• 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.
    • Levels of stress and anxiety in child and family social work: workers' perceptions of organizational structure, professional support and workplace opportunities in Children's Services in the UK

      Antonopoulou, Vivi; Killian, Mike; Forrester, Donald; University of Bedfordshire; University of Texas at Arlington; University of Cardiff (Elsevier, 2017-02-24)
      Child and family social workers are consistently found to have high levels of stress, and this has often been linked to burnout and retention problems in the profession. Local authorities in the UK have recently been under pressure to reform services, and one focus has been exploring how different organizational structures might reduce stress and increase well-being of workers. This paper presents data on 193 social workers from five local authorities in England. We examine the effects of different ways of organizing Children's Services on workers' wellbeing, with particular focus on the underlying relationship between organizational elements, workplace opportunities,and practitioners' work satisfaction. The primary outcome measure is the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12, Goldberg, 1978), a widely validated measure of stress. This data is presented alongside information exploring aspects of organizational structure and functioning. Results indicated significantly different levels of reported stress and general well-being in practitioners working in different local authorities. Implications for how local authorities might support staff to work productively in the stressful and challenging environment of child and family social work are discussed.
    • Scaling and deepening Reclaiming Social Work model

      Bostock, Lisa; Forrester, Donald; Patrizo, Louis; Godfrey, Tessa; Zonouzi, Maryam; Bird, Hayden; Antonopoulou, Vivi; Tinarwo, Moreblessing; University of Bedfordshire; University of Cardiff (Department for Education, 2017-07-06)
      This report evaluates the Scaling and Deepening the Reclaiming Social Work Model which aimed to embed ‘Reclaiming Social Work’ in 5 very different local authorities (Buckinghamshire, Derbyshire, Harrow, Hull and Southwark). Reclaiming Social Work (RSW) is a whole-system reform that aims to deliver systemic practice in children’s services. Key elements include in-depth training, small units with shared cases and group systemic case discussions, clinician support, reduced bureaucracy, devolved decision-making and enhanced administrative support. The overall aims include improving risk assessment and decision-making, providing more effective help and risk management for children and families. Keeping families together, where appropriate, is a fundamental aim of RSW. 
    • 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. 
    • What is the impact of supervision on direct practice with families?

      Bostock, Lisa; Patrizo, Louis; Godfrey, Tessa; Forrester, Donald; University of Bedfordshire; Frontline; University of Cardiff (Elsevier, 2019-07-24)
      Supervision has been described as the “pivot” upon which the integrity and excellence of social work practice can be maintained.However, there is little research that examines its impact on how social workers work directly with children and their families. Where effectiveness studies exist, they tend to explore the impact of supervision on organisational and staff-related outcomes such as retention rates or worker well-being. The current study focuses on one specific sub-category of the wider supervision and practice literature: systemic group supervision or “systemic supervision” and is based on a wider evaluation of systemic social work practice in the UK. The paper pairs observations of systemic supervision (n=14) and observations of direct practice (n=18) in peoples’ homes. It presents correlational data on the relationship between supervision quality and direct practice quality to assess whether there is an association between the two practice forums. The paper demonstrates that there is a statistically significant relationship between supervision quality and overall quality of direct practice. Supervision was also associated with relationship-building skills and use of “good authority” skills; that is, practice that was more purposeful, child-focused and risks to children better articulated. Interestingly, where a clinician qualified in systemic family therapy was present in supervision, this was associated with bothimproved supervisory and direct practice quality. This suggests that there may be an important association between the discussions held in systemic supervision, particularly where a clinician is present and the quality of conversations that practitioners have with children and families. These findings contribute to a growing body of knowledge about the relationship between effective supervision and direct practice within children and families social work.