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About this book

This key textbook explores how good social work practice draws upon relevant and current research to ensure that interventions are as effective as possible. Social workers are increasingly required to demonstrate their knowledge of the research and evidence that underpin the daily decisions they make and actions they take and it is therefore vital that they are not only up to date with the latest research, but that they have the tools and understanding to successfully apply this to their practice. Written by leading experts in the field, this text book provides a step-by-step guide to implementing research in to every day social work practice.

This is essential reading for any one taking a research module on Social Work programmes, at undergraduate and postgraduate level, or practitioners wishing to advance their own practise and deliver the best possible service they can.

Table of Contents

Key Issues in Applying Research Evidence in Social Work Practice


Chapter 1. Applying Research Evidence in Social Work Practice: Seeing Beyond Paradigms

Social work knowledge is derived from multiple sources including social theory, social research and the experiential knowledge of individuals, families, communities and human service organisations. Additionally, social work is informed by many disciplines — psychology, sociology, anthropology or psychiatry to name just a few. The inherent complexity of social work means that practitioners are required to draw on many diverse sources of knowledge to inform their practice; rarely is one source of knowledge alone sufficient. Whether their knowledge is derived from legislation or policy, research, service users or carers, or their own experience, social work practitioners need to be equipped with the skills to engage with each type and source of knowledge. Furthermore, they need to know when, and how, to use different types of knowledge in their practice.
Martin Webber, Sarah Carr

Chapter 2. Locating Evidence for Practice

The ‘digital revolution’ has provided us with access to a mind-boggling array of information and data, which was simply inconceivable before the creation of the World Wide Web. This direct access has become an implicit part of our lives and provides an immense source of knowledge for social work researchers, practitioners and clients alike. But for evidence-based practice to work as a process, we will need a methodical approach to the actions of searching, collecting and assessing relevant research for social work practice.
Paul D. S. Ross

3. Appraising the Quality of Evidence

Appraising the quality of research evidence is not simply an academic exercise for scholars undertaking research reviews; it genuinely matters for social work practice. As Macdonald (2003: 12) has argued: ‘This is not just a sterile academic debate. It matters. When we intervene in people’s lives we have a responsibility to try to get it right’.
Sarah Carr, Lisa Bostock

Chapter 4. Using Evidence to Inform Assessments

Assessment is a crucial ‘sense-making’ activity which sets the parameters for subsequent stages of the social work process, including decision-making, planning and direct intervention. However, how practitioners ought best undertake assessment — how they should go about it — is not necessarily straightforward. There are ongoing debates regarding whether assessment is best conceived of according to a broadly ‘artistic’ or ‘scientific’ logic. Consequently, the role that research evidence might play in the process of assessment can sometimes be unclear.
Mark Hardy

Chapter 5. Using Evidence to Inform Decision-Making

Social workers cannot avoid making decisions. In working with service users and carers, they have to think about how they use their skills to communicate and to build a working relationship. They have to decide on the advice to give and the strategies they choose to employ in interventions with people, groups and communities. They are also involved in deciding how resources are allocated, and how sanctions and public powers are invoked to constrain problem behaviours and address risky situations.
Tony Evans

Chapter 6. Using Research Evidence in Practice: A View from the Ground

Using evidence improves practice. As a social worker in a busy frontline team, it is important to be able to look at how we can incorporate research evidence into day-to-day work and explore how this is possible even when a caseload is bulging at the seams and time is short. In this chapter, I explore the practicalities of incorporating research evidence into a work style and approach, sometimes in spite of an environment which may not be conducive to it.
Victoria Hart

Applying Research Evidence in Different Social Work Contexts


Chapter 7. Safeguarding Children

Since the mid-1990s, we have witnessed a significant expansion in research designed to inform policy and practice in the field of social work with children and families. From population studies that seek to measure need (Axford, 2010), to studies that focus on specific processes and outcomes arising from new policy initiatives (Neil et al., 2010), there has been an unprecedented increase in the generation of knowledge reflecting a broader national and international trend towards evidence-based practice in public services. Research knowledge can be clustered around the following topics that are central to the work of safeguarding children: ‘child development’, ‘family ecology’, ‘early intervention and prevention’, ‘child maltreatment’, ‘attachment’, and ‘substitute care and adoption’. Drawing from across the disciplines of psychology, sociology, law and medicine, an interdisciplinary knowledge base now informs policy and practice development. The growth in research has been paralleled by an increase in both the range and number of institutional and web-based portals that bring research in accessible formats direct to the practitioner. In this context, it is imperative that the research-minded practitioner is able to understand the antecedents of current trends, and to sift and filter high-quality material from the mass of information available and appropriately apply research to practice.
Karen Broadhurst, Andrew Pithouse

