Start date: Monday 11 September 2017
Value: £59,000
Company size: SME
Hackney Council

Discovery to understand how digital can support foster carers

12 Incomplete applications

9 SME, 3 large

21 Completed applications

19 SME, 2 large

Important dates

Thursday 6 July 2017
Deadline for asking questions
Thursday 13 July 2017 at 11:59pm GMT
Closing date for applications
Thursday 20 July 2017 at 11:59pm GMT


Summary of the work
A discovery phase to show the ways in which digital technology can support the recruitment and retention of foster carers, validated through user research and underpinned by a business case to justify onward investment.
Latest start date
Monday 4 September 2017
Expected contract length
Organisation the work is for
Hackney Council
Budget range
£50,000 - £75,000 for this phase of work

About the work

Why the work is being done
Hackney Council recruited 18 foster carer in the last year, an increase from 11 last year. The Council looks after 360 children (mostly out of Borough) at a cost of £13m per year. The cost of children fostered through an independent agency is nearly £400 higher per week than those fostered directly through the local authority. We believe a digital service could help improve recruitment and retention of foster carers and want to develop a business case through this phase, and show the benefits of a user-centred, Agile approach to colleagues across children’s services.
Problem to be solved
We currently have 300 expressions of interest to become foster carers which resulted in successful recruitment of 18 foster families last year. We want to identify ways that we might be able to use a digital service to better target, recruit and retain foster carers.

The Council competes for recruiting with independent fostering agencies (as well as benefitting from them). These agencies can be better at recruitment but cost the Council more. How might we work differently with independent foster agencies?

16 foster carers de-registered this year, and 11 last year. How might we better support and retain foster carers?
Who the users are and what they need to do
As a child in care I need a stable home so that I can get the support I need to develop as a confident individual.

As a citizen I want to understand foster care so that I can contribute to a young person’s development.

As a prospective foster carer I want clear advice to help me decide whether foster care is right for me.

As a prospective foster career I want the recruitment process to be simple and supportive.

As a foster carer I want an easy to use way to support the child so that there is minimal administration.
Early market engagement
Any work that’s already been done
We have identified this as a key opportunity to understand how a digital approach can support service redesign.
Existing team
Fostering officer, business improvement manager and ICT project manager, developer and applications support teams as required.
Current phase
Not started

Work setup

Address where the work will take place
Hackney Service Centre, 1 Hillman Street, E8 1DY
Working arrangements
We would prefer a team onsite for 3 days a week, most weeks in order to engage with fostering and ICT colleagues and build broader engagement with the style of working (eg through show and tells).
Security clearance

Additional information

Additional terms and conditions

Skills and experience

Buyers will use the essential and nice-to-have skills and experience to help them evaluate suppliers’ technical competence.

Essential skills and experience
  • Have experience of working to the GDS service design manual
  • Blend multi-disciplinary skills, including user research, service design, front-end development and business analysis
  • Have experience of using systems thinking as well as digital development
  • Provide examples of similar projects where they've produced non functional prototypes, supported by user insight to help build a business case
  • Have developed a service which has passed a digital service standard assessment
  • Have some knowledge of user needs, the fostering market, or the surrounding legislation
  • Be willing for their work to be assessed publicly against the local government digital service standard
Nice-to-have skills and experience
  • Be prepared to share risk and/or reward with the council if the service is attractive to other authorities
  • Work directly with looked after children, employ care leavers on the project or foster carers
  • Have some knowledge of user needs, the fostering market and the surrounding legislation

How suppliers will be evaluated

How many suppliers to evaluate
Proposal criteria
  • Quality of the technical solution
  • Clarity of approach
  • How the approach or solution meets user needs
  • How the approach or solution meets our goal
  • Estimated timeframes for the work
  • How you've identified risks and dependencies and offered approaches to manage them
  • Team structure, including skills, experiences and relevance of individuals
  • Experience of the method of working from previous projects
Cultural fit criteria
  • Work as a team with our organisation and other suppliers
  • Be transparent and collaborative when making decisions
  • Have a no-blame culture and encourage people to learn from their mistakes
  • Take responsibility for your work
  • Share knowledge and experience with other team members
  • Work openly
  • Challenge assumptions about what users really need, within the constraints of the legislative boundaries
Payment approach
Capped time and materials
Assessment methods
  • Written proposal
  • Case study
  • Reference
  • Presentation
Evaluation weighting

