NSPCC moves towards “rigorous evaluation” of what works

NSPCC moves towards “rigorous evaluation” of what works

“Rigorous evaluation and social care practice can sometimes feel like oil and water” – Peter Wanless

Peter Wanless, Chief Executive of the NSPCC has spoken of his vision for the future of the NSPCC, which he hopes will encourage evidence-based research into social care practice and improve service delivery.

Wanless, in an article written specifically to outline the importance of research in social care, says there has been significant change in the way the NSPCC have been working in the past 3 years and has stated that now is a good time to reflect on what has been learnt along the way.

Child abuse prevention models must be “proven”

On the subject of the application of rigorous evaluation in social care, Wanless is very clear: “There are still those who doubt the value of rigorous evaluation methods in social care, however we simply can’t ignore the need to ensure our child abuse prevention models are proven, nor can we overlook the financial imperative to find cost-effective interventions, especially so in these cash strapped times.”

He admits that rigorous evaluation can be a challenge, but comments that the NSPCC’s commitment to the process brings valuable new knowledge.

Proving what works is paramount: he considers randomized control trials (RCT) as the “gold standard method of proving efficacy.”

Long-term investment in sexual abuse services

To that end the NSPCC is working on the largest RCT study of a “psycho-dynamic” approach to help sexually-abused children which, he hopes, will justify the “long-term value of investing in sexual abuse services.”

He cites learning as a key focus in the NSPCC’s new strategy, with Wanless’s view of discovery through process, and not just on the effectiveness of models currently used. Capturing and sharing the insights with others is equally important, he says.

When it comes to innovation, Wanless believes that the best ideas can be slow to pick up. The face-to-face service, he recalls, was initially unpopular, but in some areas demand outstrips supply.

This model, he advised, was created from consultation with children in care themselves, and initial evaluation is showing promising results.

He praises innovations such as The Big Lottery Fund’s Better Start Initiative, and rates these models highly as they encourage public, private and voluntary sectors to work together, using evidence to spark ideas to help solve local issues.

Although Mr. Wanless admits the NSPCC doesn’t have all the answers, he states: “[…] we are gathering some fascinating insights into how to best help vulnerable children and families. If rigorous evaluation accompanies innovation where it is most needed, together we can help local authorities tackle the big challenges in child protection.”