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Implementation evaluation of the Reunification Practice Framework

Evaluation of how we support organisations to deliver the Reunification Practice Framework: learning points for sustainable practice

Publication date September 2018

The Reunification Practice Framework is an evidence-based resource to help practitioners assess whether or not to return a child or young person home from local authority care. It sets out clear stages, with evidence-based actions to undertake at each stage.

Following a successful evaluation, we made the Framework available for other organisations to use. In supporting other agencies to replicate the service, a process called scale-up, it can benefit more children and young people than if it were delivered only by us.

Eight local authorities took on the Framework and we interviewed staff using it or managing its implementation. We explored the facilitators and barriers to implementation and whether it was sustainable and had become embedded in practice. We will use this learning to improve the way we scale up the service.

Authors: Shirley Magilton
Published: 2018

Implementation evaluation of reunification practice framework scale up: learning points for sustainable practice
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"The Reunification Framework enables staff and parents to think creatively and realistically about risk and protective factors together – not just one or the other. The tool is good at balancing both – difficult to analyse otherwise."

Lead social worker

Key findings 

  • All staff interviewed valued the Framework for making evidence-based decisions about reunification.
  • Eight local authorities had taken on the Reunification Practice Framework but only 1 was using it in its original form and had plans for its use to be sustainable in the longer term.
  • The ongoing or sustainable use of the tool was affected by a background of local authority restructuring. There were examples of strong initial implementation of the tool, but this could then falter with the Framework falling into isolated and sporadic use. However some local authorities had not ruled out re-introducing the Framework in future.
  • There was no clear pattern between different initial funding or support contexts and whether the use of the Framework became sustainable.
  • However, most authorities amended the Framework for their own bespoke use. There were concerns about the length of the Framework.

Barriers to implementation and actions we’re taking to address them

Local authorities are not always aware of what it takes to implement the Reunification Framework and had stopped implementation or did not plan to continue it.

  • We will offer webinars with strategic leads at an early stage in implementation to describe the Framework, the benefits of using it, key points about implementing interventions and to assess the readiness of the local authority to take on the framework.
  • We will build in more pre and post implementation support, including more regular contact with adopting organisations providing them with more templates, tools and assets to assist them to use it in practice.

Practitioners do not feel confident about using the Framework and not all managers and practitioners have been trained.

  • We will move to a train the trainers’ model so it is easier for authorities to run more training for new staff.
  • We will license the training and have assessment modules so that practitioners feel more confident to deliver the Framework.
  • We will set up more community of practice events and an online chatroom so that practitioners can share learning and solutions to difficulties with other authorities.
  • We will devise a handbook to sit alongside the Framework and make it easier for practitioners to use.

Local authorities are shortening the Framework or cutting sections from it to save time.

  • We will discuss with the framework authors what guidance can be given to LAs about how to stay as close as possible to the model and which sections can be cut if a LA decides to use the Framework as a toolkit rather in its entirety.

Local authorities are widening the use of the Framework and using it with other cases.

  • We will learn from LAs that have changed the Framework and used it with different types of cases.
  • We will rename and re-launch the Framework and produce updated guidance about the type of cases it is suitable for.

Future frameworks produced by the NSPCC should be shorter and be piloted in the environment in which it will be used.

  • We will commit to trying and testing more new NSPCC services in the environment in which they are intended for. This will include testing some programmes in partnership with external organisations.
  • We will reduce the length and shorten completion times of tools and test this before scaling-up to other organisations.


Please cite as: Magilton, S. (2018) Implementation evaluation of reunification practice framework scale up: learning points for sustainable practice. London: NSPCC.

Implementation evaluation of reunification practice framework scale up: learning points for sustainable practice
Download the report (PDF)
Large text version
Download the report (PDF)
"During the process, the complexity of the dynamic between them (parent and child in care) was very apparent. Both changed their minds and stopped engaging. We still think the Reunification Framework was beneficial as we now have an analysis of the situation to this point."

LA social worker
"If you are going to do something – do it well; we should have been assessing like this anyway."

Lead social worker
"We had a strategic direction and culture to refocus on birth and extended families and the Reunification Framework fitted well. We also had 15/16 year olds ‘drifting’ back home and the Reunification Framework allowed for more proactivity."

LA manager
"The working group were all passionate, keen and wouldn’t let it drop."

LA manager