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Knowing how to protect: Using research evidence to prevent harm to children

This joint report with the NSPCC argues for the greater use of evidence to support the professional judgement of social workers working with children.

This joint report with the NSPCC argues for the greater use of evidence to support the professional judgement of social workers working with children.

Key Findings

  • Social workers should get more involved in creating new research and using data
  • Social workers should have more back-up from the bosses to engage with evidence
  • Social workers should have the opportunity to learn from their peers – and reflect on their own experiences
  • Social workers should receive better education and training on evidence use
  • A culture and ecosystem should be created that fosters research use

The sad reality is that abuse and neglect of children is not in decline. Much has been written about the need to rethink services and ensure that limited resources achieve the best possible outcomes for our most vulnerable children and families.

This paper outlines some ways forward to improve evidence use in child protection. In contrast to other sectors, the evidence base for what works in social care is underdeveloped and there has been a perceived tension between using evidence to inform practice and professional judgement. A fear of ‘de-skilling’ staff and becoming over-reliant on ‘tick box’, static, standardised models.

This tension is misplaced and outdated, professional judgement and evidence can – and should - be mutually supportive. This paper argues for a move toward ‘Structured Professional Judgement’, in which professional decision-making is supported by research-based standardised tools. Proposing measures including the adoption of structures to think about what evidence will be useful and changes to working and staffing practices that will allow social workers to increase their engagement with, and ownership of, evidence.

Authors
Jonathan Breckon, Head of the Alliance for Useful Evidence and Joanne Hay, Head of Strategy at the National Society for the Protection of Children, NSPCC

Authors

Jonathan Breckon

Jonathan Breckon

Jonathan Breckon

Director, Alliance for Useful Evidence

Jonathan Breckon has 15 years experience in policy, research and public affairs.

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