We were commissioned by the Department for Education (DfE) to explore how and to what extent local authorities implement, embed and monitor effective reunification practice in order to understand the facilitators and barriers to achieving successful return home.
The study was carried out in partnership with the Centre for Child and Family Research (CCFR) at Loughborough University.
The study involved research with local authority professionals and families in eight areas and delivery of a series of learning sets for local authorities, designed to support practice improvement.
Our final report was published in December 2015 by DfE. Key findings included:
- Overall, local authorities were at the early stages of focusing on reunification as a specific area of policy and practice.
- In terms of how local authorities use existing research to inform their policy and practice, the findings suggested that some limited research evidence has been used to varying degrees.
- There were examples of the approach to reunification being tailored to the age of the child. For example, social workers considered the possibility of older children “voting with their feet” when making reunification plans.
- The findings highlight a number of enablers and barriers to implementing effective practice. From these, it is possible to identify a range of factors which need to be in place such as an emphasis on communicating with families, potentially involving an independent person who was not involved in the child entering care/accommodation in the first place.