The power of nudges: techniques you can use to prompt behaviour change

11 March 2019

Sam Kyriacou Sam Kyriacou

One in ten children in the UK have been neglected (Radford et al, 2011). Unfortunately, when professionals are involved with a family and are worried about a child, it’s not always easy for them to evidence neglect.

Graded Care Profile 2 (GCP2) is a tool developed by the NSPCC that can support professionals to assess the quality of care being given to a child and to identify when sub-optimal parenting is putting a child at risk of harm. It helps bring focus to the areas of parenting that require support and enables professionals to intervene in an informed way.

To ensure more children and families receive the support they need, we work with local authority areas to help them successfully implement GCP2. The support we provide is underpinned by implementation and behavioural science. By this I mean a set of activities designed to encourage the uptake of a new service or tool and encourage the organisational change that’s often required when doing something new. We’re currently working with close to 70 local areas and the number continues to increase. 

Making a difference

We’re already starting to see the difference that GCP2 can make – not only to the professionals’ confidence in decision-making and their often improved working relationship with families – but also to the families they work with.

For example, Harriet*, a project worker with a children’s charity used GCP2 with ten year old Poppy* who was a young carer for her mum who professionals had safeguarding concerns for. Using the tool had a significant impact: by using the GCP2 tool with Poppy and her mum, Harriet was able to get a clear idea of where the family needed extra support and where things were working well. Harriet used the results of the GCP2 assessment to put together a clear plan for the family and by sharing this at a ‘Team Around the Family’ meeting, she was able to show the multi-agency partners that Poppy’s case could be managed without having to escalate it to children’s social care.

Increasing use of GCP2

Now that the NSPCC has achieved such a broad reach in terms of the number of local areas using the tool, and having seen the positive impact the tool can have, our focus has turned towards increasing the number of people using the tool and the frequency at which they use it. To do this, we and the local areas we work with need to be ‘nudging’ colleagues: using different methods and techniques to prompt them into action.

We’re using The Behavioural Insights Team’s EAST model. The team suggest that to encourage behaviour change, you need to make it Easy, Attractive, Social and Timely: EAST. We’re using these four principles to guide how we and the local areas we work with ‘nudge’ professionals into using GCP2. Here are a few examples of how we’re doing this:


We tend to go with a default or pre-set option, since that’s often the easiest route. Our GCP2 partner organisations can harness the power of defaults by making GCP2 assessments mandatory for all Child Protection Cases under the category of neglect. Similarly, by keeping all GCP2 toolkit materials in one place that’s easy to access, less effort is required to draw on the resources and therefore professionals are more likely to use it.


If people are rewarded for the good work they do, they’re far more likely to go the extra mile. A reward scheme that acknowledges GCP2 best practice could be a really effective way of encouraging staff to use the tool with more of their cases. Hard work deserves thanks and recognition! Likewise, senior management could share best practice examples from their organisations with colleagues across their area to demonstrate the local impact of staff using GCP2 has on children and families. That way they’re more likely to encourage their peers to start using it too.


Peer-to-peer support can be really effective during times of change. By matching a member of staff new to GCP2 with a colleague who has already completed their training and has used the tool for some time, local areas can ensure there are effective support systems in place that can help their teams to overcome some of the barriers to implementation.


We can’t escape the fact that costs are a driving factor in an organisation’s decision making and their commitment to making something work. If they’re able to see clearly that the benefits of an activity outweigh the costs, it’s an easy decision for them to make. What’s more, we know that having senior buy-in is crucial in the successful implementation of a new initiative. That’s why we would encourage any teams looking to gain senior buy-in to share what we know about the costs that can be avoided in a local area by using GCP2.

We know that by increasing the use of GCP2 across the country, together we can make a difference.

If you want to find out more about GCP2 and how it could support you or your teams, please contact: gcp2@nspcc.org.uk or join the Research in Practice Webinar, led by the NSPCC.

*names have been replaced with pseudonyms to protect identities.

About the author

Sam Kyriacou is an Implementation Manager at the NSPCC.

Related Research in Practice events  

Scaling up the Graded Care Profile 2 and other evidence based programmes: Webinar

27 March, 12-1pm, online: view details

Graded Care Profile 2 is an assessment tool that practitioners can use when working with families where neglect is a concern. The tool helps identify support needs, build relationships and improve the identification and recording of neglect.  

Join us at this Webinar where the NSPCC will introduce the tool and how it can be embedded in practice to evaluate a family’s strengths and weaknesses.

Designed for: Social workers and team managers in direct practice with children and families.

Related resources

GCP2: How We Spot Neglect

Graded Care Profile 2 (GCP2)

NSPCC Learning

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