Practitioners on protocols

Social workers are familiar with protocols outlining eligibility criteria, referral pathways and inter-agency working. But what do they think of them? We conducted a study in a London Borough to investigate this and the findings were published online yesterday in the Child and Family Social Work journal.

Joint protocols between social services, health and other agencies have been established to ensure that practitioners working with adults are aware of their responsibility to safeguard children. However, there is limited evidence of the effectiveness of these inter-agency joint protocols.

We conducted a cross-sectional survey of practitioner self-reported experiences of joint protocols in an inner London borough, to evaluate their impact on professional practice. A self-complete questionnaire was administered to all professionals in adult mental-health and children’s social care services in the borough and yielded a response from 119 practitioners.

The survey found that the protocols had been widely disseminated and provided clear guidance to practitioners. Practitioners perceived that they had increased awareness of the risk factors for safeguarding children and some had used the protocols to help them gain access to services for their clients. Practitioners also perceived that they had improved inter-agency working between children’s social care and adult mental-health services. However, respondents indicated that positive interpersonal contact with practitioners from other agencies was equally important in promoting joint working and inter-agency collaboration. It appears that protocols can help to shape and define good practice, but words alone cannot change it!

If you would like a PDF version of the paper, please contact me by email.

What are your experiences of joint protocols? Do you think they help to change practitioners’ behaviour? Do you think they help to safeguard vulnerable children and adults? Please comment and add your perspective.

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One Response to Practitioners on protocols

  1. ermintrude2 says:

    I’d almost put the positive interpersonal contact between pracittioners from different agencies is the prime driver of good cross agency practice (and intra-agency practice as it happens). Often it is knowing the people behind the phone that makes the different between making contact or not and I’ve found that making sure we know the people in other teams/agencies and organisations is by far the best way to promote joint practice.
    Protocols can be interpreted in different ways and prioritised in different ways but if you know you have a friendly voice on the end of the telephone, it’ll be far easier to make that initial contact.

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