Improving children's outcomes through data
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The Datamonger

Etazo Performance Data's newsletter

Dear <<First Name>>

Introduction and update

In this issue of The Datamonger we look at some recent data releases and publications that have particular implications for service provision. Please do get in touch if you have any suggestions for themes we could address in future issues, or if you'd like a conversation about how we could support you with focussed analysis, developing performance frameworks and meeting targets.
It's been a busy autumn for Etazo: we've learnt a lot and worked with some excellent people. We're both planning a break from data over Christmas to work on our other projects (Jo practices and teaches art, Georgia does historical research and writing), and hope you can also spend time relaxing, unwinding and reflecting. We'll be back again in 2017 with the next Datamonger.

With best wishes for Christmas and New Year,

Jo and Georgia
In this issue
~  Data publications
~  Characteristics of Children in Need
~  Is Christmas really coming earlier?
~  Etazo researches:

      ADCS CiN data
      Early education and CLA
      Recording in social work
      Data in local government
      Early help services
      Bob Holman

~ Useful links
Data publications

~ Understanding the educational background of young offenders: summary report
   12 December 2016
~ Health Survey for England, Trend Tables: Health Survey for England, Trend tables 2015
   14 December 2016
~ Statutory homelessness and homelessness prevention and relief, England: July to September 2016
   15 December 2016
~ 2016 primary school performance tables
   15 December 2016
Recently published
~ National Child Measurement Programme - England, 2015-16
    3 November 2016
~ Characteristics of children in need: 2015 to 2016
     3 November 2016
~ Children’s social care questionnaires 2016: what children and young people told us (Ofsted)
    24 November 2016
~ Children's social care data in England 2016
    2 December 2016
~ Local authority and children’s homes in England inspection outcomes
    2 December 2016
~ Children and Young People’s Health Services Monthly Statistics - April to June 2016
    6 December 2016
~ Female Genital Mutilation - July to Sept 2016, enhanced data set
    7 December 2016
~ Looked after children: 2016 (additional tables)
    8 December 2016
~ Domestic abuse in England and Wales: year ending March 2016
    8 December 2016
~ Health and Care of People with Learning Disabilities: Experimental Statistics: 2014 to 2015
    9 December 2016

Characteristics of children in need: 2015 to 2016

This is the second release of data from the 2015/16 CiN census - data colleagues will find it invaluable in their work.

As always, there is an accompanying short report on the national picture. We are interested to see that the proportion of CiN who are disabled has fallen, although not by a huge amount - from 14.2% in 2010/11 to 12.7% in 2015/16. We wonder if this is because children with disabilities are increasingly receiving services from commissioned agencies rather than in-house, and therefore not always counted in the census. Accuracy of recording could play a part here too, and there is a lot of variation between LAs - from less than 3% in Liverpool and Herefordshire, to more than 23% in Bath and NE Somerset and in Camden.

As in previous years, the largest proportion of referrals nationally was from the police, 28%, increased from 26% in 2014/15. Although data at LA level are not published, in cases like this where national level figures are available, LAs can benchmark their local data against the national picture.

The data on Factors Identified at Assessment are especially useful in giving a picture of local need, though as always there are caveats about recording. Nationally, the proportion of cases involving domestic violence is very high, at almost half of children. There are a handful of LAs with much lower figures (eg Portsmouth - 19%), though in some cases this appears to be about data accuracy (where LAs have a high proportion of "Other factor"). Mental Health (of parent, carer or child) is the oher big issue, at 37% (range from 6% in Wakefield to 81% in East Sussex).

The number of S47 enquiries has increased nationally by 8% from the previous year. Around 90 LAs have seen an increase, whilst 60 have decreased. Nationally, just over a third of S47s result in a child protection plan, though in a handful of LAs almost all S47s result in a CPP (Kirklees, Rutland, York). This may be about polices in those LAs, or may indicate under-recording of S47s that do not result in a plan. As nationally the % of S47s resulting in a plan has fallen from the previous year (39% to 37%), it may be that some LAs have revised their thresholds for S47s but then found that more cases do not meet the threshold for a CPP.

The measure of whether children subject to CPPs were seen within timescales was optional this year and has not been published. We are sorry about this; although it was not a great measure because LAs set their own timescales, it was a way of benchmarking performance on one measure of safeguarding this vulnerable group. 
2015/16 CiN data on the DfE site
Is Christmas really coming earlier?

