform the policy cycle within other areas of the Children and Families Directorate.

Recommendation 9: Scottish Government should consider how to strengthen the links between the Children's Service Planning and the key messages and evidence arising from the RCS programme.

Future considerations for the programme

The above recommendations relate to the immediate to short term delivery of the RCS programme but, in thinking about the future direction of the RCS programme and links with the wider health and wellbing policy agenda, there will be future developments that could impact on the need for all RCS elements.

A national school health and wellbeing census is being piloted next year. Once this is rolled out, CPPs will have access to the school population data that has proved to be so useful. If CPPs are given the necessary support to analyse, interpret and act on it, with access to the data and a platform to use, the Child Wellbeing Survey Programme element of RCS may not be required.

By that point the Children's Services Planning process should be more established and monitoring will have ensured that Plans are increasingly built on robust information about needs, costs and services. To do this CPPs will need to undertake some form of mapping, therefore the mapping exercise within the RCS programme would become unnecessary.

However, the much valued and key element that has helped the CPP stakeholders to drive change is the programme support which includes the bespoke offering from the team. There will still be a need for these elements and the facilitative, supportive but challenging approach that brings partners together. The model for this delivery of a programme of events and the operation of a 'nimble' consultancy team could then be reviewed to see if Scottish Government is best placed to deliver and learn from the programme or if another agency could fulfil this role.



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