Tusla Empowering Practitioners and Practice Initiative
Improving the use of evidence in social work practice
Social workers make decisions every day that have huge implications for children and families. They have to make these decisions in difficult, complicated circumstances, and explain them to families, their work colleagues, and in court.
In 2014, CES began working with Tusla, the Child and Family Agency on the Empowering Practitioners and Practice Initiative (EPPI). This work aimed to bring greater consistency to social work practice across the country, and to improve the use of evidence. By evidence we mean practice wisdom, formal research and learning from best practice. We wanted to work with the Agency to build the confidence of social workers in using evidence in their work with children and families, and support them with easier access to the evidence they need in their case work.
Building confidence and capacity
We started by asking social workers about the tools and frameworks that they were using, and the challenges they were facing in using evidence. We used the findings to start conversations with social workers around the country about their practice.
Together with the Agency, we ran the Evidence Informed Practitioner Programme, a practical learning programme where social workers apply research evidence to real life cases. 138 social workers took part in the Programme over a three-year period.
A one stop shop of evidence for social work
We produced a toolkit – a one stop shop of evidence informed tools and resources, key messages from research, tips and checklists from practice. The toolkit covers nine important areas of social work practice – from child development, to dealing with domestic and gender-based violence, and practical skills for engaging with children and families. The toolkit is hosted on the Agency’s intranet where it can be easily accessed by all social work staff.
We seconded two Project Specialists to the Agency to support the implementation of the toolkit, in line with the Agency’s new Child Protection and Welfare Strategy, Signs of Safety. They are part of an implementation team which will ensure that the toolkit is used by all Tusla social workers to support children and families dealing with adversity and challenges.
'[The programme helped in] informing my initial assessments, case conference reports and court reports.’
(Tusla Social Worker)