Policy paper

Families first for children (FFC) pathfinder programme and family networks pilot (FNP)

Updated 10 April 2024

This was published under the 2022 to 2024 Sunak Conservative government

Applies to England


The FFC pathfinder was announced in February 2023 as part of the government’s children’s social care implementation strategy, stable homes, built on love.

It responds to recommendations from the Independent review of children’s social care, the Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel report on child protection in England and the Competitions and Market Authority’s market study of children’s social care provision. The pathfinder will test delivery of key strategy commitments.

FFC pathfinder

From July 2023 to March 2025, the programme is investing over £45 million to design and test radical reforms in a number of local areas, across the following policies:

  • family help
  • child protection
  • family networks
  • safeguarding partners

The pathfinder draws on evidence and existing good practice, including from other government programmes:

The new end-to-end system will include 4 key elements:

  • establishing local multi-disciplinary family help services, bringing together early help and child in need provision, to ensure families with multiple needs receive earlier, seamless support so that they can overcome challenges, stay together and thrive
  • a child protection system which protects all children from significant harm - inside and outside of the home - led by new, expert-led, dedicated multi-agency child protection teams including social worker lead child protection practitioners, alongside an information and support offer for all parents in child protection
  • greater use of family networks, involving the wider family in decision-making at an earlier stage throughout the system, and providing practical and financial support via family network support packages to help them keep children safe and well at home
  • stronger and clearer multi-agency safeguarding arrangements, in line with working together 2023 and including an increased role for education, improved information sharing and engagement with children and families in designing and delivering reforms

As these changes will have a significant impact on frontline delivery, we are co-designing the new systems with local areas and taking a ‘test and learn’ approach to delivery ahead of any further roll-out. We will regularly share insights from the programme with the wider sector and partners to support all areas to progress towards our service transformation vision.

Family network pilot

Of the £45 million, £7.8 million has been allocated to fund a subset family network pilot in 7 additional local authorities. The family network pilot (FNP) is testing the impact of providing flexible funding for extended family networks through family network support packages (FNSPs) to help keep families together and children out of care where appropriate.

Through the pilot we are seeking to find sustainable, family-led solutions by increasing the use of family group decision-making and testing the introduction of FNSPs – a recommendation made by the Independent review of children’s social care.

The pilot will look at how FNSPs can unlock barriers and enable family networks to play a more active role in providing loving, safe and stable homes for children through financial and other practical means.

This element of reform will be included as part of the wider pathfinder, but we are also running the standalone pilot to understand the impact of this policy in isolation.

National partners

Mutual Ventures, with Innovation Unit, is working as a delivery partner. They are supporting pathfinder and pilot areas with local delivery, and collecting and sharing learning as it emerges from the programme.

The programme is independently evaluated by the National Children’s Bureau alongside Verian and Alma Economics. The evaluation will support our understanding of the pathfinder and pilot by assessing:

  • implementation
  • delivery
  • impact
  • value for money

Participating local authorities

We identified local authorities to take part in the first wave of the FFC pathfinder and both waves of the FNP by using readily available data and knowledge of local areas across government. The second wave of FFC pathfinder areas were appointed by an open competition, where local authorities that met the eligibility criteria were invited to apply to join the programme.

FFC pathfinder, wave 1 local authorities

  • Dorset
  • Lincolnshire
  • Wolverhampton

The FFC pathfinder wave 1 areas were announced in July 2023. We worked with these areas through a period of co-design as they developed local delivery plans. This process involved stakeholder engagement across children and families, local partners, workforces and central government. Learning and insights from wave 1 co-design has shaped national policy and will be used to inform future delivery, including wave 2.

FFC pathfinder, wave 2 local authorities

  • Lewisham
  • Luton
  • Redbridge
  • Walsall
  • Warrington
  • Warwickshire
  • Wirral

The FFC pathfinder wave 2 areas were announced in April 2024. We are working with these areas to agree local models for delivery, ahead of implementation later this year.

FNP, wave 1 local authorities

  • Brighton and Hove
  • Gateshead
  • Sunderland
  • Telford and Wrekin

FNP, wave 2 local authorities

  • Hammersmith and Fulham
  • Hartlepool
  • Staffordshire