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Evidence-Based PolicyA Practical Guide to Doing It Better$

Nancy Cartwright and Jeremy Hardie

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199841608

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:osobl/9780199841608.001.0001

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(p.179) Appendix II The Munro Review

(p.179) Appendix II The Munro Review

Evidence-Based Policy
Oxford University Press

We reproduce below the text that follows the causal loop diagram, Figure III.5 in this book, found in Appendix A of the Munro Review (Munro 2011: 136–38). It provides the story underlying the diagram.

  1. 1. The increase in rules and guidance governing child and family social work activity over the past two decades has had a number of unintended consequences on the health of their profession and outcomes for vulnerable children and young people. Some are illustrated in this “causal loop diagram.”

  2. 2. The quality of the outcomes for children and young people delivered by child protection services is heavily influenced by three factors. First, the wide variety of needs that children and young people have; the more variety, the harder it is to meet those needs. Second, professionals can only work within the scope that they are allowed for applying their professional expertise. If that scope is increased, alongside an investment in building social workers’ capabilities, then it is likely that outcomes for children will improve. Third, outcomes are also improved when professionals establish and maintain high quality relationships with children, young people and their families.

  3. 3. Increasing prescription for the ways in which child and family social workers respond to children and families’ needs has had a number of ripple effects in the system. These have primarily manifested themselves as unintended consequences on the ability of children’s social care to protect children and young people and feedback effects (see below for definition) forming damaging “vicious circles.”

  4. 4. For example, too much prescription of practice, which diminishes professional responsibility for judgments and decisions, has an unintended (p.180) consequence of reducing the job satisfaction, self-esteem and sense of personal responsibility experienced by child protection workers. This leads to the further unintended consequence of increasing amounts of time taken off absent or sick. In fact, this goes on to create a reinforcing loop, R1 (see below for definition): those still at work have to take on larger caseloads and in turn have less time to build relationships with children and families; in time, this reduces the quality of the outcomes for children and young people, which further reduces the sense of job satisfaction.

  5. 5. Another unintended consequence of prescription is that dissatisfaction with the role causes high staff turnover. Again, this creates larger caseloads and reduced contact time with children, young people and families, so another vicious circle is created, R2.

  6. 6. Two other influences are illustrated, each exacerbating the ripple effects. Too much prescription reduces scope for professionals to respond appropriately to each individual case and, though it takes longer for the effect to play out, this reduces the quality of outcomes for children and families. In addition, the large amounts of time social workers are forced to spend on Integrated Children’s System (ICS), reduces the time they can spend directly engaging with children, young people and families. Both of these can be seen as unintended consequences of burdensome rules and guidance. However, they also strengthen the two feedback effects (reduced job satisfaction due to increased caseloads as a result of absence and high turnover), making these loops even more damaging.

  7. 7. Although only a few “ripple effects” are illustrated here, they are indicative of a range of unintended consequences resulting from an overly-prescriptive approach to child and family social work. This collection of reinforcing loops has restricted the capabilities of the profession, increasingly reducing its effectiveness.