Local authorities (LAs) need to evaluate existing structures for, and the costs and benefits of models of delivery of, children’s services and to assess the effectiveness of service delivery. In a climate of continued financial constraint and savings requirements, such checks need to suggest ways of doing what needs to be done without creating financial strain.
Test of assurance evaluation
The test of assurance evaluation considers the extent to which an LA and its partners in other statutory services can demonstrate:
- clarity about how senior management arrangements ensure the safety, physical and mental health, educational, social and emotional needs of children and young people are given due priority in the locality’s wider agendas.
- clarity about how senior management arrangements enable staff to help the LA discharge its statutory duties in an integrated and coherent way
- matching clarity about how far, and in what ways, partnership working with other agencies strengthens the offer made to children and families across communities.
- clarity about how the LA currently discharges and intends to continue to discharge its children’s services functions and be accountable for them from political, professional, legal and corporate perspectives - including where, for example, services are mutualised, run in accordance with another Alternative Delivery Model, or commissioned from external provider.
- the breadth of responsibilities allocated to individual post holders and its impact on their ability to undertake those responsibilities - especially where an LA is considering allocating any additional functions to the director of children’s services or lead member for children’s services posts.
- the proven involvement and experiences of children and young people in local services, including how far their involvement is actively sought and used to ensure high quality services that will meet their needs.
- clarity about child protection systems - ensuring professional leadership and practice is robust, focuses on offering early help and working with other agencies to do so.
- the adequacy, efficiency and effectiveness of local partnership arrangements;
- the LA's relationship with, planning for and necessary interventions in schools, no matter what their varied models of goverance;
- the local safeguarding children board;
- the courts in both the Family and Criminal Justice systems;
- children’s trust or other local partnerships aimed at strengthening agencies’ co-operation arrangements;
- community safety and crime reduction partnerships;
- health and Wellbeing boards and local Healthwatch activity;
- work in the Public Health team for and with children, young people, their families and the wider community;
- youth offending team partnerships and YOT Boards;
- the police, probation and other criminal justice related organisations including those in the NGO sector such as Victim Support, IDVA/ISVA bodies;
- multi-agency public protection arrangements and multi-agency risk assessment conferences and their respective accountabilities;
- the locality’s work on child sexual exploitation and abuse, whether within or beyond the family;
The relationships between already-established services and the locality’s more recent work on the national Troubled Families programme, with families facing multiple challenges and exhibiting multiple vulnerabilities;
Enactment of new legislation including the SEN/D, adoption, foster care’s Staying Put regulations, and other recent developments in Acts including the 2014 Children and Families Act and the Care Act 2012, the latter particularly important at the boundaries between children’s and adults’ services;
Locally determined and “tailored” rather than nationally mandated or one-size fits all issues.
Our associates can support you
Our associates can support you in completing your audit process, including helping you to assess where savings could still be gained if the audit’s findings are to bear weight and children are still to be well served. They have:
- substantial senior management and leadership experience in public sector organisations
- experience in safeguarding, children’s social work and the wider children’s services landscape
- knowledge and experience of evaluative techniques and approaches to both service design and delivery
- an ability to communicate effectively at a high level, both orally and in writing
- a supportive and flexible approach tailored to your requirements
Five phase methodology developed in borough, city and county authorities
- Initiation phase - agreement of methodology, reporting processes, timescales, engagement of the evaluation team and appointment of project leads.
- Research phase - consideration of both national and local contexts; extensive review of national and local documentation; and analysis of local performance data. Joint briefing, preliminary interviews and the use of a questionnaire to key stakeholders and staff.
- Fieldwork phase - focus groups and interviews with individuals across the council and its partners including discussions with stakeholders, services users, key partners and local authority officers.
- Evaluation and reporting phase - analysis of information gathered in the research and fieldwork phases, interim feedback and a final written report to the council containing judgments against the key elements of the test of assurance.
- Reflection and review phase - continuous analysis, consideration and response to emerging information and changing contexts.