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Family Safeguarding Hertfordshire: Evaluation Report

Children’s Social Care Innovation Programme Evaluation Report 55

Family Safeguarding Hertfordshire (FSH) is a whole-system reform of Children’s Services which aims to improve the quality of work undertaken with families, and thereby outcomes for children and parents. It brings together a partnership including the police, health (including mental health), probation and substance misuse services. Key elements include specialist workers with domestic abuse, substance misuse and mental health expertise joining teams; training in Motivational Interviewing (MI is ‘a client-centered, directive therapeutic style to enhance readiness for change’; Rollnick and Miller, 1995, p325- 334) as a framework for practice for all staff; a move to group case discussions; and structured tools to support direct work. In addition, there is an attempt to provide practice-enabling factors, such as reduced caseloads and assessment workbooks.

Evaluation Design

The evaluation consisted of 3 strands:

• qualitative and quantitative data on the process of change from 185 interviews, 7 focus groups, 8 structured observations and 439 questionnaires from staff at 3 time points

• a comparison of practice, service experiences and outcomes prior to, during and after FSH implementation. This involved 126 observations of practice (104 of which were recorded and coded for skill), 108 research interviews with parents shortly after allocation and 40 at T2 (3 months later), and 11 with children. It also used data from computerised records for 447 families

• analysis of a large dataset that included evidence on service use and outcomes for all children and parents in every family allocated in FSH, for the 12 months from August 2015. Data included police involvement, emergency hospital admissions, school attendance, and substance misuse and mental health service use. The data related to the period prior to allocation (12 months) and the period following allocation (which ranged from 3 to 12 months depending on the date of allocation). It was for 940 families (1,752 children and 1,683 adults)

Process of Change

A huge amount was achieved within a very short space of time, including commissioning and delivering a large training programme for all staff; recruitment of new specialist adult workers; creating multidisciplinary teams; introducing new ways of working, and reducing caseloads. Effective management oversight and strong interagency working meant that the key planks of FSH were put in place swiftly, challenges were generally overcome and the reforms were delivered in an impressively efficient manner.

Of the 3 core planks of the programme of work, the involvement of adult workers was implemented swiftly and efficiently and there was a substantial reduction in caseloads. The training in MI was delivered, but was of mixed quality. The qualitative feedback for other elements was also mixed, with case discussions being a generally positive element of the changes, while workbooks and the structured work were less well received. In addition, a sense of energy about the project, and commitment to working to keep families together, were evident and likely to be an important, if less tangible, element of the change programme.

Workers were generally very positive about their role and work; about the changes involved in FSH, and a high level of energy and enthusiasm was sustained over the year. Workers’ levels of stress, satisfaction and intention to stay in the job were influenced by factors both within and beyond the reform programme, with line managers having a particularly important role. Other crucial factors included access to adult workers, individual workloads and stability at team level.