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

The What Works Centre for Children’s Social Care is a new initiative 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.

SCIE is leading on stakeholder engagement, and supporting all other areas of activity.

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. We have:

Find out more about who we are working with, and read a report on key messages from stakeholders – published on the What Works Centre website.

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 major research and review priorities for the Centre, which will be managed by CASCADE at Cardiff University.

Our initial research projects and reviews of evidence were selected following consultation with the sector and initial reviews of the literature.

In the first instance, we will focus on one priority area and three exploratory areas for further work:

The Centre’s Research Partner (led by CASCADE at Cardiff University) is working with six local authorities and trusts to help develop work on our initial research themes.

The aims are to develop insights into the kinds of interventions already being used to improve outcomes for children, families and staff, and to explore new ideas that could be tested. This work forms part of our wave one partnerships from July to December 2018.

Find out more about the research programme on the What Works Centre website

Testing approaches to accessing and using evidence

We are working with ten ‘wave one’ local authorities to develop and test effective tools and services that the Centre may deliver. We are taking an exploratory approach. So if the work indicates that our initial proposals are promising we will explore them further. If they do not, we will adapt our proposals and redirect our focus. We want to learn quickly, and move on.

This work is being supported by a further seven local authorities and trusts (known as reference partners) who will provide insights and advice based on their experience during this first wave to December 2018.

Find out more about how we are co-designing with partners on the What Works Centre website.

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.

Sir Alan Wood – former ADCS President – has been appointed as the Founding Chair to lead the work of the Centre prior to 2020.

Find out more on the What Works Centre website.

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.