Improving return home from care: support for local authorities

Improving outcomes for children returning home from care

For a child, returning home from care can be as traumatic as separation. Research studies show high rates of abuse and neglect when a child returns home, with many children ending up back in care.

Whilst these research studies paint a worrying picture, they also point to tangible practice solutions. We know that good practice and effective services can support children to return home safely.

We're working with academics, local authorities, practice experts and young people to improve support for children returning home.

Our Reunification Practice Framework brings all of these research messages into one place, and provides practical guidance and tools for practitioners working with children and families. And with our support packages we can work with local authorities to implement local solutions.


Our offers

Strategic consultancy

Strong strategic leadership is critical to driving a successful programme of improved practice. Our consultancy offer supports Assistant Directors, Heads of Service and other key managers to think through systems changes and to articulate your vision for improvement in your local area. 

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Train the trainer

Skilled, informed and supported staff are proven to make all the difference to outcomes for children and families. We’ve designed a train the trainer programme to support your practice leads to roll out a programme of learning and skills development to all relevant staff in the authority.

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Reunification framework

The Reunification Framework, written by the NSPCC and Professor Elaine Farmer at the University of Bristol, supports social workers' professional judgement about if and how a child should return home.

If you're interested, get in touch to receive an electronic copy.

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“This Framework is exactly what we were looking for – gives an understanding of best practice and what should happen with a step by step ‘how to’ guide” 

“The Framework has really raised the bar in the standard of evidence presented to the courts – barristers and judges in our area now expect to see this level of rigour on all cases” 

“Return home from Care hasn't received the attention it deserves, and we welcome the spotlight being turned on it” 

"The quality of assessment, care planning, recording and paperwork has improved significantly since we started work with NSPCC"

£300 million a year - the cost of failed reunification of children returning home from care.

Explanation: A large proportion of children who return home from care are subsequently abused and end up back in care. DfE figures (2015) show a third of reunifications result in children going back into care. The Department for Education (2013) found that 30% of children who returned home were back in care within 5 years.

We commissioned research comparing the costs associated with taking children back into care following a failed family reunification with the costs associated with providing all families who had a child returning home from care with appropriate support and services. The report used the DfE statistics for looked after children England in 2012/13 to estimate national costs.

Holmes calculated the average annual cost per child of a reunification breakdown as £61,614.  Based on the figures for England in 2012/13, these costs were multiplied by the number of children re-entering care following a failed reunification (n=4,738) to give a national cost of £300 million a year for failed reunifications.

Holmes calculated the average annual cost per child of providing appropriate support and services to families where children are returning home from care as £5,627. Based on the figures for England in 2012/13, these costs were multiplied by the number of children returning home from care (n=10,080) to give a national cost of £56 million a year for providing support and services to all families whose children are returning home from care.

The research argues that reducing the number of reunification breakdowns will offset the costs of providing appropriate support and services to all families with children returning home from care.

£56 million a year - the cost of appropriate support and services to families where children are returning home from care.

Explanation: A large proportion of children who return home from care are subsequently abused and end up back in care. DfE figures (2015) show a third of reunifications result in children going back into care. The Department for Education (2013) found that 30% of children who returned home were back in care within 5 years.

We commissioned research comparing the costs associated with taking children back into care following a failed family reunification with the costs associated with providing all families who had a child returning home from care with appropriate support and services. The report used the DfE statistics for looked after children England in 2012/13 to estimate national costs.

Holmes calculated the average annual cost per child of a reunification breakdown as £61,614.  Based on the figures for England in 2012/13, these costs were multiplied by the number of children re-entering care following a failed reunification (n=4,738) to give a national cost of £300 million a year for failed reunifications.

Holmes calculated the average annual cost per child of providing appropriate support and services to families where children are returning home from care as £5,627. Based on the figures for England in 2012/13, these costs were multiplied by the number of children returning home from care (n=10,080) to give a national cost of £56 million a year for providing support and services to all families whose children are returning home from care.

The research argues that reducing the number of reunification breakdowns will offset the costs of providing appropriate support and services to all families with children returning home from care.

How we developed our support packages

We’ve designed these support packages in partnership with 14 local authorities.

We're offering bespoke support to local authorities to examine current policy, practice, spending and outcomes in relation to reunification.

Participating authorities will design and implement locally relevant solutions.

"The quality of assessment, care planning, recording and paperwork has improved significantly since we started the work with NSPCC"
Head of Service

Find out more about return home from care

Returning home from care

The most common outcome for a child who has left the care system is to return back home to a parent or relative. 
Find out more

Taking Care: a practice framework for reunification: evaluation report

Report by Loughborough University about using the NSPCC Framework to support children to safely return home from care. Part of the NSPCC’s Impact and evidence series.
Find out more

Returning children home from care: learning from case reviews

Lessons from case reviews published since 2010, which have highlighted lessons for returning children home from care.
Find out more

Want to know more?

Find out about our Reunification Framework and support for local authorities. Contact Mandy Wilkins, NSPCC Development Manager on 020 3772 9266.

Contact Mandy