Technical competence


Cultural fit




Questions asked by suppliers

1. Could you elaborate on this nice-to-have requirement - specifically the risks? Be prepared to share risk and/or reward with the council if the service is attractive to other authorities
We believe we will be discovering new insights through this project that will be of relevance to other local authorities. The risk is that this investment produces something that doesn’t deliver a financial return on investment, so we’re interested in suppliers with a model for sharing the up-front financial risk we’re taking and/or a reward for any IP sharing from the work we produce.
2. Is there an idea of the contract length?
We assume this will be a function of the capped time and materials, but estimate this phase of the project itself to take no more than three months.
3. Can Hackney outline what work has been completed to date on the proposed operating model?
We do not have a corporate-wide Target Operating Model, nor one specifically for the service.
4. Have existing third party suppliers been working with Hackney to help shape Hackney's thinking on TOM's? If so, who has been involved to date?
No. We have looked examined the opportunity to redesign particular services and are applying lessons from that to other areas of the Council's functions.
5. Has the process, resources (internal and external) and timescales been agreed with Hackney stakeholders at this stage?
The process, resources and timescales for this project have been agreed at a high level, but we would expect to work with the supplier to develop a common view of what's required, through this phase of work.
6. As part of this process, will we be allowed to meet Hackney stakeholders to understand what key decision makers see as a successful outcome for this engagement and how to best approach the project – both technically and commercially?
7. What, in your opinion based on what we know today, is the biggest risk faced by this project? What could stop this project from moving forward?
The biggest risk is that a digital solution improves the experience for foster carers but does not change the fundamentals of the service - and so the digital service is an expensive 'bolt-on'.
8. Please advise if an official project plan is available with indicative timescales for delivery?
9. Has any user research been carried out to date or is the Council looking for a partner to carry out this research as part of this work?
No. We would expect this to be a key deliverable from this phase of the project.
10. Can you confirm if the following is an essential or nice-to-have requirement, as it appears in both sections. "Have some knowledge of user needs, the fostering market and the surrounding legislation". We would request that the brief is amended for clarity.
Apologies for the error. It is a nice-to-have requirement. We can bring the understanding of the surrounding legislation, and we're not clear the extent to which potential suppliers will have existing knowledge of user needs and the market, so want to be able to explore a range of options.
11. Will you help with the recruitment of a representative group of users and stakeholders, to interview as part of the discovery process? Does this group need to be national, within London or within the borough?
Yes. Whilst there are some clear benefits to us of speaking to users from within the Borough, we're sure we can learn about some common user needs regardless of where the user lives
12. Does the Council have well-defined rules that determine suitability and eligibility for foster carers in the target market today
To become a foster carer for Hackney one needs:
- To be over 21
- a spare room in the home to accommodate a child
- experience with children / young people
- support networks available to assist with the fostering task
- To live within Hackney or able to travel to Hackney
- Able to communicate in English (written and spoken)
- to not smoke at home – a smoker wouldn’t be approved to care for a child under 5 or who has a heart / respiratory problems
- successfully completed a Fostering Preparation Group (3 day course)
13. To what extent can we conduct research with independent foster agencies, as we are obviously mindful of possible conflict of interest
Hackney Placement Management Unit have connections with IFAs as this team deal with referrals and IFA placements. Some research with IFAs might be useful but I am aware the area of fostering recruitment is highly competitive
14. In order to provide estimates, do you have an idea of the minimum number of foster carers to be interviewed in this discovery phase?
We do not have an expected minimum, or assume that these will constitute a representative sample. However, we have previously learnt a great deal from 6-10 interviews
15. How sophisticated is your current targeting?
We don’t believe our current campaign uses sophisticated targeting methods. However, based on experience from other councils, we don’t believe that better targeting alone will achieve a step-change in the outcomes.
16. How long on average does it take a foster family to go from expression of interest to first placement?
We aim for 6-8 months, but this can take longer depending on a number of factors: delays in checks, delays in obtaining references, availability and commitment of the candidate.
17. Regarding the risk/reward aspect of the proposal, is the council considering to actively partner with other councils, or the supplier expected to sell the solution to other councils?
Yes. We'd expect to work with the supplier to promote our work, its relevance to other councils and work together to identify how best to ensure our work can be useful to other local authorities.
18. There is a developer mentioned on the team, what would be their level of involvement, their skills and are we restricted to using technology they are experienced in?
We would like one of our developers to work on the project as a means of extending their familiarity with working in Agile, multi-disciplinary teams. Whilst they will be a .NET specialist, and have experience of using the Council's Dynamics CRM, this does not necessarily mean that those technologies must be used.
19. You mentioned a functional prototype, is there an expectation for it to be a html/css clickable prototype, or a database backed app/tool.
We expect that the prototype will have limited functionality given the budget of the project, but do not have a fixed expectation for what functionality it will / will not have.
20. Are you able to share any insight into why only 18 of the 300 applicants were successful/processed previously- eg: Was it down to suitability/expectations/communication issues/council-side capacity issues? Or is understanding this also part of the discovery phase?
We believe that few foster carers who express an initial interest have the requisite requirements to become foster carers, but would like to understand more about their motivations and drivers to understand whether we are reaching the target audience and engaging them in the right way.
21. Do you have an idea of what the budget may be for the following phases of work? Would that be put out to tender as well, or would that be a continuation of the Discovery phase with the successful supplier?
Subsequent phases of work will be tendered for separately. The budget will be partly determined by the business case that will be clearer at the end of the discovery phase.
22. How long do you envisage this 'Discovery' phase work to happen?
Our preference would be 4-6 weeks.
23. Can you provide any insight as to the reasons and associated numbers for de-registration over the past two years (i.e. retirement, adoption of a child in placement, leaving to go to private agency or fostering with other borough)?
The last year (2016/2017) we had 7 resignations / de-registrations – majority of them due to retiring; moving out of London; concerns about the care provided but the foster carer.