The What Works Centre for Children’s Social Care: Development Team

The What Works Centre for Children’s Social Care is a new project to foster evidence-informed practice in England.

Commissioned by the Department for Education, the Centre will be established as an independent organisation by 2020. This initiative is being supported by a Development Team that will set up the Centre, and a research partner, that will start to synthesise evidence and generate new research and products.

The Development Team is a consortium, led by Nesta and its Alliance for Useful Evidence, that will develop the new Centre. The consortium includes the Social Care Institute for Excellence, FutureGov and Traversum. Cascade at Cardiff University is the research partner.

Stakeholder engagement

We are working closely with the sector to identify research priorities, and partner with local authorities to develop the evidence base and design the best way for people to access and use the findings. As at May 2018, we have:

Children and Young People’s Panel

The aim of the children and young people’s panel is to involve children and young people who use or have used children’s social work or social care services in influencing and contributing to the priorities and development of the What Works Centre.

Twenty children and young people met for the first time in February 2018. They shared their experiences of social care, and their views on what social workers need to learn about through a series of images that they created on the day.


As at early May 2018, the development team has identified:

This work has helped to identify the first two major research and review priorities for the Centre, which will be managed by Cascade.

The initial major research themes will look at two of the most longstanding issues for the sector:

Testing approaches to accessing and using evidence

We are seeking three to six local authorities ('Pioneer' Partners) to co-develop and test a range of promising approaches to generating and sharing evidence with us during the period July – December 2018, with the possibility of further work up to March 2020.

Partners will be expected to help co-develop and test at least one promising tool and/or service that aims to:

In return Partners will be helped with funding and be supported by members of the Centre’s Development Team. Applications need to be led by a local authority, but we welcome collaborations with other children’s social care partners. A second call for additional Partner LAs will be issued later in the year.

Applications are now closed.

Contact for enquiries:

Read Ewan King’s blog: Pioneering new approaches to generating and sharing evidence in children’s social care

Keep up to date on developments. Sign up for Centre updates to find out more.

Organisational design

The Centre will be established as an independent organisation by summer 2020. The development team will establish a fully-designed organisation, appoint and support the executive team.

We are currently working with the Advisory Group and Panels to develop the centre’s initial strategy, and we are establishing a Founding Board with an independent, Founding Chair to lead the work of the Centre prior to 2020.

Applications closed on 4 May 2018 for the role of Founding Chair.

The successful candidate will be an established leader, with a deep commitment to improving outcomes for children and young people, and an understanding of our context. The Founding Chair will guide the development of the Centre’s initial strategy, build the board and the executive team, and bring into being the independent and influential What Works Centre which the sector needs.

We are building the development team. Two practice development manager roles recently closed. The roles will support stakeholder engagement activities relating to the development of the new Centre.

Also, two other vacancy deadlines have closed. A prototyping workstream lead (based at Nesta) – will be testing and designing different approaches to creating, understanding and using evidence; and a Communications Lead (based on Nesta).

Practitioners’ Events: December 2017 and January 2018

The Development Team held a series of four events for practitioners to help gather detailed information and perspectives on:

The events were aimed at:

  • Children’s social work practitioners such as frontline social workers, team managers, principal social workers, senior managers, practice leaders (e.g. Heads of Service and Assistant Directors)
  • Other practitioners in the children’s social care system (e.g. non-qualified workers in residential care, family support workers, personal advisers and independent advocates)
  • Practitioners in other services relevant to vulnerable children and young people (e.g. education, health, youth work, and the youth/criminal justice system).

Find further information about the development of the Centre and register for updates.


The Development Team is keen to work closely with the sector – including frontline professionals, children, young people and families, managers, researchers and policy makers in establishing the new centre.

Phase 1: October 2017 – June 2018

The Team is engaging with the sector, and research the use of evidence, the policy environment, and sources and dissemination of evidence. We will also design the organisation and start to recruit the executive team for the future Centre.

Phase 2: June 2018 – June 2020

The Team will provide mentoring and support to the new executive team to help the development of the Centre as an independent organisation.

Phase 3: June 2020 onwards

The Development Team’s role comes to an end and the Centre will be an autonomous, independent and sustainable organisation.

Development Team partners

The Development Team is a consortium led by Nesta and its Allliance for Useful Evidence which will support the set-up of the future What Works for Children centre. It is NOT the Centre itself.

Greg Wilkinson is the Programme Director for the Development Team.

The Development Team – led by Nesta who are the lead contractor - will report to the DfE and have an independent advisory group to provide the programme with expert challenge and support.

Research partner

Cascadebased at Cardiff University, is the research partner to the Centre and will lead the research and reviews work.