New evidence paper published by the National Children’s Bureau: Impact of investing in prevention on demand for statutory children’s social care

The final report of the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care is expected imminently. To support the launch of the Review, the National Children’s Bureau (NCB) has worked with their academic partners to showcase the latest research on children’s social care.

The NCB’s new evidence paper (Impact of investing in prevention on demand for statutory children’s social care) demonstrates that investing in prevention, including family support and early help, can reduce demand for more expensive crisis support later, and also leads to better services overall.

The NCB says:

“We have a unique opportunity to strengthen families and invest in early intervention. We must seize this moment to transform children’s lives for the better. Rarely has the case for early investment been so clearly articulated. We have to seize the moment”.

Highlights from the evidence paper:

  • Increased spending on children’s social care preventative services (including family support and early help) has a positive impact on:
    • Ofsted judgements
    • Numbers of Children in Need
    • Rates of 16–17-year-olds starting periods in care.
  • The distribution of local authority spending on prevention has become increasingly less well matched to need.
  • Two recent papers have reinforced the contributory causal relationship between family poverty and levels of child abuse and neglect and the demand for children’s social care services, including rates of entry to care.

The evidence paper concludes with a brief summary of further contextual research on the association between household income and intervention, and on systems-thinking in children’s social care.

You can read more in the NCB’s evidence paper here.

You can join the iHV in raising awareness of the publication of the NCB’s evidence paper and share on social media using the prepared tweet below:

The imminent #CareReview is our chance to secure a future where every child feels safe, secure & supported @NCBtweets’ new evidence paper shows how investment in preventative services can help build that future, saving money in the process.








Last week, we were delighted that the international ‘Public Health Nursing’ journal published a paper written by Alison Morton, the iHV’s Executive Director, and Dr Cheryll Adams CBE, Former Executive Director, on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 on families with children under 5 years in England, and the health visiting (HV) service that supports them.

The paper (Health visiting in England: The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic) presents a targeted review of the evidence, with data drawn from national surveys of health visitors and parents, a freedom of information request of employers, published research, and national data. Framework analysis and triangulation, using the Key Elements of an effective health visiting service, were used to categorise the key findings.

The findings from the review indicate that the impacts of the pandemic were wide-ranging and disproportionately affected the most disadvantaged families, increasing demand for health visiting support. The pandemic exacerbated factors that can lead to poorer outcomes for families. Health visitors’ ability to respond was compromised due to national policy decisions to partially stop the service and variations in local implementation including the redeployment of health visitors, pre-existing workforce capacity issues, and the effectiveness of innovations to identify and support vulnerable families.

Key learning from the pandemic response, including the need to prioritise the health visiting service, must be acted upon to reduce ongoing impacts now and ensure that the service is equipped for future emergencies.

Alison Morton commented:

“History has a habit of ‘airbrushing’ the past and it is therefore important that the events of the earliest months of the pandemic are recorded, and the learning is captured to support future responses to similar emergency situations. It was an honour to be able to complete this review in partnership with my predecessor, Dr Cheryll Adams. We are both delighted to see it published in the prestigious international journal, ‘Public Health Nursing’ which is the official journal of the Council of Public Health Nursing Organizations worldwide.

“Babies, young children and families have largely been forgotten in the pandemic response and we hope that this paper, alongside numerous others presenting similar messages, will provide the impetus for much-needed change and investment in the health visiting service in England”

The paper has been published online by Wiley – Public Health Nursing journal as an open access paper – you can read the paper in full here:

With many health visitors in England redeployed during the early weeks of the pandemic, Alison Morton’s paper published in the July issue of Journal of Health Visiting considers the consequences for children and families, as well as the health visitors intended to support them – Who is providing a safety net for babies and young children?

A recent survey highlighted that health visitors experienced the highest level of redeployment during the COVID-19 pandemic in comparison with social workers and midwives (Barlow et al, 2020). This happened at a time when families’ needs and vulnerabilities were increasing due to the secondary impact of lockdown, and when many support services were scaled back.

But was the redeployment of health visitors necessary? Are there lessons we need to learn from the delivery of the national emergency plan to ensure that we are better prepared in the future?

Redeploying specialist community public health nurses into non-public health roles during the biggest global public health emergency we have experienced in living memory would appear to be counter-intuitive. However, to understand the decisions made, it is important to avoid ‘hindsight bias’ – a common pitfall that occurs when we view circumstances based on the information we have after the event that was not available to the people involved at the time.

“If we face a second wave of infections, will future emergency plans include the redeployment of health visitors? We hope that this will not be the case, and that lessons will have been learned. It is vital that the needs of children and families are prioritised and given the attention they deserve..”

Many thanks to Journal of Health Visiting for providing free access to this paper.