Evidently sensible

A unique project with government backing has been helping to disseminate the results of evidence-based research to social workers, report Jan-Hakan Hansson and Haluk Soydan.

Evidence-based social work has risen high up the national agenda in Sweden. For the past three years the Campbell Collaboration (www.campbellcollaboration.org) has been lobbying hard for evidence-based knowledge in many countries including Sweden.

Its goal is to produce, disseminate, and continuously update reviews of studies of the effectiveness of social and behavioural interventions, including education interventions that are useful to policymakers, practitioners and the public.

The Campbell Collaboration’s value, and that of its older sibling in health care, the Cochrane Collaboration, lies partly in its uniqueness. No other organisation in the social and behavioural research sector is dedicated to systematic reviews of high-quality studies or employs such advanced statistical methods. The collaboration adopts transparent and uniform standards of evidence and specifies rigorous procedures to avoid bias in the screening of studies and in producing reviews. It continuously updates reviews and combines new technologies with conventional methods to achieve its aims. It also builds end-user networks.

In 2001 the Swedish government commissioned the National Board of Health and Welfare to implement a programme of national support for knowledge development in and for social services agencies.

The assignment highlighted how government investigations into the quality of social services in recent years have recurrently emphasised the significance of follow-up and evaluation of the value of social work for users.

The government emphasised the necessity of working towards more systematic assessment and evaluation of methods and ways of working than those that had been used. Knowledge generated by social work practice and continual learning, it felt, should be given more weight in social services.

SEK 50m (£3.5m) was allocated for 2001-3 to implement the programme. This has enabled field trials to integrate local social services with schools of social work at universities.

Another is the project to build a system for an easily accessible and qualified information supply system for social services. Target groups are professionals, students, researchers and academic staff.

This needs to include an infrastructure for easily accessible information throughout Sweden and at a local level. Here, support is given for the development of a system in which both new information technology and traditional library resources can be used in an easy and efficient way. A study is being conducted to provide information on:

  • Problems and benefits of a web portal for the whole of social services.
  • Systems for easy and nationwide access to new knowledge through articles, magazines and books and so on.
  • Strategies for user-friendly implementation to stimulate students and professionals to acquire new knowledge actively.

Dr Jan-Hakan Hansson is programme director, national support for knowledge development in social services at the  National Board of Health and Welfare, Stockholm. Dr Haluk Soydan is research director at the centre for evaluation of social services, the National Board of Health and Welfare, and co-chairperson of the Campbell Collaboration.


  • Sweden (Sverige) covers nearly 450,000 sq km (nearly twice the size of the UK) and has a population of 8.9 million.
  • Almost 19 per cent of the population is aged 65 years and over, of which 7.6 per cent receive home care services and 8 per cent live in special accommodation. The local councils (kommun) have responsibility for social services and county governments (landsting) have responsibility for health and medical care.

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