Creation of a single, fully integrated Early Intervention Service (EIS) for Children, Young People and Families, Oxford

Themes this local practice example relates to:

  • General resources
  • Local area early intervention strategies

Basic details

Organisation submitting example

Oxfordshire County Council - Children Education and Families Directorate and Oxfordshire Children and Young People’s Trust

Local authority/local area:

Oxfordshire County Council

The context and rationale

Summary of the service redesign

A single service with a new identity and fully integrated approach. An early intervention manager leads hub managers in each of seven localities across the county. Each hub is linked to local children’s centres and serves a hinterland of school partnerships, coterminous with social care and health boundaries. Separately identifiable LA prevention and early intervention services including youth, connexions, pre-court, inclusion, attendance, locality and extended services, no longer exist in their former shapes. The new service has coherence, ambition and a strong vision for improvement through an integrated and timely approach.

Over the past three years, Oxfordshire County Council (OCC) has been trialling a number of initiatives/projects designed to work with families with complex difficulties in order to improve their individual and family outcomes. OCC and partners, including our District Councils, had recognised the need to support families and communities in ‘Breaking the Cycle of Deprivation’. We had become increasingly aware that most of the streams of work were dependent upon short term funding and that many were targeting the same families or, at least, were overlapping in parts. We had also identified the need to intervene earlier to prevent complex needs from arising, or to support families who had previously had complex/specialist needs to ‘step down’ their arrangements for support without a sudden withdrawal which would precipitate a further crisis for them. In addition, our core services had continued to operate ‘business as usual’ even when new pilots were added, often as a consequence of funding ties for specific projects having their own discrete requirements. Pilot projects were sometimes seen as a supplement to what we were doing already rather than as a potential replacement for services.

The changing financial landscape acted as a catalyst for change and accelerated the thinking that had already begun. Faced with making huge and rapid savings, we debated the difficult decisions and relative merits of making reductions to statutory and non-statutory services, to specialist, early intervention, prevention and universal services. Under local senior leadership from our Chief Executive and DCS, and with political support from Cabinet and, in particular, our Lead Member for Children’s Services, we were encouraged to explore ‘new ways of working’, focus on evidence-based practice and redesign our services. We took the courageous decision not to simply salami slice our expenditure, but to think through how we could use our reduced resources in more effective ways. 

In designing our CEF Business Strategy we encouraged managers to be creative and undertook discussions with them and with our service users, taking these ideas out to our whole directorate in shaping our redesign pathway. The ideas were then put into our EIS design and staffing structure. Our service design was subject to a public consultation, and our staffing structure to prerequisite staff consultation, before implementation. 

This was the start of the design for the EIS and the new service has been shaped and built on from that point. We then took our ideas on how to reshape and redesign our services to all staff presentations across the county. (Read section 1 in full here).

The practice

Early Intervention Service Redesign Stages:

STAGE 1. July – October 2010: Draft designs from design team 

STAGE 2. October – December 2010: Incorporating the new service within the overall directorate business strategy 

STAGE 3. January – April 2011: Council budget setting process, consultation with our staff, the public and partners

STAGE 4. May – October 2011: Getting the new service operational - setting up and driving forward the Early Intervention Hubs Development Project

STAGE 5. May – August 2011: Recruitment process, including participation by stakeholders, users and partners

STAGE 6. July – September 2011: Staff induction phase and soft opening

STAGE 7. September – October 2011 onwards: Full service delivery in place. 

You can read specific details about the different stages here.

Achievements so far

Achievements can be divided into two parts:

1. Project achievements - Getting the new service from concept and design stage to becoming fully operational

2. Culture shift – Evidence of attitudinal changes, including unexpected new opportunities 

1. Project achievements - Getting the new service from concept to fully operational (More detail is available here)

To date, the project has achieved well against all expectations. 

