The Nuffield Foundation has awarded £2.8m to support an innovative collaboration between local authorities and universities to learn more about how data is used in child and family social policy.
The five-year project will focus on children and families who need additional support from local authority children’s services. This will include children and families referred to children’s social care services; younger children who need help to have a good start at school; and children in care and young people leaving care.
Led by Professor Leon Feinstein, director of the Rees Centre at the University of Oxford, the project will look specifically at how information about and from children and families is gathered, interpreted and used in child and family social policy at both local and national level.
The project includes Greater Manchester, Oldham, Rochdale, North Yorkshire and Hampshire councils. They will work with academics from Oxford University, the University of Sussex and London School of Economics and Political Science, University College London and Manchester Metropolitan University.
Researchers will collaborate with children, young people, parents, carers, professionals and policymakers to understand and shape how information can be used ethically and effectively. The local sites will also explore how the use of these different types of information can be co-designed with children and families, and how to support sustainable learning and change.
‘We established the Nuffield Foundation’s Strategic Fund to encourage ambitious, multi-disciplinary projects that would re-frame the social policy agenda and improve people’s lives,’ said Tim Gardam, chief executive of the Nuffield Foundation.
‘This project stood out for its originality and intent to work closely on the ground with local government and practitioners, as well as children and families. It aligns with our focus and priorities across the Foundation’s interests in Education, Welfare and Justice.
‘By transforming the quality and use of information and data by local authorities, this project has real potential to reduce inequalities and improve the lives of the most disadvantaged children and their families.’
Professor Feinstein, principal investigator and director of the Rees Centre at Oxford University, said: ‘We are thrilled to be leading a project with such a strong and committed group of local authorities, academics, and leaders in social policy.
‘The Nuffield Foundation has provided us with a tremendous opportunity to bring evidence into policy and practice in a new way and to really support improvement to the lives and experiences of children and families. If we get this right, we can make sure data and information are used for and with people, rather than, as so often is the case, for and by government.’