Evidence-Based Social Care: A Study of Prospects and Problems

By Brian Sheldon and Rupatharshini Chilvers.

Russell House Publishing

£11.95 (paperback)

ISBN 1 898924 84 8

Evidence matters as the authors of this potent short piece of
research remind us. For example, who would have thought that the
introduction of care management would have doubled the rate of
hospital admissions of older people when all the projections
predicted that it would halve that rate? The authors are aware, as
readers will be after reading this volume, that there is a
well-documented tendency in social care to develop attachments to
particular solutions that ride a wave of popularity. The difficulty
is that no one bothers to verify the outcome to see if the
enthusiasm is justified.

So the authors wanted to find out just how receptive
practitioners are to evidence of all descriptions.

Their questionnaire went to individual workers in several large
social services departments and was designed to probe whether
agencies encouraged the gathering and use of evidence. For example,
is evidence discussed in supervision, in meetings and on training
courses? What are the reading habits and information preferences of
practitioners? And what is the general attitude to research and
accumulating evidence?

For example, the study revealed that 66 per cent of staff
surveyed thought that their employers provided “little” or “no”
encouragement to use research to inform practice. On the other hand
about half of staff surveyed were reasonably content with work
facilities and had means for gaining information.

The data confirm the authors’ perspective – that the
appreciation and use of data are given short shrift in the social
care worker’s career. These findings overall do blend with the
authors’ mission. Both are based at the centre for evidence-based
social services at Exeter University and are trying to galvanise
authorities to take more seriously the role of evidence. They have
some modest success to report on this score but acknowledge the
extent of the culture change that service agencies still must

John Pierson is senior lecturer, institute of social
work and applied social studies, Staffordshire

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