Each Task and Finish Group has clear deliverables explicit in its terms of reference and knows how it contributes to the measured overall project milestone plan. Progress is tracked by the project manager, using a monthly progress reporting template which highlights any risks/ issues to all Steering Group and Task and Finish Group members. Staff and Members can access project information through the intranet

2. Culture shift – Evidence of attitudinal changes, including unexpected new opportunities (More detail is available here)
The significant cultural shifts needed to support our EIS, both internally and with our partners, have created challenges and opportunities. When the new service was proposed and staff became aware that it would replace significant parts of our existing services, some of them were excited by doing things differently and not having ‘just another project’, while others were worried about a potential erosion of their professional expertise. Some have positively engaged with our plans, others have been more resistant. As the plans have progressed, some staff are becoming more positive about the opportunities the EIS affords us to have an evidence-based service which provides services in a way that families have requested. 

Partners have been supportive of our plans, although clearly many have been going through similar resource challenges and service redesign processes. We are planning more work with them and they have actively engaged in our EIS task groups.


Key pointers for others: 

• Have a clear strategic and operational plan to set out how proposals fit into the wider context of children’s services. Our Business Plan was and continues to be a key document. 
• Use data and needs analysis to underpin proposals for change.
• Focus on evidence locally and nationally of what interventions work and how families and young people would like services to best meet their needs.
• Develop and maintain clear FAQs for staff and partners. 
• Brief members and unions throughout the process. 
• Set a clear communications plan, with all-staff briefings, followed by further briefings with key stakeholders.
• Engage local universities in setting up outcome-based research to evidence and track improvements. 
Read risk identification and management, and learning points here.

Costs and potential savings - funding the new service

The following service budgets, totalling £15.2m, were included in the new service design:

• Integrated Youth Support services, which included Connexions, Pre-Court and Prevention, YOS Diversion and Youth services
• Social Inclusion budgets which included Behaviour Support and Attendance and Welfare services
• Extended services
• Early Years and Childcare 
• Family and Children Early Intervention Team (FACEIT) and Localities
• Parenting and Play services.

Our redesigned proposals will save £3.7m. It will cost £11.5m to fund the new EIS across the county. 

The budget per hub is £1m, of which 88 per cent is spent on staffing. 

Business case for use of 2010/11 efficiencies
Cashable efficiencies were made in our financial year 2010/11. Cabinet approved a business case for £500K to support pump priming for our EIS ICT, equipment and set-up costs for the service. 

In addition, due to the length of time taken for public consultation on the Council’s budget and aligned proposals in other directorates, additional funding was approved by Full Council to move the implementation date from April to September. 

Key leadership behaviour characteristics

The following core behaviours have been identified as successful elements of leadership in National College for Leadership of Schools and Children’s Services/C4EO (2011). Resourceful leadership: how directors of children’s services improve outcomes for children. Full report. Nottingham: NCSL see ). 

Oxford identified the following leadership behaviours as key to the transformation of their service.

Openness to possibilities
This was vital at the inception stage. The Directorate leadership team recognised that a ‘salami slicing’ approach to resource reduction was likely to result in several separate, depleted and less effective services. Our approach to service redesign was to embrace the opportunity to ask our staff and service users what we would design that we know could really make a difference, if we were starting again with a clean sheet of paper. All groups who had an idea for a design were invited to present and to hear each other’s presentations. The leadership team modelled curiosity and open-mindedness.

The ability to collaborate
The design was shaped and agreed with partners and other stakeholders from the beginning which stimulated sign-up and a desire to be engaged in the next stages of the process. Getting from design to implementation and working deftly to resolve problems took six months. That pace and scale of change were delivered collaboratively, ensuring that the detailed design built on best practice, took account of the needs of users and would achieve the intended outcomes. 

Demonstrating a belief in team and people
This quality has been important at all stages. The success of this emerging practice has at its heart a belief in people’s ability to rise to the challenge, demonstrated throughout, from handing over responsibility for shaping the redesign, to empowering each Task and Finish Group to deliver all of the strands contributing to being ready to deliver.

This redesigned service has a newly recruited team of 160 staff, all starting together at the same point, and each bringing different expertise and experience, all of which will be vital to the success of the new service. There are high levels of confidence that the managers appointed will be able to lead these teams of staff, whilst retaining specialist expertise.

