Research Informing Practice

The stand out of the past  couple of weeks has been the use of research to inform more effective practice. During several visits, and in a presentation by Dr Melissa Van  Dyke from the University of North Carolina, I ended the fortnight in a more positive place about the potential we have in Scotland to consistently focus our time and energy on shifting our efforts away from crisis to earlier intervention with a strong focus on outcomes.

Visits to Penumbra, NSPCC, the Quarriers Family Centre in Ruchazie and Melissa’s contribution gave me cautious optimism that Scotland can build on progress already being made across local authorities and third sector organisations. It is increasingly clear from these visits and those made over the last year that despite the considerable challenges facing organisations, positive shifts are being made with the word outcome much more common place.

I spent the day with Penumbra’s Chief Executive, Nigel Henderson, whose long standing commitment to both staff and service users is paying dividends.  They havePenumbra developed an effective outcomes focus through their IROCs (Individual Recovery Outcomes Counter) which measures the recovery journey of the people who use their services.  It identifies key areas in the individual’s life and measures them in the form of a spiders web. This is a user friendly and effective measure involving staff, service users and carers . Whilst it primarily measures change in the service user, it is also giving staff improved levels of satisfaction in the work they are undertaking, by better understanding the positive changes to the lives of those they work with.

I visited NSPCC Service Centre in Govan where we had the opportunity to hear about and discuss the key programmes being implemented by Matt Forde and his team in Glasgow and surrounding local authorities. Encouraging progress being made on the New Orleans and Triple P early intervention programmes although somewhat more challenging is the Minding the Baby programme. It was refreshing to hear about just how difficult it can be working with young mothers living in chaotic circumstances.  A reminder that we learn as much from such programmes as we do from those which are working well!

My trips to Glasgow concluded with fulfilling a longstanding commitment to visit Ruchazie Family Support Centre – a mere stone throw from my days as a senior social worker in Blackhill. Wilma and Rhonda shared some of their excellent work the centre, working closely with the local community and responsive to the needs of an area with significant challenges. Examples of excellent work around sectarianism and domestic abuse. Triple P, a baby massage and a drop in resource all attracting more than 170 families. From small beginnings 15 years ago, this resource is now in the heart of the community.

The last fortnight saw both the arrival of IRISS’s new Director, Jackie McKenzie and last Thursday the retirement of Alison Petch. Warm tributes to Alison’s contributions both in word and song included from Chair,  Peter MacLeod, yours truly and Annie Gunner Logan, who always has a song for such an occasion!  Whilst Alison goes with every good wish, I do hope her talents are not entirely lost to the profession in Scotland.

Finally, it was a privilege to be the keynote speaker at Key Supports Annual Awards ceremony in Glasgow.Key Awards This was at the invitation of my friend and colleague Donald McKinnon who has been an integral part of workforce development within the organisation. It was particularly special to meet Bill Mooney who was a founding father of the organisation, establishing an organisation 30 years ago on the principles of person centred support and personalisation for his own son. Thankfully Scotland has now caught up with the past!

Finally back to Dr Melissa Van Dyke’s presentation at the CELCIS and Social Work Scotland event “Closing the Gap:Implementation, Impact and Inequality” at Strathclyde University last week. Melissa posed a number of key questions to her audience including;

  • How do we shift the financial investment from ‘acute’ towards prevention and earlier intervention?
  • How do we ensure intervention with vulnerable and chaotic families is thoughtful, measured and evidence based?
  • How do we align services and develop an integrated commissioning strategy that is focussed on tackling our key challenges ?

As Melissa said, “if answering these questions was easy then we would have done it by now”.  That is absolutely true, but with the commitment round the tables, a number of key areas of Scotland are already setting out their stall and given my observations of practice over the past couple of weeks, there is a great deal of room for optimism!