There are often calls for more focus on outcomes in Children’s Social Care yet there is little consensus on what these outcomes should be. Key challenges include who should decide what outcomes should be measured and the sheer range of issues that social workers deal with. The purpose of this paper is to provide a reflective account of approaches to measuring outcomes that the author has used in recent studies in order to illustrate the complexity involved in understanding what the purpose of Children’s Social Care is and therefore how outcomes might be measured.
A review of and reflection on lessons from recent research studies carried out by the author and colleagues.
The results are used to illustrate and support an argument that Children’s Social Care performs multiple functions and that this has implications for thinking about outcomes. Helping children and parents is one element of the work, but assessing risk across large numbers of referrals and identifying those that require involvement is equally important. Furthermore, the social work role requires complex considerations around liberty and the rights of parents and children. One consequence of this is that the quality of the service provided is important in its own right.
It is suggested that the evaluation of Children’s Social Care involves four types of outcomes: measures of the quality of the service provided; assessment of whether the “right” families are being worked with; client-defined measures of change; and the development of appropriate standardised instruments. Examples of approaches in each area are discussed.
The theoretical considerations suggest that we need to have a multi-dimensional approach to evaluating, inspecting and leading Children’s Social Care services. In particular, the importance of the quality of delivery and appropriate targeting of the service are emphasised, as well as considering various approaches to measuring outcomes.
The paper proposes a combination of qualitative and quantitative measures of process, assessment and outcomes for evaluating outcomes in Children’s Social Care.
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