Children’s Social Care Demand


  1. Project outputs
  2. Project timeline

This C-19 Challenge project has developed a model to anticipate the forthcoming wave of demand to help vulnerable children and families emerge from the constraints of lockdown.

Previously led by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, the project is now led by East Sussex County Council and Data to Insight.

As lockdown was implemented, local authority children’s services urgently needed to begin modelling different scenarios, so that they would be able to plan for resourcing and protect their budgets.

The project team spotted an opportunity to bring together all of the work being done independently by local authorities and build a shared tool, which would be available to all, thereby supporting those who did not have capacity to build a tool themselves.

Watch a recording of Data to Insight’s session at Digital Leaders Week 2021:

Project outputs

A model to anticipate the forthcoming wave of demand to help vulnerable children and families emerge out of the constraints of lockdown:

Project timeline

August 2020

The Demand Modelling Tool project receives £80,000 from the Local Digital C-19 Challenge.

February 2021

The project receives £120,000 of follow-on funding from the Local Digital Fund to continue their work. During the next phase, the project will be led by the Data to Insight team at East Sussex and will look to:

  • improve the tool utilising data from the previous lockdowns
  • extend and develop a further version with additional features, and will be researching this with the community and prioritising feature requests
  • build a community development model, enabling them to work with the community to create smaller communities of interest to build out additional tools

May 2021

The team kicked off the most recent phase of the project, to deliver a tool that enables segmentation of historic and up-to-date information about Looked After Children.

June 2021

The Data to Insight team delivered a session during Digital Leaders Week 2021.

The team completed Data Protection Impact Assessments with their local government partners. This meant that they were able to begin work on development of the demand modelling tool for Looked After Children (LACs).

September 2021

The team successfully completed the Excel models which are based on Python. These were passed to local government data analysts for feedback.

The new version of the tool is on schedule to be released for the wider community at the beginning of October, and the team will run some webinars demonstrating the tool so that they can get feedback.

October 2021

The team launched a new version of their Demand Modelling Tool for Children who are Looked After (CLA) Placements.

Following the rollout of the current version of the CLA Placement Modelling Tool (a demand modelling tool for children who are looked after), the team have been busy engaging with their users. They have:

  • gathered feedback on the tool
  • supported users and answered any questions about the tool
  • rectified any issues that were raised through feedback

Feedback on the tool was constructive and positive.

November 2021

East Sussex County Council receives an additional £24,000 of Continuous Funding. The funding will enable the project to add new functionality to their tool to help LAs share aggregate data (no sensitive or personal data) with other LAs. This will mean that trends/patterns can be identified by region, localised cluster, or with other LAs with similar historical children services demand profiles.

More than 140 people from local authorities (around 50–90 councils) have downloaded the placement modelling tool since it launched in October.

The Data to Insight team held demos with users to demonstrate the tool to analysts and commissioners in local authorities and gain feedback. Get in touch with the team if you think this tool can help you.

East Sussex County Council and Data to Insight featured in November’s LDCU Council Spotlight.

December 2021

The team is hoping to release a new version of the tool based on amendments made following user feedback.

March 2022

The project is awarded £340,550 in follow-on funding through the Continuous Funding Model.

The project will use the funding to support the testing of their modelling scenario and explore the best approach to roll out the service across local authorities and regional groups.

First, they will build a web based version of the existing tool that is free for single local authorities, in order to:

  • make it easier to use (solving users’ main problem with the prototype)
  • allow them to track where and how it is used so that they can improve the user experience 
  • create a platform that makes it cheaper and faster to roll out updates

Then, they will develop a variant which can be used for regional partnerships who wish to pool data for a regional view – this is the intended paying customer group.

At the same time, they will work on making this financially viable without further grants.

April-May 2022

The team is continuing to explore connections and commonalities between Local Digital Fund projects and not-for-profit and VCS organisations, with a view to efficiently scaling up the service.

They are continuing to engage with regional commissioning networks and other local authority colleagues around the co-design of the regional demand modelling approach.

Recently they have also:

  • conducted research and conversations with a wide range of peers about options for the long term viability of the service
  • commenced development of the web-based “single LA” demand modelling tool
  • successfully integrated the forecasting model into the web-based environment
  • designed and started development work on the web-based user interface

They are also in the process of setting up a regular cycle of project and team meetings to keep their work visible to the relevant partners.

August 2022

East Sussex had a productive feedback session on the web-based prototype — the first of three! Overall the feedback was overwhelmingly positive with participants from Local Authorities confirming that they would use the tool in their work.

Participants suggested additional features including the ability to preload scenarios and a “how-to” video for first-time users. Both of these suggestions are already in the pipeline for a future version. Since detailed forecasting is not a common existing practice, participants also proposed the need to engage stakeholders who have an input and persuade them of the value and accuracy of the forecasts.

The team are looking forward to receiving more feedback at the next two feedback sessions. A link to the test site will be released soon alongside a request for participants that are trialling it to share their experiences with real data from their LAs.

September 2022

The launch of the tool has been paused by the project team while programmers address challenges with the model in the web tool. There will be an update on the new launch date shortly.

In the meantime, their preparation for the regional tool continues and the team has a number of regions ready to go as pilots, as well as a low cost approach for delivering the functionality.

October 2022

Steady progress was made in this sprint and the team were able to address challenges with the model in the web tool.

Forthcoming sprints will see the free, web-based version of the demand modelling tool published, private Beta release to their regional group, the publication of open source re-usable code and promotion at various sector events.

In a recent team catch up, the team addressed the issue of the python tool not delivering the same results as the excel tool.

Kai Siebert, Chief Information Officer at Social Finance (a delivery partner for East Sussex), used Juptyerlite to demo how the maths behind the tool works and how a user inputs data.

The project is on track to deliver the free-to-use single user version and the software service version for children service commissioners. They will be looking to use this tool in late autumn in preparation for their annual returns.

For the latest from the project team, take a look at their roadmap or visit their website.

November 2022

The Children’s Services Demand Modelling team will mark the end of the project with a private beta Show and Tell in February/March 2023. They will present:

  • The estimated direct value per local authority per annum
  • The number of local authorities that have beta tested it and their feedback
  • The approach to language and design that encourages data sharing
  • The ‘Roadmap’ update — open source reusable code on GitHub, and activity around scaling for regional demand modelling

June 2023

This project is currently on hold due to resource constraints within the contracted partner. The team have successfully delivered a minimum viable product (MVP) of their web-based placement demand modelling tool and are gathering user feedback.

The team are continuing conversations with regional partners prior to pursuing the second phase of their work to develop into a multi local authority capability for placement modelling. Their next steps will be to reform the funded project team with the contractor in the coming months, and outline their vision for how the multi local authority capability will work.

September 2023

The team has resumed work on the project as the contractor increased resource. They are in the process of forming a multi-project steering group to identify a long-term home (or homes) for the product. Plus, they are actively reviewing user feedback received so far, with a view to developing a revision of the product that better meets user needs.

Their ongoing focus involves reviewing user feedback and refining future plans.