Department of Education

Research projects

Cost calculator for children’s services

What is the CCfCS?

A software tool that can be used to explore the relationship between needs, costs and outcomes of services provided to looked after children.

What data does the tool use? 

The CCfCS makes use of a range of data: unit costs are brought together with data concerning placement fees and allowances, management and capital expenditure along with routinely collected data on children’s needs, characteristics and placements (using the SSDA 903 statistical return) to estimate the costs of placing looked after children for a given time period.

How are unit costs estimated? 

It uses a ‘bottom up’ approach to estimating unit costs by identifying the constituent parts that form delivery of a service and giving a value to each of these parts. The total sum is linked with appropriate units of activity to provide the unit cost of a service.

CCfCS makes a distinction between case management functions carried out by social workers, family support workers and other social care personnel and the services (such as placements) that are provided to meet specific needs. The estimated overall unit costs include both of these elements.

How does the CCfCS tool support decision making? 

Separating and breaking down costs in this way allows for more detailed exploration including how changes in one area might impact on another.

It is also possible to focus on one element of the system and carry out ‘what if’ analyses. For example, to explore the cost implications of introducing new practices/protocols, or the introduction of a new service for a specific group of children and/or families.


Dr Ellie Suh wins a place to develop the Cost Calculator for Children’s Services into a sustainable social enterprise. Details

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