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An evolving approach to developing services for children and families

02 April 2019

Georgia Hyde-Dryden and Lucy MortonGeorgia Hyde-Dryden and Lucy Morton

At NSPCC, we are committed to developing evidence-based services to protect children and help them recover from abuse and neglect. To do this, we have a six-stage development cycle from initial concept, through to testing and evaluation of new services in our UK-wide service centres, and finally to supporting other organisations to deliver services for themselves. In this blog, we want to share our approach to developing services and our new focus areas for service development.

Developing our approach to service development

In recent years, we have carefully considered how we approach service development to maximise our impact on the lives of children and their families, whether that is by developing individual services or through our place-based Together for Childhood systems change model. As well as investing significantly in the development and evaluation of services, NSPCC has established a Scale-Up Unit, which uses elements of implementation and behavioural science to support organisations in delivering services themselves.

Our process of service development consists of six stages: concept, development, feasibility testing, evaluation, knowledge exchange and scale-up. These stages enable evidence-informed innovation. Initially, this was conceptualised as a linear process, but has subsequently evolved into a development cycle, where learning at every stage is fed back into the service under development and into our future development work. We think of it as ‘growing’ a service.

Our service development cycle

NSPCCYou can also watch an animation illustrating how we ‘grow’ Children’s Services.

We are continuously learning about service development as we seek new ways to refine our approach: to make all our services inclusive, involve service users in the development process, understand commissioning priorities, and think about broader issues, such as how to measure systems change.

A new focus for service development 

As well as refining our process of service development, NSPCC also has two new focus areas for service development: early years and infant mental health and prevention and recovery from sexual abuse. These are both areas where NSPCC has a track record in developing high quality, evidence-based services. By increasing our focus on developing services in these areas, we believe that we can significantly impact on children’s lives, either directly, or through our influencing and policy impact.  

Early Years and Infant Mental Health – this theme encompasses a range of services which seek to prevent child abuse and neglect in the under-fives, and provide innovative responses to families where abuse and neglect has taken place. Using learning and expertise from a number of disciplines including mental health and maternal health, our aim is to develop innovative methods of improving parent-child relationships in the early years, and to support parents living with a range of adversities and challenges. Where abuse and neglect has taken place, we will focus on understanding family strengths and capacity of parents to provide safe, nurturing care. We will provide intensive interventions to support recovery, when required, evidence to support decisions to secure permanent care and ongoing therapeutic support. We will ensure we consider the role and needs of fathers across our services. 

Prevention and Recovery from Sexual Abuse – this theme encompasses our work to prevent sexual abuse in all forms and a range of innovative approaches to support recovery. Services will focus on understanding each child’s experiences and how they have affected them, and provide the space, time and specialist support needed to recover. We will continue to address the complex issue of children who exhibit sexually harmful behaviours themselves and offer child and whole family interventions to assist with recovery and prevention of further harm. We will develop innovative approaches to prevent sexual abuse including equipping vulnerable children to be safe in the online world.

Next steps, call to action, request for feedback

As we continue to refine our approach to developing new services that protect and support children, we welcome any opportunity to engage in discussion with others about the process of service development or our themes of Early Years and Infant Mental Health and Prevention and Recovery from Sexual Abuse. Please contact Lucy or Georgia if you are interested in working with us.


About the authors

Georgia Hyde-Dryden is the Development Researcher and Lucy Morton is Senior Development and Impact Manager in the NSPCC’s Development and Impact Team.

Twitter: @GeorgiaRHD and @Lucymaxm.


Related resources

NSPCC Learning platform for professionals: https://learning.nspcc.org.uk/

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