On 15 December 2022, Dame Rachel de Souza, the Children’s Commissioner, published ‘A positive approach to parenting: Part 2 of the Independent Family Review’. The Children’s Commissioner wants the review to achieve a ‘paradigm shift’ which would ‘put strong and loving families front and centre of our politics and policy making’ and help to change attitudes and overcome barriers to parents receiving the support they want and need.
Alongside the review, the Children’s Commissioner published three reform guides ‘addressing some of the thorniest issues when it comes to reforming and integrating different public services.’
One of these guides is the ‘Outcomes framework: Annex to a positive approach to parenting: Part 2 of the independent Family Review’.
To inform this work, the Office of the Children’s Commissioner drew heavily on the joint report by Kindred Squared and The For Baby’s Sake Trust, ‘Children and families: towards a core outcome framework’ and the discussions that The For Baby’s Sake Trust, Kindred Squared and the Early Intervention Foundation had been convening with multi-agency and multi-disciplinary professionals on this theme of common outcomes.
Building on this work to produce their report, the Office of the Children’s Commissioner (CCo) convened a workshop with over 50 professionals from different services to hear presentations (including from the Trust’s Director of Strategic Partnerships), share challenges, expertise and best practice. The CCo also drew on best practice in how to go about creating an outcomes framework, including the learning from creating the Core Outcome Set for domestic abuse services for children and families (where The For Baby’s Sake Trust had been a co-instigator and remains on the steering group).
The CCo ‘Outcomes Framework’ guide explains: ‘A high-level outcomes framework which is seeking positive outcomes for children and families is vital. Too often, services are working in siloes, working to different objectives based on their work with an individual, rather than seeing the family as a whole. This can mean too many families and children fall through the gaps in provision and struggle to support each other effectively.’
In response, the CCO propose the creation of a high-level outcomes framework, set out in the diagram below, which can be adopted by all services at a national, local and individual level.
This framework resonates with what children, parents and families have been telling the Children’s Commissioner, including through ‘The Big Ask’ and contributions to the Independent Family Review.
The Outcomes Framework guide includes important findings from correlating the data that the CCo gathered from The Big Ask, about children’s happiness with different aspects of life. This included the finding that children who were happy with their family life were three times more likely to say they were happy with their mental health.
The CCO recommends that the outcomes framework should be easily accessible with the detail of how the outcomes might be achieved – possible indicators and metrics – sitting below the outcomes.
The Children’s Commissioner recommends a task-and-finish group to provide high level guidance on the application of outcomes frameworks across the public sector, suggesting that this group’s considerations should include:
- A common set of definitions
- Clarity that an outcome should be a positive and tangible difference to the lives of a person or group of people
- A plan to improve the use of outcome metrics which can accurately capture tangible improvements in the situation of children and families, drawing on existing work to develop metrics around child wellbeing, domestic violence, reducing parental conflict, and consider how their take-up could be encouraged in relation to the Supporting Families outcomes framework, the Start for Life outcomes framework and children’s social care outcomes.
The For Baby’s Sake Trust warmly welcomes the report and recommendations of the Children’s Commissioner, which recognises how an effective outcomes framework can drive system change. It is positive to see the joint emphasis on family outcomes and children’s outcomes, alongside recognition of the role of parents and the importance of empowering them. We particularly encourage a whole-family approach, recognising of course, as articulated by the Children’s Commissioner, that ‘family comes in many forms’ and ‘while the composition of families may change, their importance does not’.