With mince pies on the supermarket shelves in September, it feels like preparation for Christmas starts earlier and earlier each year. PhD student Nathan Cunningham has analysed Google Trends data to establish just how early Christmas really starts. Read his article on the Royal Statistical Society website here.
Etazo researches   

Safeguarding pressures
ADCS Safeguarding Pressures Phase 5 (November 2016)
Association of Directors of Chiildren's Services

LA colleagues are likely to have provided data to the ADCS for this report on the 2015/16 year. Although there is considerable overlap between data reported for this purpose and the published information in the DfE CiN census and CLA return, the ADCS report remains useful for the qualitative information it gives about LA services, including LA views on local priorities and information about cuts to budgets, and for some additional data items. Note that although the data for each LA is anonymised, in fact you can identify individual LAs in the data table on pages 68-71 using their IDACI score - which can be helpful if you want that level of detail.

We think the proportion of LAs who said their thresholds for social care had changed a lot or moderately in the last two years is high, at 40%. Given that in principle the thresholds are set by legislation, this is a striking comment on the ways which practice locally can differ between LAs or in the same LA over time.

Data items not in the CiN census or the CLA return include the number of Southwark Judgement young people. This was only reported by 35 LAs and the report authors note that the variation in figures suggested differences in how this is recorded. Data are also included at children at risk of Child Sexual Exploitation, provided by 100 LAs. The number of children at risk equates to an average rate for these LAs of around 16 per 10,000, but there is a very large range of between 1 per 10,000 and 138 per 10,000.

A separate report is planned for next year on early help services, which should be really interesting. Some data items on EH are included in this report. The authors note that three-quarters of LAs said that their EH services had changed significantly or moderately in the last two years. They discuss cuts to EH services. We were surprised that only 10% of EH assessments were reported as stepped-up to social care. This may be a recording issue or may be about definitions (the distinction between assessments where the outcome is step-up, and those where cases are later stepped-up)

Starting Out Right: early education and looked after children
Family and Childcare Trust and University of Oxford (December 2016)

Family and Childcare Trust

Practical and data-informed report on children looked after and early years provision. It is based on a survey of virtual heads, followed up by an FoI request for LAs which had not responded.

The report found that 89% of LAs hold some data on whether CLA attend early years provision. For LAs where data are available, 71% of CLA attend EY, significantly below the national figure for all children of 85%. The report authors think that in fact the figure for CLA is likely to be lower, as where LAs do not monitor performance children are probably less likely to attend. They give the example of Kirklees, which did not monitor EY for CLA until 2010, when it found that 37% of CLA were in EY settings. They then started to monitor this regularly and had increased take-up to 95% by 2013. A number of LAs do not monitor EY take-up for children placed out of area, and, where the data are available, these children are less likely to be in EY provision.

The report reviews the needs of CLA for EY provision and concludes that they are more likely than other children to benefit from it, but that CLA "are particularly sensitive to variations in quality, stability and timing". They also note that there is some evidence linking attendance at EY settings with more stable placements.

The report authors make several recommendations connected to monitoring and data analysis. They note that data on EY provision is usually gathered by LA early years data staff and that checks against lists of CLA may only happen monthly and termly; this is not frequent enough to pick up new CLA quickly, given that young children in particular may move in and out of care unpredictably. They recommend also that LAs review monitoring of out of area placements. And they recommend that national systems are developed to support monitoring of CLA early education, including quality of provision and attainment at age 5. They say "local authorities would greatly benefit from detailed data to support decision-making, including patterns of attendance by child and carer characteristic, and the features of settings attended (sector, Ofsted grade, staff qualifications)".

Because of the relatively small group of children involved, this is an area where LAs who are not confident about EY provision for their CLA could reasonably quickly look at data and put monitoring and policy changes in place if necessary. We would be happy to support LAs with this work - please get in touch if you'd like to discuss this.

"Shutting one's eyes and jumping": recording in social work.
Review of Recording in Social Work: Not just an administrative task, by Liz O'Rourke (2010).

Community Care

This is an account of a research project the author carried out into recording in adult social care. She describes a situation in which staff spend huge amounts of time on recording, with 79% of her sample saying they spent more than half of their time on paperwork, and in which recording is seen as vital, but where there is very little training in it and no agreement about how to do it well.

The staff she interviewed described how they use coded messages in order to get resources allocated, and leave "clues" for other professionals. They said that they often describe service users' abilities and situations in very negative terms, focussing on risk, again in order to reach a threshold for resources. Staff felt "confusion and frustration" about how to record, part of a more general feeling of being "beleaguered" in a climate of financial savings, and O'Rourke both recognises staff's "distress and anger" and their resilience.

