• Adding evidence to the ethics debate: investigating parents' experiences of their participation in research

      Westlake, David; Forrester, Donald (Oxford University Press, 2015-11-19)
      All research requires ethical scrutiny of the harm it may cause participants, yet we know relatively little about the actual experiences of service users who participate. This paper explores the views of parents and carers (n = 97) involved in an English study into outcomes for children known to Children's Services. Nearly all participants (96 per cent) who took part in two research interviews reported being glad they took part, and none expressed regret. Some participants (31 per cent) felt the interviews were difficult or upsetting to some degree, but most of these (90 per cent) also felt that talking to the researcher helped them with their problems. Indeed, parents who reported finding interviews upsetting were more likely to also find them helpful. We suggest that research needs to be considered as a form of intervention, rather than imagined as observing without influencing, and that as such it is necessary to balance both potential advantages and possible risks. Consequently, ethics committees need to focus on study design and the quality of interaction. This requires a focus on supporting researchers to not only ‘do no harm’, but to help people where possible. It also requires evaluation of the impact of research to be built into ethical study design.
    • Breaking down language barriers: a practice-near study of social work using interpreters

      Westlake, David; Jones, Rebecca (Oxford University Press, 2017-08-16)
      This paper explores how social workers can communicate effectively using an interpreter. It examines how child and family practitioners describe their experiences of working with interpreters and uses audio recordings of home visits to analyse how the challenges they describe manifest in practice. The analysis is based on audio recordings of nineteen interpreter-mediated meetings between workers and families, and two focus groups with practitioners. Recordings were categorised using quantitative coding, and data were analysed thematically. Although workers find using an interpreter challenging, in practice, skilled practitioners are able to work effectively providing they adopt an assertive approach. This is characterised by clarifying misunderstandings, involving the client in ‘chit-chat’ to build rapport and, where clients have differing levels of language proficiency, conducting the conversation entirely in the native language. The study demonstrates the centrality of social worker skills in managing interpreter-mediated sessions and improving practice for non-native-speaking families. This has implications for social work practice internationally.
    • Evaluation of independent child trafficking advocates trial: final report

      Kohli, Ravi K.S.; Hynes, Patricia; Connolly, Helen; Thurnham, Angela; Westlake, David; D'Arcy, Kate (Home Office, 2015-12-17)
      This report presents the findings from an evaluation of a 1 year trial of the independent child trafficking advocates.
    • A randomized controlled trial of training in Motivational Interviewing for child protection.

      Forrester, Donald; Westlake, David; Killian, Mike; Antonopoulou, Vivi; McCann, Michelle; Thomas, Roma; Waits, Charlotte; Whittaker, Charlotte E.; Hutchison, Dougal; Thurnham, Angela; et al. (Elsevier, 2018-02-12)
      There has been interest in developing more evidence-based approaches to child and family social work in the UK in recent years. This study examines the impact of a skills development package of training and supervision in Motivational Interviewing (MI) on the skills of social workers and the engagement of parents through a randomized controlled trial. All workers in one local authority were randomly assigned to receive the package (n = 28) or control (n = 33). Families were then randomized to trained (n = 67) or untrained (n = 98) workers. Family meetings with the worker shortly after allocation were evaluated for MI skill. Research interviews gathered data including the WAI. Follow-up interviews 20 weeks later repeated the WAI, and other outcome measures including Goal Attainment Scaling (GAS) and rating of family life. Between group analysis found statistically significant difference in MI skills, though these were not substantial (2.49 in control, 2.91 MI trained, p = .049). There was no statistically significant difference between groups in any other outcome measures. The package of training and supervision did not create sufficient increase in MI skills to influence engagement or outcomes. Implications for understanding the relationship between skills, engagement and organizational change are discussed.
    • Validity of the Working Alliance Inventory within child protection services

      Killian, Mike; Forrester, Donald; Westlake, David; Antonopoulou, Vivi (SAGE, 2015-07-27)
      The Working Alliance Inventory remains a widely studied measure of quality of therapeutic relationships between the practitioner and client. No prior study has examined the psychometrics and validity of the Working Alliance Inventory–Short (WAI-S) in a sample of families, social workers, and trained observers within child protection services. Surveys were completed by 130 families, social workers concerning 274 cases, and observers following 165 home visits during the first wave of data collected from a randomized controlled trial of child protection services. Confirmatory factor analyses were conducted on three versions of the WAI-S and demonstrated moderate to good model fit. Convergent construct validity was found with other standardized measures. Results support the use of the WAI-S during in child protection services practice and research. Future research into family engagement in child protection social work services should focus on the working relationship.
    • What is the relationship between worker skills and outcomes for families in child and family social work?

      Forrester, Donald; Westlake, David; Killian, Mike; Antonopoulou, Vivi; McCann, Michelle; Thurnham, Angela; Thomas, Roma; Waits, Charlotte; Whittaker, Charlotte E.; Hutchison, Douglas (Oxford University Press (OUP), 2019-01-28)
      Communication skills are fundamental to social work, yet few studies have directly evaluated their impact. In this study, we explore the relationship between skills and outcomes in 127 families. An observation of practice was undertaken on the second or third meeting with a family. Practice quality was evaluated in relation to seven skills, which were grouped into three dimensions: relationship building, good authority and evocation of intrinsic motivation. Outcomes at approximately six months were parent-reported engagement (Working Alliance Inventory), Goal Attainment Scaling (GAS), an eleven-point family life satisfaction rating, the Family Environment Scale and General Health Questionnaire and service outcomes from agency records including children entering care. Relationship-building skills predicted parent-reported engagement, although good authority and evocation had stronger relationships with outcome measures. Where workers visited families more often, relationships between skills and outcomes were stronger, in part because workers had more involvement and in part because these families were more likely to have significant problems. The relationship between skills and outcomes was complicated, although the findings provide encouraging evidence that key social work skills have an influence on outcomes for families.