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Building upon evidence-informed practice in Devon County Council

20 November 2018

Verity SutcliffeDevon County Council

At Devon County Council, we’ve been using our annual Research in Practice (RiP) usage statistics to inform our promotion activities. In this blog, I share our experiences to support the wider Partnership network to promote RiP in their organisations. 

In March we received a colourful spreadsheet from RiP demonstrating how we had been making use of our subscription (web statistics, new accounts, downloads, learning events), the whole ‘360-degree support’. It made me think – what is this data telling us, and how might it help us promote RiP?

We decided to use this information as a catalyst to find out more about how and why Devon County Council employees are using RiP and what we can do to encourage them to use it even more. This included: 

Top ten downloads

This was a new aspect of the annual data and the results were a bit surprising – with the child sexual exploitation (CSE) publications being the most downloaded. For example, the Child sexual exploitation: Practice Tool and Working Effectively to Address Child Sexual Exploitation: Evidence Scope. We used these figures to write an article in the March Newsletter – Top ten downloads of 2017 encouraging staff to consider which would support them to keep their practice up to date. We will look to repeat this for 2018 as it makes for good seasonal publicity. 

One-time visitors

Many visitors had been once to the website. We wondered why, so did a short survey asking staff about their experience. Responses were limited (14) but encouraging. Most people visited looking for a specific resource and everyone found something applicable to their work. However, time was the biggest barrier to re-visiting.

Interestingly, the majority said they would re-visit when needed, or that they had already been back to the original resource. This demonstrates that statistics from web usage are part of a bigger usage picture – someone may have downloaded a resource and have found it very valuable, either by revisiting it later, or accessing information that did not require logging in. 

Sharing usage data with managers

We matched the RiP data with our data to identify web usage in different areas of the service. We shared this with operational/area managers and frontline managers to enable them to identify which individuals and teams were making the most of our subscription. We also used this information to identify ‘frequent flyers’ and to gather their stories to inform ourselves further (as below).   

Identifying ‘frequent flyers’ 

We have called those who regularly visit RiP our ‘frequent flyers’ and we invited them to share their RiP stories – the resources they use, why they use them and what difference it makes to practice. These stories were central in a two hour evidence-informed practice workshop for 70+ managers. For example, key messages included:

- Why use webinars?

‘…because I can choose the topic that is relevant to the cases or issues that I’m dealing at the time…I can pause and rewind the recording to make notes and make sure that I’ve captured the information correctly.’

- What difference have they made?

‘[It has] given me the confidence to use aspects of the learning in my day to day practice and helped me to analyse / triangulate the information better using the research based knowledge.’  

‘…reassured me that other practitioners face similar problems in their practice when listening to the Q&A.’

- Why use the adolescent focused materials?

‘Not many publications I could find about this age group, especially reliable and current ones. Due to their age they require a different approach, especially when it comes to risk taking or relationships.’

- What difference have they made?

‘Improved my insight into the difficulties that may arise whilst working with young people, the challenges they face and how best I can work with them.’

- Why use contact after adoption resources?

‘When having to make recommendations around controversial and emotive topics, such as sibling separation or post-adoption contact, I have found Research in Practice invaluable, providing an evidence base to inform my practice. It has allowed me to challenge culture and reluctance to consider direct contact post-adoption.’

- What difference does RiP make to my assessments?

‘RiP has helped me move away from simply providing opinion, to providing clear and concise facts that have been considered and analysed…this helps social workers regain their sense of professionalism and confidence in providing the right support for families at that time.’ 

‘Having easy access to up to date research and publications is essential when trying to demonstrate to both families and other professionals both the need for a service, but equally the need to not intervene in families lives.’ 

‘Should families return for further assessment, there would be clear evidence that all the facts were considered in a professional way, with evidence, hopefully reducing the time it takes for decisions to be made and more importantly reducing the chances of a child coming to further harm.’

We couldn’t have asked for more pertinent insight from our practitioners.

We have also had some positive feedback following the session, including some examples of session impact:

  • ‘As a team we decided that once a month during team meeting we would research a particular topic that was relevant to the team at the time, looking through RiP together to identify relevant research and methods of working with the family which would support particular cases.’ Team Manager.
  • ‘Use Research in Practice in supervision to look at what is available and action in case time to be curious about relevant research.’ Team Manager.

In summary, analysing and interrogating our RiP usage stats has been a catalyst for promoting the service in Devon. It has given us real insight into why our staff find it valuable, the impact it has on practice and given us a network of RiP promoters to advocate evidence-informed practice.  


About the author

Verity Sutcliffe is a Workforce Development Advisor and RiP Link Officer for Devon County Council. She was awarded the title of Link Officer of the Year at the 2018 Link Officer Awards


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