Focus on practice in three London boroughs: an evaluation
Focus on Practice introduced systemic training and systems level changes to family social work in three London Boroughs. Beginning in 2014, the local authorities employed clinicians (family therapists and clinical psychologists), embarked on a programme of training for over 500 social workers and other related practitioners, over 160 supervising practitioners, and senior managers. In addition, changes to recording were introduced. Other elements of Focus on Practice were investment in an observation and coaching and motivational interviewing programme, parenting programmes and Signs of Safety. The programme was designed to bring greater coherence and confidence to social work practice, and aimed at embedding a new culture based on systems thinking, reducing the number of re-referrals of family cases and reducing the number of children in care.
Thomas Coram Research Unit, UCL Institute of Education was commissioned to evaluate the programme between May 2015 and March 2017. Given the broad scope of Focus on Practice, the evaluation focuses more narrowly on the implementation context and the impact of the systemic training and allied systems changes to social workers, team leaders and managers in assessment practice, and those working with families in the longer term. Practice scenarios were used to ascertain the extent to which respondents aligned their work with the intended learning outcomes of the training, alongside interviews designed to elicit perspectives and experiences. Families’ views were also investigated through interviews, network maps and a family functioning tool called SCORE-15. Administrative data was used to assess child and cost outcomes and changes in how time was spent were assessed using a survey informed by focus group discussion.