Interviewees often described recording as boring, and 79% of the sample described it as a chore, even though 87% took pride in their recording. O'Rourke believes that calling it boring is a way to avoid discussing it, because it is simultaneously complex and stressful, so not easy to talk about. To highlight the connexion which there is or should be between recording, reflecting on casework and planning she quotes a 1917 training manual:

"case records often show a well-made investigation and a plan formulated and carried out, but with no discoverable connection between them. Instead, at the right moment, of shutting his eyes and thinking, the worker seems to have shut his eyes and jumped" ("Social Diagnosis", Mary E Richmond)

In terms of recording for statistical analysis, one interviewee told O'Rourke "I can see the point of that but frankly I find it really time consuming and annoying .... It doesn't feel like the best use of your professional expertise". Another said ""I think that when you're looking for the software that's available, it should actually be there to facilitate our job, and then if people need statistical analysis from it, they should find a way of interrogating it without it having to impinge on what we have to do". We think this is a sensible way to think about recording; it may be that as text-mining techniques develop systems can move away from the tick-box approach to recording.

O'Rourke also notes a general unhappiness with IT. An interviewee said that in her local authority personal screensavers, which staff had set up with pictures of their children or pets, had been banned and replaced with the LA's mission statement, which the interviewee felt was unnecessary as staff already knew they were serving the community and removing their ability to personalise their computers went against social work's emphasis on the individual.

O'Rourke makes the convincing point that "It is astonishing that an activity that now takes up more than half of most practitioners' time and is central to their work is not usually addressed in professional training".

Wise Council: Insights from the cutting edge of data-driven local government
Nesta (November 2016)


This report on data use in local government reviews innovative ways LAs are using data. For instance, Newcastle uses data to identify children at risk of becoming NEET. The reports recommend that data analysts are embedded in operational teams so that they can be immediately responsive to teams' needs. We like this quote about Newcastle's situation:

"Before Newcastle’s data-led changes to children’s social care, there was a deep distrust of data among social workers, as one interviewee commented: "Social workers see themselves as people people, and they think data people are not people people.”

Following the data-driven project around family support, "Data analysts take part in team meetings, attend supervisions and are constantly listening to the work of units and their work". Many of us will know how important it is to be as engaged as possible in the service we support, in order to have an in-depth understanding of the complexity of the support provided to children and families and to get a sense of how outcomes can be measured.

The report author notes that at an organisational level some LAs are much less data-driven than they may think, with decisions being made that are not evidence-based. He discusses some of the difficulties around innovative uses of data, including data accuracy, resistance to using data from some staff, concerns about privacy when linking data about individuals, and some skill issues for data staff, but concludes that the benefits are important enough that ways should (and can) be found around these problems. This may involve extra resources, particularly for legal guidance.

The discussion of success factors is especially useful. For instance, identifying ways in which data accuracy can be improved, beginning with using the data with SWs ... "When social workers saw their data visualised in the dashboards they would often ask questions as the data didn’t look right. This created a conversation about how they were recording data, and in turn improved the quality of the data held". We also like the problem-led approach: start with a specific problem and ask what data and evidence could be used to address it.

It's worth looking in particular at the details of the projects discussed, in Appendix 1, to see what your organisation could take from them. This is a report where it's useful to read the full-length document and not just the summary.

How do you know if your early help services are working?
Research in Practice (November 2016)

Research in Practice

This is a short, paid-for (£10) booklet packaged as a Leaders' Briefing. For data staff this is probably a bit too basic, though it does provide an example of data on early help broken down using the Outcomes-Based Accountability approach into "How much did we do?", "How well did we do it?" and "Did we make a difference?".

Bob Holman: Life and Legacy

King's College London

One of us (Georgia) recently attended the Social Work History Network's seminar on Bob Holman, a social worker, academic and writer who was one of the first Child Care Officers. He is particularly known as one of the founders of the community organisation FARE in the very deprived area of Easterhouse in Glasgow. He was instrumental in encouraging Iain Duncan Smith to set up the Centre for Social Justice, but later wrote in scathing terms about Duncan Smith's part in cutting welfare benefits. This data newsletter isn't the place to talk about his career in detail, but it was interesting to hear about his commitment to evidence-based practice and simultaneous dislike of targets and deadlines!
Useful links
Giving Evidence - interesting blog post about charities, measuring impact and fundraising.
Mind Hacks - data on judicial decisions and judges' lunchtimes.
BBC - data from an FoI request by the BBC on children missing from schools.

Children's Social Care Data Google Group
We administer the email group for local authorities to discuss children's social care data. Membership is recommended by the DfE and Ofsted as a good resource for performance staff to discuss interpretation of data, definition of indicators and year-end returns, and is of course completely free.

One group member recently told us that the group has been "a real help" with tips and pointers, such as problems with the DfE website and experiences of inspections. The group member also said, referring to end of year returns, "It’s been reassuring to know that as I plough through 903 errors, others are going through the same process".

If you or your performance staff would like to join, please ask them to email us or to go to the group's homepage at
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Georgia Corrick
07789 993 904

Jo Price
07790 181 539

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