• By Dartington SRU
  • Posted on Friday 12th February, 2010

Something back to front at the grass roots?

Grass roots providers of children’s services in the UK are being encouraged to submit examples of their best prevention and early intervention practice for validation by a national assessment body.On the face of it, the joint initiative by the UK Association of Directors of Children’s Servics (ADCS) and the Centre for Excellence and Outcomes in Children and Young People’s Services (C4EO) skirts many of the scientific and technical requirements required of “model” or “promising” programs in the US.To qualify for the C4EO validated practice base, for example, “mature and well tried” interventions must demonstrate only that they are strongly supported by practice experience and evidence and be able to produce “convincing outcome data”.A promising practice needs only to show “a good rationale and some evidence to suggest it can be successful and has the potential for replication”. The call for evidence has been aligned with the work of the UK National Family Intervention Strategy Group, which Children, Schools and Families secretary Ed Balls set up at the end of last year to examine the case for introducing intensive family intervention services. In making the argument for harvesting “validated local practice examples”, C4EO makes the statement – curious in the light of the investment elsewhere in translational research – that it “recognizes that not all useful knowledge about ‘what works’ and why, is to be found in research reports and papers”. “We believe that there is invaluable evidence based in the experience and practice in local authorities, their Children’s Trust partners and local strategic partnerships. Moreover, local knowledge and practice on ‘what works’ is often ahead of that contained in research reports, which can take months or years to publish. "C4EO wishes to mobilize and share this valuable local resource and use it to complement and extend the formal research evidence available to the sector.”The announcement, which extends a C4EO initiative launched last year, has been interpreted by the UK social care professional magazine Community Care as a rearguard action to fend off local government spending cuts.It quotes ADCS President Kim Bromley-Derry’s reasoning that a strong evidence base would reassure councils with tight budgets that investment in preventative practice was sound."It is difficult for authorities facing short term budget pressures and planning for reducing budgets over the next few years to take a chance on unproven initiatives, but we hope that the publication of a strong evidence base will help to promote the advantages of investing in these services," he said.The invitation extends to front-line inventions that:

  • enable the effective identification and assessment of the needs of vulnerable children and families
  • demonstrate effective partnership and integrated working, including different models for structuring effective multi-agency support including intensive intervention with families with complex problems
  • engage parents at the early signs of a child or young person’s problem and work with the family to address it
  • support a strong culture of prevention
  • show how joint working by Children’s Trust Board partners has enabled a focused approach to early intervention
The validating panel are also looking for evidence of financial sustainability, reduced impact on the care system and safeguarding – the contribution made by family interventions in safeguarding children, how they should work alongside universal services and what actions are needed to ensure this happens.The Centre for Excellence and Outcomes in Children and Young People's Services was created in 2008-09. Its projected spending for 2009-10 is $8.7m and for 2010-11 $8.5 million. Its grant expires in March 2011.See also: Laying new foundations for the evidence base and the Prevention Action special edition on Standards of evidence.

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