What is the Cost Calculator for Children’s Services (CCfCS)?

The CCfCS is award-winning purpose-designed software that currently calculates the costs of social care processes and placements for looked after children. The tool uses child level data that are routinely collected by local authorities to facilitate comparisons between the relative value of different types of care, making it easier to estimate the potential benefits of introducing a range of alternative packages. Analyses of costs with respect to the outcomes variables included in the CCfCS are also available.

The model used in the CCfCS was developed as part of a research project that aimed to explore the relationship between costs and outcomes for looked after children and applies the ‘bottom up’ costing methodology to estimate costs of different types of care pathways over time.  (see Unit Costs)

The CCfCS approach to costing: 

The CCfCS takes variations into account: by using child level data it costs each child’s pathway separately, revealing the  variations between children’s needs and experiences, and it also groups children by combinations of need, or by placement type. The CCfCS uses a bottom-up rather than a top-down approach, aggregating costs from the child level including placement fees and/or allowances and all the associated costs of social care activities undertaken to support each child. The CCfCS uses longitudinal, not snapshot data. By using data which local authorities already collect on all the placements of looked after children, and by carefully analysing the dates of placement changes, children’s age milestones, reviews and other key services, the Cost Calculator can identify all the services required and delivered for each child as they pass through the various processes involved in being looked after by the local authority. This enables the Calculator to be used to examine any time period, either for the individual child, for groups of children or for types of placement. The CCfCS has a mechanism which enables users to easily import their data for use by the CCfCS tool.

How is it being developed?

The current version of the CCfCS allows agencies to calculate costs of social care processes and placements for looked after children.

Developments are now under way to extend the model to cover costs associated with other processes and agencies. Such a systems approach to cost calculations will make it possible to demonstrate how costs are spread across agencies, so that reducing the costs to one may increase costs to another.

The overall objective is to develop the CCfCS to incorporate unit costs for all services that children receive within specific time frames. These will include the unit costs of social care, education, health, mental health, socio-legal and youth justice processes so that eventually it will be possible to calculate the true costs to the public purse of providing services to children with extensive needs and to explore how these might be better configured to improve outcomes.

Functions of the CCfCS

The CCfCS:

  • Collates – collates the descriptive information that a local authority holds on its looked after population and on its school children, which can then be related to activities which incur costs.
  • Calculates- uses data on children’s characteristics, the unit costs of social care and education activities together with the allowances or fees paid for individual placements and education provisions as a basis for working out costs.
  • Analyses – allows users to compare costs for groups of children with different needs over different time periods and to gain a better understanding of why certain children (or groups of children) cost so much more than others.

Key advantages

  • Calculates costs from the bottom up
  • Combines fee/allowance costs with the costs of social work support for placements
  • Calculates individual costs based on the actual care history of each child
  • Relates costs to children’s needs
  • Presents results for any child, group of children or type of placement by any time period
  • Analyses costs by outcomes, thus promoting the Every Child Matters agenda
  • Designed in partnership with local authorities
  • Creative, innovative, pushing boundaries – the citation for the Enterprise Award won by the CCfCS