• Diffusion theory and multi-disciplinary working in children’s services

      Bostock, Lisa; Lynch, Amy; Newlands, Fiona; Forrester, Donald; University of Bedfordshire; Cardiff University (Emerald Publishing, 2018-04-16)
      Purpose The purpose of this paper is to explore how innovation in children’s services is adopted and developed by staff within new multi-disciplinary children’s safeguarding teams. It draws on diffusion of innovations (DOI) theory to help us better understand the mechanisms by which the successful implementation of multi-disciplinary working can be best achieved. Design/methodology/approach It is based on interviews with 61 frontline safeguarding staff, including social workers, substance misuse workers, mental health workers and domestic abuse workers. Thematic analysis identified the enablers and barriers to implementation. Findings DOI defines five innovation attributes as essential for rapid diffusion: relative advantage over current practice; compatibility with existing values and practices; complexity or simplicity of implementation; trialability or piloting of new ideas; and observability or seeing results swiftly. Staff identified multi-disciplinary team working and group supervision as advantageous, in line with social work values and improved their service to children and families. Motivational interviewing and new ways of case recordings were less readily accepted because of the complexity of practicing confidently and concerns about the risks of moving away from exhaustive case recording which workers felt provided professional accountability. Practical implications DOI is a useful reflective tool for senior managers to plan and review change programmes, and to identify any emerging barriers to successful implementation. Originality/value The paper provides insights into what children’s services staff value about multi-disciplinary working and why some aspects of innovation are adopted more readily than others, depending on the perception of diffusion attributes.  
    • Evaluating the quality of social work supervision in UK children's services: comparing self-report and independent observations

      Wilkins, David; Khan, Munira; Stabler, Lorna; Newlands, Fiona; Mcdonnell, John; Cardiff University; University of Bedfordshire; London Borough of Islington (Springer, 2018-12-31)
      Understanding how different forms of supervision support good social work practice and improve outcomes for people who use services is nearly impossible without reliable and valid evaluative measures. Yet the question of how best to evaluate the quality of supervision in different contexts is a complicated and as-yet-unsolved challenge. In this study, we observed 12 social work supervisors in a simulated supervision session offering support and guidance to an actor playing the part of an inexperienced social worker facing a casework-related crisis. A team of researchers analyzed these sessions using a customized skills-based coding framework. In addition, 19 social workers completed a questionnaire about their supervision experiences as provided by the same 12 supervisors. According to the coding framework, the supervisors demonstrated relatively modest skill levels, and we found low correlations among different skills. In contrast, according to the questionnaire data, supervisors had relatively high skill levels, and we found high correlations among different skills. The findings imply that although self-report remains the simplest way to evaluate supervision quality, other approaches are possible and may provide a different perspective. However, developing a reliable independent measure of supervision quality remains a noteworthy challenge.
    • Family safeguarding Hertfordshire

      Forrester, Donald; Lynch, Amy; Bostock, Lisa; Newlands, Fiona; Cary, Alex; Preston, Bart; University of Cardiff; University of Bedfordshire (Department for Education, 2017-07-06)
      Family Safeguarding Hertfordshire is a reform of children’s services that aims to improve how these services work with families, and outcomes for children and their parents. The report evaluates the project and presents local and national lessons.
    • Guest editorial: Innovation in children’s social care: from conceptualisation to improved outcomes?

      Munro, Emily; Skouteris, Helen; Newlands, Fiona; Walker, Steve; University of Bedfordshire; Monash University; Children’s Services, Leeds City Council (Emerald Publishing Limited, 2021-09-14)
    • Havering: Face to Face Pathways: final evaluation report

      Bostock, Lisa; Khan, Munira; Munro, Emily; Lynch, Amy; Baker, Claire; Newlands, Fiona; Antonopoulou, Vivi; Tilda Goldberg Centre for Social Work and Social Care, University of Bedfordshire (Department for Education, 2020-07-31)
      F2FP was an ambitious programme of change designed to embed systemic practice across the care pathway for young people on the edge of care, in care and leaving care. The project started in October 2017 and ended in October 2019. Key elements included: • targeted, intensive work through the Families Together team (FTT) with young people on the edge of care and their families to prevent entry to care where appropriate • adapting in-care provision to support 8 systemically trained and intensively supported foster carers (‘pathways carers’) to stabilise placements for children with complex needs and avoid the need to move children to residential care • extending leaving care services to young people aged 14 through to 25 and introducing ‘pathway co-ordinators’ to support access to multi-agency services • ensuring co-production is fully embedded and improving business intelligence to aid analysis, monitoring of progress and ability to better target resources
    • An inter-disciplinary perspective on evaluation of innovation to support care leavers' transition

      Lynch, Amy; Alderson, Hayley; Kerridge, Gary; Johnson, Rebecca; McGovern, Ruth; Newlands, Fiona; Smart, Deborah; Harrop, Carrie; Currie, Graeme; University of Bedfordshire; et al. (Emerald, 2021-09-14)
      Purpose Young people who are looked after by the state face challenges as they make the transition from care to adulthood, with variation in support available. In the past decade, funding has been directed towards organisations to pilot innovations to support transition, with accompanying evaluations often conducted with a single disciplinary focus, in a context of short timescales and small budgets. Recognising the value and weight of the challenge involved in evaluation of innovations that aim to support the transitions of young people leaving care, this paper aims to provide a review of evaluation approaches and suggestions regarding how these might be developed. Design/methodology/approach As part of a wider research programme to improve understanding of the innovation process for young people leaving care, the authors conducted a scoping review of grey literature (publications which are not peer reviewed) focusing on evaluation of innovations in the UK over the past 10 years. The authors critiqued the evaluation approaches in each of the 22 reports they identified with an inter-disciplinary perspective, representing social care, public health and organisation science. Findings The authors identified challenges and opportunities for the development of evaluation approaches in three areas. Firstly, informed by social care, the authors suggest increased priority should be granted to participatory approaches to evaluation, within which involvement of young people leaving care should be central. Secondly, drawing on public health, there is potential for developing a common outcomes’ framework, including methods of data collection, analysis and reporting, which aid comparative analysis. Thirdly, application of theoretical frameworks from organisation science regarding the process of innovation can drive transferable lessons from local innovations to aid its spread. Originality/value By adopting the unique perspective of their multiple positions, the authors’ goal is to contribute to the development of evaluation approaches. Further, the authors hope to help identify innovations that work, enhance their spread, leverage resources and influence policy to support care leavers in their transitions to adulthood.
    • What does empathy sound like in social work communication? A mixed‐methods study of empathy in child protection social work practice

      Lynch, Amy; Newlands, Fiona; Forrester, Donald; University of Bedfordshire; University of Cardiff (Wiley, 2018-07-12)
      It is widely accepted that empathy is important for social work practice, yet there are multiple dimensions of empathy and comparatively few studies of empathy as a component of social work skill. To date, published studies have been quantitative, and as a result, we know little about how social workers demonstrate empathy in practice or what skilled empathic practice in child and family social work might sound like. This study contributes to the development of understanding of empathy as a social work skill through a mixed‐methods analysis of 110 audio recordings of meetings in a child protection service between workers and parents, applying a coding framework for analysis. Findings indicate that workers who demonstrate higher levels of empathy skill use more open questions and reflections in their communication with parents. Further, they demonstrate curiosity about and make efforts to understand parents' often difficult experiences, including a focus on emotions. That the majority of workers were found not to demonstrate a high level of empathy skill presents concerns to be considered by the social work profession. A deeper understanding of empathy presents an opportunity for an increased focus in organizations to enable workers to demonstrate empathy towards families they work with.