Chapter 8. Working with Looked-After Children

In 2012, there were around 91,000 children in the care system in the UK. (In this chapter, ‘child’ or ‘children’ is used to refer to those aged 0–18. Where there is specific discussion of those aged 12 and over, the terms ‘young person’ or ‘young people’ are used.) Following a number of years of decline, the number of children in the care system rose between 2008 and 2012 (see NSPCC, 2013). The latest available statistics for England show 62 per cent of children entered care due to abuse or neglect (Glenndenning, 2012), though some research studies (Quinton and Rutter, 1988; Wade et al., 2011) have found higher proportions of looked-after children may have had such experiences. Other principal reasons for children entering out-of-home placements are: ‘family dysfunction’ (where parenting capacity is deemed chronically inadequate) 14%, ‘family in acute stress’ (where a temporary crisis renders parenting capacity temporarily diminished by external circumstances) 9%, ‘absent parenting’ 5%, parental illness or disability 4%, child disability 3% and socially unacceptable behaviour by the child 2% (see Glenndenning, 2012). A large proportion of those entering care come from families already known to social work teams (Cleaver, 2000), while young people of twelve and older are more likely to have entered care due to their own behaviour or family breakdown, and are more likely to exhibit emotional and behavioural difficulties (Sinclair, 2005).
Robin Sen

Chapter 9. Working with Young People with Additional Needs

This chapter will provide an overview of the evidence in the field of social work with young people with additional needs. It will illustrate how reliable research evidence can be used in social work practice using a hypothetical case study, which illuminates the conceptual points made. This will enable readers to engage critically with debates about how research evidence informs this complex area of social work practice. The chapter contains a macro perspective of Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) to show where social work engages with a service increasingly dominated by medical and psychological management and interventions, provides definitions of commonly used terms, outlines the political, social and economic context of service provision and, finally, offers the latest empirical and clinical research studies for readers to absorb and reflect on as they seek to apply this knowledge to their practice contexts.
Steven Walker

Chapter 10. Working with People who Experience Alcohol and Other Drug Problems

Alcohol and other drug use (hereafter referred to as ‘substance misuse’) is a significant factor in determining the well-being, health and social care of many social work service users. Substance use and the problems related to it span many specialist areas of adults’ and children’s social work practice. Some social workers choose to specialise in substance use; the majority do not. Social workers, through their roles, knowledge and skills, are tasked with responding to the situations and concerns that arise in people’s lives as a result of their substance use. This response includes identifying, assessing and intervening with substance use. There is increasing evidence for the success of substance use interventions and their appropriateness for use by non-substance specialist frontline staff.
Wulf Livingston, Sarah Galvani

Chapter 11. Working with People with Mental Health Problems

It is a sad reality that mental ill-health is a pervasive aspect of our lives. Amongst people under 65 years old, nearly half of all illness is mental illness; and it is calculated in a recent report that a common disorder such as depression tends, on average, to be more debilitating than chronic physical illnesses such as angina, arthritis, asthma or diabetes (Centre for Economic Performance’s Mental Health Policy Group, 2012). In England, a country with 21 million dwellings, the number of people with a mental illness is estimated in the same report to be around 7 million, from which a not unreasonable extrapolation is that one in three households in England is affected by mental illness. It is also estimated that, in England, 700,000 children have behavioural problems, depression or anxiety, of whom only one quarter have access to treatment (Green et al., 2005) and 700,000 people in the United Kingdom are living with dementia, most of them older people (Knapp and Prince, 2007).
Nick Gould, Tom Lochhead

Chapter 12. Working with Disabled People

This chapter considers the place and purpose of research evidence when working with disabled people. A central concern of the disabled people’s movement and of its academic partner disability studies has been to highlight the way in which disabled people have been excluded from the production of research and other forms of evidence, except as passive subjects of research, or as recipients of policy and practice based on that exclusionary research. This means that any discussion of evidence to inform practice with disabled people must start with fundamental questions about how disability is understood, how this informs the production of research and, therefore, what the purpose of social work practice with disabled people is (Morgan and Roulstone, 2012; Oliver, 1983; Sapey, 2004).
Hannah Morgan

Chapter 13. Working with Offenders

This chapter outlines the development over the past 40 years of ideas on ‘what works’ with offenders. In the 1970s and early 1980s, the dominant view among researchers — and even practitioners — was that nothing worked, or at least that no one knew enough to be confident about what kinds of approach might work better than others. Towards the end of the 1980s, a much more positive view began to emerge, based on extensive research that suggested that some approaches had a much better chance of being successful than others.
David Smith

Chapter 14. Working with Older People

Social work practice with older people is an emerging area of specialism, not least because the world’s population is ageing. However, there has not been a strong interest in gerontological social work in the UK, although some social work educators have argued recently that social work with older people is on the verge of a new frontier (Richards et al., 2013). Nonetheless, the same educators admit that evidence from current UK social work post-graduate training programmes suggests that there is overall neglect of ageing in teaching content and practice learning.
Jill Manthorpe

Chapter 15. Increasing the Synergy between Research and Practice in Social Work

This book has featured contributions from leading experts in social work. We have gathered thoughts from academics, researchers, practitioners and people with experience of using services on the research-practice interface in social work. Some embrace notions of evidence-based practice, while others eschew it. What is of key significance, though, is that they share a desire to see research informing social work practice.
Martin Webber
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