I am delighted to have been appointed as the Founding Chair of the What Works Centre for Children’s Social Care. I have worked in children’s services for over 40 years since the mid 1970s. In that time I have seen the fads and ideas about social work practice come and go only to be represented with a new logo and little evidence as to whether or not they work or in what circumstances they work for which children and families.
I know from experience and practice that every day, of every week, of every year many social workers work with children and families to help them change what they do and how they relate to each other, thereby creating an opportunity for them to overcome the challenges and problems they face. We do not know enough or do enough to ensure that the lessons of their work are more widely developed and implemented in our children services.
The new What Works Centre will play a crucial role in supporting the leaders of children’s services to create the conditions for more evidence-informed practice. It must address the many gaps in the evidence base that we know to exist, improve the accessibility and relevance of evidence, and support practitioners to deliver effective arrangements based on what works and what does not in a variety of circumstances, with a variety of young people and families.
For the first time the sector will have access to one place which will be the repository of best evidence and best practice in changing outcomes for children, and a dedicated champion for the application of robust standards of evidence in children’s social care research.
The WWC Development Team has done a sterling job in consulting with the sector and other key stakeholders about how they want this new centre to develop and what its priorities should be. Research has already been commissioned in two key areas: why children come into care and what characterises effective supervision for social workers.
Key priorities for the WWC include:
- Recruiting a senior leadership team
- Building strong alliances with the key stakeholders in our sector – including those delivering services and those in the academic and training communities;
- Bringing forward a five year strategy that includes securing a strong financial base for the WWC
- Laying out a clear map of the existing evidence base, and design a relevant and focused programme of research and evaluation that addresses the gaps and other weaknesses
- Starting the programme of delivering accessible, relevant evidence to the sector by promoting the work of the pioneer local authority partners and representing evidence of effective services from the evaluations gathered in the DfE’s Innovation Programme.
I look forward to working with you as we set out to build an effective What Works Centre for children’s social care that fosters a culture of increasingly evidence-informed practice in the ongoing pursuit of the best outcomes for our children and their families.