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Reclaiming Social Work? An Evaluation of Systemic Units as an Approach to Delivering Children‘s Services

Final report of a comparative study of practice and the factors shaping it in three local authorities

This report presents the findings of an evaluation of the systemic unit model as an approach to the delivery of Children‘s Social Services. The systemic unit model has sometimes been referred to as the ―Hackney Model‖ or ―Reclaiming Social Work‖ (Cross et al, 2010; Munro, 2011a; Trowler and Goodman, 2012). The evaluation is an in-depth comparative description of practice and the factors shaping it in three local authorities. One of the authorities used the systemic unit model; the other two authorities differed but both had a more conventional model for the structure of services. This involved individual allocation to social workers who received supervision from a line manager.

The primary focus of the report is a detailed description of practice in the different local authorities with an attempt to understand the factors that shape good or poor practice. As such, it provides extensive evidence on the likely effectiveness of the systemic unit approach. However, in carrying out the study we have become increasingly interested in factors that shape practice more generally, and we have tried to present evidence and develop theories relating to this. As such, we hope that the report will be of interest not only to those who wish to know more about the systemic unit model but to anybody interested in developing more effective ways of delivering Children‘s Services.