Co-determining the outcomes that matter with young people leaving care: a realist approach
AuthorsHarris, Julie Philippa
SubjectsL500 Social Work
social welfare intervention
MetadataShow full item record
AbstractIn the current policy, commissioning and delivery environments for services aimed at improving the lives of children and their families, increasing priority is placed on the ability to measure and demonstrate the effectiveness of social welfare intervention. This is particularly acute for voluntary sector services that increasingly provide services on behalf of local authorities and operate in a highly competitive environment in which the ability to demonstrate effectiveness and value for money can ultimately determine survival. However, social welfare intervention is delivered in the context of complex social systems in which a multiplicity of factors interplay between those individuals who are managing, providing and using social services. This complexity presents significant methodological challenges in terms of understanding the effect of intervention on individuals’ lives. Often the pressures to produce highly aggregated data about outcomes mean that the experience and the voice of those using services is overlooked and the connection between data and lived experience is lost. This thesis describes the evaluation of an approach to measuring outcomes known as Goal Attainment Scaling (GAS). This places the service user at the heart of measuring outcomes whilst collecting data that can be used to evaluate effectiveness within a service, or comparatively between services, or between service user groups. The approach was implemented with practitioners and young people within the context of a leaving care support service provided by a voluntary sector service. The GAS implementation was evaluated using a realist research strategy in order to understand the ways in which a complex policy and operating environment interplayed with the challenging contexts of transition for young people and their heterogeneous pathways in leaving care. For a variety of reasons, explained within this thesis, participation levels in the trial were low and therefore quantitative data regarding outcomes was too limited to be conclusive. Nevertheless the study represents a useful pilot of this approach and highlights the importance of context in determining results when introducing new approaches to outcomes measurement into practice environments. The findings that emerge from the evaluation betray a concerning picture of the pressures and constraints on practice experienced by a large leaving care service in the current climate of cuts to local authority funding and statutory services. As opposed to being an independent or somewhat removed undertaking, this study was concerned to frame ‘evaluation’ and ‘outcomes measurement’ as participatory and reflexive activities that should be embedded within service delivery. By so doing, it aimed to facilitate reciprocal or ‘bi-directional’ learning between providers and the users of services to underpin interventions, particularly with vulnerable populations of service users. Given that the support provided by leaving care services may represent the last intervention before young people disappear from the system’s view, this is particularly significant in supporting them to develop agency and self-determination to take them through the often compressed and accelerated journeys that characterise adolescence for this group.
CitationHarris, J.P. (2014) 'Co-determining the outcomes that matter with young people leaving care: a realist approach'. Professional Doctorate thesis. University of Bedfordshire.
PublisherUniversity of Bedfordshire
TypeThesis or dissertation
DescriptionA thesis submitted to the University of Bedfordshire in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Professional Doctorate
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