The research team use the Cost Calculator underlying conceptual framework, the methods for the collection of time use data and the CCfCS tool for analysis across a range of research projects. The team also make use of existing unit costs which have been calculated for previous studies for desk based secondary analysis to address specific policy and practice questions.

The team are currently using the CCfCS tool, underlying framework and/or methods as an integral part of a number of evaluations for the Department for Education Innovation Programme: North Yorkshire’s No Wrong Door Model; Mockingbird Family Model and RESuLT. Since 2012 the team have been evaluating the introduction of social pedagogy into UK foster care (Head, Heart, Hands), and as part of this evaluation are using the CCfCS. More information about the evaluation of Head, Heart, Hands can be found here.

Work is also on going in partnership with Chapin Hall, at the University of Chicago for a series of child welfare evaluations across the US.

Ongoing Projects

Edge of Care Cost Calculator with Research in Practice

Partnership with Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago (Further information coming soon)

Completed Projects

Head, Heart, Hands: Bringing up children in foster care: a social pedagogic approach

Achieving emotional wellbeing for looked after children

Intensive Family Support

The costs of reunification

Extension of the Cost Calculator for all Children in Need

Update to The Cost of Foster Care
Holmes, L. and Soper, J. (2010)

Costs of adoption

Cost and Capacity Implications of Laming

Costs of short break provision

Costs of Multidimensional Treatment Foster Care (MTFC)


Extension of the Cost Calculator to include education costs (Coventry)

Estimating Costs:

  • The Cost Calculator and the ‘Policy’ groups defined in the Pursuit of Permanence study
  • Costs of Children’s Continuing Care
  • Social Work Practices

Extension of the Cost Calculator to include health and mental health costs (Cheshire)

North East collaboration


The model used in the Cost Calculator for Children’s Services (CCfCS) was developed as part of a policy-relevant research project that aimed to explore the relationship between costs and outcomes for looked after children. The study is described in the book by Ward, Holmes and Soper (2008) ‘Costs and Consequences of Placing Children in Care’ which forms an ideal resource for social work managers and policy makers working in children’s services. Download an order form here.

The current version of the CCfCS uses local authority data on looked after children’s characteristics and placements that are collected for national returns (SSDA 903). It brings these together with the unit costs of social care activities, based on eight identified processes and the allowances or fees paid for individual placements as a basis for working out costs. Calculations take account of all the numerous variations in costs engendered by differences in children’s needs, placement type and local authority procedures. Because the model utilises unit costs that have all been developed using the same, standardised approach, it introduces greater consistency into the comparison of costs. Local authorities can choose either to use one of the unit costs which are supplied or to create a customised unit costs table.

Local Authorities and Implementation

To date more than twenty English local authorities have been involved in research related to the CCfCS and its implementation. The CCfCS development team are currently working with programmers to update the CCfCS tool. An updated version of the tool will be available in Autumn 2015 as a free download to all English local authorities. The team welcomes feedback and it is possible for local authorities to contribute to the further development of the CCfCS by acting as research sites, knowledge transfer partners, or members of an implementation consortium, as described in the various projects. Currently contributions are being sought in the way of beta testing the CCfCS. This will give early access to the tool, and provide an opportunity for feedback on the tool. Get in touch for more information.

Towards a systems approach

Developments are now under way to extend the CCfCS model to calculate costs associated with other processes and agencies that provide serices to vulnerable children and their families. Such a systems approach to cost calculations will make it possible to demonstrate how costs are spread across agencies, showing whether reducing the costs to one may increase costs to another. For example, when looked after children are excluded from school there may be a reduced cost to education but possibly an increased cost to youth justice and to social care if the consequences are greater opportunities for offending and a disrupted placement.

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 thus to introduce transparency into the joint commissioning of services for such children.

Find out more by browsing through the projects in our Costs and Outcomes research programme on the right of this page.