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Case Study: Department for Education’s Strengthening Families Protecting Children programme

Updated: Jan 12, 2023

Client: Department for Education, working with Leeds City Council, Hertfordshire County Council and North Yorkshire County Council.


Date: April 2020 - ongoing


Challenges faced by the client: Strengthening Families, Protecting Children (SFPC) is a five-year programme set up by the Department for Education (DfE) to support local authorities improve their work with families. The aim of the programme is to enable more children to stay at home in stable family environments so that fewer children need to be taken into care. Seventeen local authorities were to embed one of three whole system change projects, developed by Leeds, Hertfordshire and North Yorkshire, that have the most promising evidence from the Children’s Social Care Innovation programme of safely reducing the number of children being taken into care.


Support offered: The Department for Education commissioned the partnership of Mutual Ventures and Innovation Unit to provide coaching and a learning programme to the local authorities leading the innovations (‘the innovators’) and those adopting the innovations (‘the adopters’). The Support Partners have been fulfilling this role since February 2020.

Mutual Ventures supports the programme in five main areas:

  • Providing continuous support and coaching to the Innovator authorities as their models are rolled out to the adopter authorities. This includes maintaining strong and trusting working relationships with the leadership team within the Local Authorities, supporting them in building relationships with the adopter authorities and assisting with the roll-out, providing input and critical feedback into the production of model-centred outputs and providing a bridge function between the programme team and the Innovators.

  • Providing coaching and support when needed and beneficial to Local Authorities who are adopting one of the models. This includes workshops to provide implementation guidance, leadership coaching and providing up to date and impactful feedback to the DfE.

  • The development of the Financial Benefits Tool which helps adopter authorities forecast and track some of the financial benefits of implementing one of the Strengthening Families innovations. The tool has three key features: benchmarking against statistical neighbours, future projections, and tracking of actual benefits.

  • Driving and supporting cross programme collaboration between the seventeen local authorities and responsible for any resultant output production. The programme team work closely with the coaches to identify areas where cross programme collaboration would be impactful and beneficial.

  • Due to the size and nature of the SFPC programme there is continuous live learning to capture and disseminate. The learning team work with the coaches and the programme team to identify and capture areas of learning that would benefit not only the adopters and innovators involved in the programme, but also the DfE and the sector at large. Learning outputs include a regular Journal centred on sharing insights into the role that the innovations play in improving children’s lives and national learning events that share learning focused on the changes to systems and practice taking place SFPC LAs.


Outcome: All seventeen Local Authorities are enrolled on the programme, though at varying degrees of implementation. We continue to build strong relationships with leadership in LAs across the programme, fulfilling the role of coach and critical friend. The most recent national event was attended by over 600 people and had sessions delivered by sector leaders such as Josh McAlister, author of the Independent Care Review, and Isabelle Trowler, Chief Social Worker for Children and Families.

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