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Phoenix Futures’ National Specialist Family Service (NSFS) provides a residential rehabilitation service for families, a “last-chance” referral by the courts before the children are removed to care.

In 2012, NSFS realised that they weren’t getting any new referrals. They requested a review to discover the issue, and potentially to find areas where they could cut costs and reduce the price of the service.

The review focused on three areas:

  • Financial – we found that all parts of the service were appreciated and price was not an issue. Awareness was, as this is considered a “novel” service. However, the consultation process increased awareness of itself!
  • Effectiveness – there was concern amongst social workers that using a “novel” service might put them at risk of adverse publicity. We were able to show that the service is one of the most effective services available and justified its high cost
  • Law – on examination, it turned out that the reason why referrals had dried up was because of the Children and Families Bill, which became the Children and Families Act in 2014. Courts would be required to reduce the length of cases involving children to a maximum of 6 months (from an average of 53 weeks), so instead of trying rehabilitation they were putting children into care at an early hearing

The outcome

Our report answered each of these in turn. The financial findings permitted the client to continue to focus on quality of care. The effectiveness findings demonstrated a long-term positive impact which increased referrals. Conversations with the Ministry of Justice resulted in specific changes to the Bill by the time it became an Act which resulted in many more referrals to NSFS and two other providers of similar services, assuring their futures.

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