It is excellent news today that the What Works Centre for Children’s Social Care has announced it will be working with six authorities to evaluate the effect of Schwartz Rounds on staff well-being. Haringey Council, Liverpool City Council, Nottinghamshire County Council, Walsall Council, Warwickshire County Council and West Sussex County Council have been selected to pilot the intervention in a social care setting.
Schwartz Rounds appear to be a very good fit for children’s social care, providing a regular, structured forum for staff to come together and discuss the emotional and social aspects of their work. There cannot be many people within the social care sector, if any, who do not already recognise the power of talking and listening and bearing witness to shared experiences. What may be a little more unusual is the openness of Schwartz Rounds – they are not only for qualified social workers, as many similar forms of support often are. Instead, all members of staff are invited, in recognition of their shared purpose. And within Schwartz Rounds, because they are not a decision-making forum or a place for accountability, hierarchy and different roles become less important. We are all people working with people. There is every reason, then, to hope that the introduction of Schwartz Rounds will help improve the psychological well-being of staff in children’s services.
Haringey, Liverpool, Nottinghamshire, Walsall, Warwickshire and West Sussex are in many ways quite different authorities, of varying size, with different demographic and funding pressures and as a result, a variety of different services and staff. One thing they evidently have in common is their shared desire to support the well-being of their workforce, recognising that children’s services can be a tough place to work, irrespective of whether you are a social worker, supervisor, senior manager, early help coordinator, administrator, family worker or any other role.
Yet these six authorities are also united by something else – a desire to provide robust evidence for the sector about ‘what works’ (and for who, in what circumstances). For this project, we will be randomly allocating every member of staff within the sample to either an intervention or a waiting-list control group. Those in the intervention group will be invited to attend Schwartz Rounds. Those in the waiting-list control group will be asked not to attend until early 2020. This aspect of the evaluation is challenging but necessary. Randomised Control Trials are far from common in children’s services, for all sorts of reasons. Nevertheless, they are a crucial test of whether something works – or not. Credit should be given to the six authorities who are partnering with us on this research programme, for their commitment to helping us to build the evidence base around this intervention, which could potentially benefit a far larger group of practitioners in the long run. We are also grateful to the Point of Care Foundation for agreeing to be part of the What Works Centre’s first randomised trial.
With the announcement today, work on the project can begin in earnest. There is much to do between now and the end of the year – including training facilitators and practice leads to deliver the Schwartz Rounds, working with administrators to coordinate the logistics, keeping more than 3,000 members of staff informed about what is happening, not to mention collecting all the data. By March 2020, we will report our findings, come what may. No matter what the results of the trial, we’re really pleased to be able to contribute to the evidence base in this important area, and to be going on this journey with the Point of Care Foundation and these six local authorities.