“Drawing from cartoons and the evidence-base”

Anna Bacchoo
Director of Practice

19 July 2018

You might know Harry Venning as the cartoonist who draws ‘Clare in the Community’ comic strip. He’s made a generation of social workers laugh at themselves and the world. But this week he pulled off what some would say is the impossible. At an event, whilst my colleague and I were speaking, he drew a cartoon about gaps in the evidence-base!

And of course this is important. At the event – the Joint Principal Social Workers’ Network Conference – I was there with SCIE director Ewan King. We gave an overview of the What Works Centre for Children’s Social Care’s aims and initial research themes. These are:

  • safely reducing the need for children to enter care
  • supervision and decision-making
  • workforce wellbeing
  • how we respond at the front door to the system.

Ewan took the opportunity to talk about work just starting with partner local authorities to ‘prototype’ new ways of creating evidence-informed practice. The Network told us they’re keen to hear more about this and, in fact, they won’t need to wait long. Announcements are due very shortly about which local authorities we are working with in the first phase of partnerships. You can register for the Centre’s e-newsletter to make sure you hear about developments.

What about those evidence gaps?

I spoke to the conference about our engagement with the sector and how crucial this is to the design and delivery of the Centre. This work includes regional practitioner events across the country to consult on: where there is good evidence and where the gaps are – that’s when Harry started drawing; ‘practice insights’ studies with nine local authorities; and the establishment of a Practitioner Panel.

I was delighted to hear that the Network are keen to be part of our engagement plan moving forward.
The theme of the conference was: Aspiration or Reality? This feels as pertinent to the Centre as to any other aspect of current social work practice. We’re all striving to make our aspirations for children, young people and families a reality and it was encouraging to be a room with practitioners open to working together to make it happen.

And the point about Harry’s cartoons? If he can make evidence that accessible then so can all of children’s social care; and, in turn, evidence can be more easily used to inform decisions about the lives of children and families so that their experiences and outcomes can continually improve.