Personal resilience and tenacity
The six months from design to implementation have seen unprecedented change, with all existing services ending and all posts being at risk. A huge selection and recruitment process has required significant emotional resilience and tenacity at all stages. This has been in parallel to preparing the new service and managing the media scrutiny and political anxieties of making such a radical shift. All deadlines have been achieved. The new service started on 1 September 2011, with a new team in refurbished spaces, ready, excited and keen to start work.

The ability to create and sustain commitment across a system
This has been important at all stages and was made possible because leaders continued to retain and reinforce the strong vision throughout the process, sharing that with partners, newly appointed managers and then successive tiers of staff. 

Building on the tried and tested method first used by the Oxfordshire Success Project, it has been possible to create and sustain commitment evenly across the system: presentation of the ambition, overwhelming sign-up, paired leads for Task and Finish Groups with tight deadlines, reporting to a Steering Group with decision making powers and budgetary sign off. 

The Steering Group, made up of the paired leads from Task and Finish Groups, senior managers from all partners and key stakeholders, ensured commitment which resulted in a sweeping tide of change, racing to meet the deadline for roll out.

Focusing on results
This has been important at all stages and will continue to be one of the most important aspects of leadership as the new service moves into delivery. Determining the high expectations of the redesigned service from the start has been crucial. The new service now has a clear baseline in place against which it will be possible to measure improvements in outcomes, with a dashboard of indicators in place to monitor progress. There are clear lines of accountability in all new job descriptions and in the protocols developed with partners.

The ability to simplify
This has been essential to ensure commitment and wide understanding. The redesign has captured the imagination of many. Much of the sign-up was achieved in the early stages by selling the new design in a very visual way, through maps, diagrams and memorable imagery. Drawing upon, and repeating, key messages from research gave an underpinning compelling story. The links to more detail were available to those who wanted it, but the strong descriptors were repeated frequently in the Directorate’s business plan, at partnership boards, to politicians and to the media. The establishment of an intranet zone and regular electronic newsletters in a readily understood format, has made it easier for a wide audience to follow and feel part of the process.

The ability to learn continuously
This has been demonstrated throughout the process and will continue to be one of the critical aspects of the success of the new service. Oxford University have been involved from the inception of the redesign, helping us to shape the new service based on research into new ways of thinking for new ways of working and learning in, and for, successful interagency working. The university is a key partner and will be evaluating the effectiveness of the delivery of the new service.

A culture of review and shared learning is embedded in the Directorate and that has been translated into all aspects of the newly designed service including:

a) the ongoing review of progress by the Steering Group whilst shaping the design
b) the induction of all staff appointed into the redesigned service
c) the skills audit tool and professional development plan in place for all staff and partners involved in the new service.


Contact Us

t. 020 7833 6825

Latest News & Events

  • Working with families with multiple needs - Practitioner Training | 16.06.16

    20th July 2016 - London - One day course. Practitioner training to gain the knowledge and understanding of the potential impact of parental mental health problems, substance misuse and domestic violence on children.

    Read More>
  • A Quiet Place - evidence based, personal development programmes | 12.05.16

    A Quiet Place provides evidence based, personal development programmes, supporting the achievement of unique outcomes for all ages and abilities, focusing on future aspirations and dreams, whilst drawing upon a completely holistic approach.

    Read More>

Latest Best Practice

  • Operation Encompass, Plymouth

    Themes this local practice example relates to: Vulnerable (Looked After) Children Safeguarding Families, Parents and Carers General resources Early Help Priorities this local practice example relates to: Protecting children living in families where they are at high risk of abuse, harm or neglect Basic details Organisation submitting example

    Read More>
  • Parent Champions

    Parent Champions originated as a small-scale pilot scheme following research conducted by Daycare Trust between 2004 and 2007, which found that despite advances in childcare provision in the UK in that period, disadvantaged groups still remained less likely to take up childcare. 

    Read More>
Copyright © C4EO, 2012. All Rights Reserved