About the programme



The Department for Education (DfE) launched the Innovation Programme in October 2013 to act as a catalyst for developing more effective ways of supporting vulnerable children. In June 2014 the DfE appointed the Spring consortium as its delivery partner for the programme. The programme is seeking to inspire whole system change so that in five years’ time we achieve:

  • Better life chances for children receiving help from the social care system;
  • Stronger incentives and mechanisms for innovation, experimentation and replication of successful new approaches; and
  • Better value for money across children’s social care.

We will do this through:

  • Supporting individual pilots and change programmes which test or spread much more effective ways of supporting vulnerable children; and
  • Developing stronger incentives and mechanisms for experimentation and innovation and an understanding of how to spread successful new approaches.

Ultimately we want to see successful innovations scale and spread, and we hope some of the proposals we support will be at that stage. We are also supporting strong proposals that are earlier in the journey – in idea development and initial testing, or in further testing and improving. Download our innovation spectrum to find out more about what we expect would be happening in proposals at different stages of developing, testing and spreading innovations.

Focus areas

The programme has identified two key focus areas where there are particular challenges in prevailing practice and clear scope for radical innovation and change. These are:

  • Rethinking children’s social work – improving the quality and impact of children’s social work
  • Rethinking support for adolescents in or on the edge of care – improving the quality and impact of services which provide a stable effective launch pad for adolescents to transition successfully into adulthood

The DfE has published two papers, drawing together and analysing the key research evidence and practice developments in each of the two focus areas. They can be found here.

Who can get involved?

The application process has now closed and we were delighted to receive applications from a variety of organisations including:

  • Local authorities who have the statutory responsibility for supporting and protecting vulnerable children and young people
  • Other organisations, working across the social care, justice, health, education or other sectors with an ambition to inspire and lead change and drive improved outcomes

The Programme is for England only.

More information and analysis on the two focus areas can be found here

The programme investment board

The investment board’s responsibilities are to:

  • Provide rigorous advice to the Minister on what projects the Department should invest in, assessing proposals against specified criteria
  • Challenge and influence the overall strategy of the programme;
  • Act as advocates for the programme, helping to build momentum behind it.


Emma_DaviesEmma Davies
Emma is an Investment Principal at the Wellcome Trust, responsible for part of the Trust’s directly managed equity portfolio. Emma previously ran the London office of Perry Capital, one of the world’s leading hedge funds, before helping to set up Big Society Capital, where she was Chief Investment Officer.

The Wellcome Trust has more than 25 years’ experience of owning a highly diversified financial investment portfolio. The investment base was valued at £14.5 billion at 30 September 2012. It now spends around £650 million each year to achieve extraordinary improvements in human and animal health and expects to spend £3.5 billion over the next five years.


Alfred_FoglioAlfred Foglio
Alfred is one of the Managing and Founding Partners of GI Partners in Europe, which was established in 2001.  He is a member of the Global Investment Committee and has been responsible for numerous European investments of GI Funds I, II, and III.  Alfred leads GI’s investment activity in Health & Social Care and was Chairman of the Cambian Group (2004-2014) and Advanced Childcare (2011-2014) prior their combined IPO in 2014.  GI Partners’ European private equity team focuses on control-oriented, platform investments in middle-market businesses and assets in Western Europe.  Within Europe, GI has invested $1.4 billion in 14 platforms across 3 Funds.  Prior to GI, Alfred worked in the Securitisation Group of Arthur Anderson in New York, the Principal Transactions Group of Credit Suisse in London and as a Director of a start-up telecoms business in London.


Isabelle_TrowlerIsabelle Trowler
Isabelle Trowler took up her post as Chief Social Worker for Children and Families in September 2013.

Since qualifying as a social worker in 1996, Isabelle has worked within the voluntary and statutory sectors both in education and social care settings, and in a variety of practice and leadership roles.

Previously, Isabelle worked as the Assistant Director of Children’s Social Care in Hackney and later as Director of Morning Lane Associates. She co-founded a new model of delivering child and family social work in the UK called ‘Reclaiming Social Work’ and more commonly referred to as the ‘Hackney model’.

The Chief Social Worker for Children and Families works collaboratively with the Chief Social Worker for Adults. Together they work from the Office of the Chief Social Worker to:

  • support and challenge the profession to ensure that children and adults get the best possible help from social workers
  • provide independent expert advice to ministers on social work reform, and the contribution of social work and social workers to policy implementation more generally
  • provide leadership and work with key leaders in the profession and wider sector to drive forward the improvement and reform programme for social work
  • challenge weak practice to achieve decisive improvements in the quality of social work
  • provide leadership to the network of principal social workers