How policymakers and staff can use research

We need the knowledge

Research can play a vital role in improving outcomes for children, but the workforce, and policymakers, must learn how to use it

A robust knowledge base which draws upon the experiences of those who deliver the services and from those who receive the services is needed if the government is going to achieve its aim of impoving outcomes for children, write Claire Teague and James Blewett. In response to this, there has been increasing interest in using research and many initiatives that aim to integrate research findings to improve the experience of children’s services for those who use them.

In order to respond to the challenges of building a knowledge base for the children’s workforce the Children’s Workforce Development Council (CWDC) has developed its own practitioner-led research (PLR) programme which has commissioned 126 projects over the last two years. The programme is designed to gain a better understanding of existing and developing practice from those who deliver services to children, young people and their families and from those who receive the services. These projects have enabled practitioners to explore their own practice, develop ideas, and work with other colleagues across a range of work settings to learn from what they were doing. The reports from these projects have provided CWDC with valuable insights into the children’s workforce and the issues practitioners and service users face.

CWDC will be commissioning up to a further 100 PLR projects during 2008-9. These small-scale research projects will focus on the key issue of integrated working within the children’s workforce, which will help to inform workforce development through learning from those who deliver and receive services.

This year all successful projects will be supported by the university-based national dissemination network, Making Research Count. This is a consortium of universities who have worked with a wide range of employers over the last 10 years with the aim of building up the research literacy of the workforce. Within this project the support is based on local relationships between university researchers and practitioners and will include a series of face-to-face meetings throughout the duration of the programme.

The overall aim, therefore, of this initiative is that not only will the projects contribute to the knowledge base by capturing local practice but also help a key layer of the workforce develop their skills in carrying out and using research.

Claire Teague is research officer and project lead, CWDC. James Blewett is research director at the Social Care Workforce Research Unit, King’s College London and National Chair of Making Research Count

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