Engaging and communicating with children in social care

Full Application: Not funded at this stage

Our aim is to empower children and young people known to the local authority and enable them to take better control of their lives. Providing the appropriate channel for young people to voice their concerns and request help or guidance in a way that is comfortable for them would allow local authorities to meet and target specific areas of need and improve the overall well-being of the young people they engage with.

The common problem is that we don’t know how children and young people want to interact with the council. Previously, assumptions have been made that because young people use apps like YouTube and Snapchat, that building a social care app would increase participation. In reality these apps have had very low take up and most young people don’t know they exist.

We don’t want children using services to feel like this is an extra thing that they have to do, we want them to feel like this will benefit them and help them have a say in how their present and future lives will look like.

We will discover:

  • proportion of young people in each age range
  • devices available to children in each age range
  • digital capabilities
  • what tools and products they use
  • how would they like to engage with the people involved in their care
  • what carers and professionals involved in their care would like to engage with the users about
  • likeliness to use the product

We will create:

  • user stories and personas
  • high level user flows, service pattern and design
  • high level feedback from users

An external partner will be appointed and supported by staff from digital & Children’s Services teams at participating councils, to coordinate research with young people, children and the people involved with their care.

Research planning will involve all local authority partners and the appointed external partner. It will ensure that all local authorities are happy with the external partner’s proposed research methodology before proceeding. Local authority partners will ensure appropriate resources are made available for the external partner to achieve the desired objective.

The external partner will conduct research with participants from partner local authorities. Through the research completed, they will have the opportunity to work across different boroughs and age ranges which can provide invaluable insight and identify critical themes which will inform persona’s, user stories and eventually a service design pattern. As expected, personal and identifiable information about participants will be kept confidential as part of this research. When persona’s are created, fictional names, ages and different locations will be used to showcase each persona which will represent an age range young people can identify with.

Across England, there are 152 local authorities providing social care services to children and young people. Although there are potential financial savings/benefits with engaging the children and young people effectively, the primary benefit is the service pattern and design which they may employ.

This would illustrate (in replicable manner) how primarily local authorities and potential schools or care providers can interact with children and young people effectively to truly understand their needs and ultimately improve long term outcomes.

In relation to children and young people specifically, how they engage with local authorities should feel seamless and natural enough that engagement remains consistent and reliable. This may potentially help bypass barriers to communication that prevent children from true expression.

This research will also prevent councils from spending thousands of pounds on products that claim to capture “the child’s voice” but don’t have the desired take up or engagement.

This project will be run using agile methods and we expect the project to last between 4-5 fortnightly sprints. All stakeholders will be invited to a number of “show and tells” to see the progress of any work completed during the sprint and provide feedback. As partner local authorities are based all around the country, this will be done through various mediums to ensure it is accessible to all parties (for example: video calls using Skype, Google Hangouts, GoToMeeting, etc).

We will work with Local Authorities on identifying groups to run research with including children, young people, carers and professionals involved in their care (social workers, teachers, etc). We will also examine data held by Children’s Services in each age range to investigate any patterns or interesting findings.

The partner local authorities in this project are based across the UK minimising the risk of a service design being localised.

Due to the nature of social care and early help in close bordered boroughs, different authorities will be involved in many children’s care throughout their life. This highlights the importance of creating benefits for other boroughs.

We are exploring themes across several local authorities on how to best engage with young people.


No additional support will be required. Between all local authority partners involved, there is enough experience accessing the digital marketplace to secure specialist support.