Research has become central to the regulation and reform of all public sector professionals.
The audit-inspection-review apparatus requires that agencies evaluate their own performance and draw up a profile of inputs-outputs-outcomes on an annual basis. Health and social services agencies must also supply reports on professional practice, stakeholder satisfaction and a profile of the communities they serve. This means that managers of these agencies must have some research background i.e. to gather and decode and display statistical data; to create satisfaction surveys for service users etc.
This results in local reforms since reports have recommendations with action plans. But the government also gets an overview of national trends and compares the performance of agencies and the problems of communities across the country. This means that it can feed into policy-making.
At the same time the government commissions universities to undertake research into specific areas, and politicians also read up research journal articles in relevant areas. It puts all this together when it draws up Green Papers as a precursor to law reform. Once it has changed law and policy, the cycle starts all over again and the audit-inspection apparatus, along with University researchers etc, will be evaluating how far the new law and policy is be implemented and how far it counteracted the problems discovered in the previous cycle.
Audit-inspection reports are usually in the public domain, and summary reports of specific themes are often converted into proper publications available in libraries e.g. inspections of safeguarding children's services. Also there is a 'Messages from research' series in child and family social work as well.
What informs research?
The Policy-Making Cycle 1. Agency Performance Profile 2. Professional practice 3. Stakeholder satisfaction 4. Community Audit-Inspection Local reform National trends Evaluation-Research Policy shifts Law reform
What is the significance of hard to reach groups in regard to social care?
These populations consume most of the time and energy of social workers and others are often 'hidden populations'.
Criminals and those who perpetrate child abuse have a vested interest in being hidden since if they were detected they would be punished, so they pretend to be normal in the sense of good citizens and good parents and they wear masks. Paedophiles are experts in enticing and entrapping children in such a way that children cannot speak out against someone who may claim to love them, or have a special bond with them, or someone who is threatening them. The hallmark of victimhood is shame and silence; victims of rape and theft often ask the question ' did I deserve this?'; a person needs a certain level of self-esteem before they will ask for help or make a complaint.
Many other minor/minority populations can also be partially hidden. Minors do not have certain citizenship rights and are not consulted in general surveys or census data. So although most children are visible in schools, some remain invisible e.g. child carers of disabled parents were not recognized until the 1990s. Ethnic minorities form approximately 10% of the UK population but in many studies they are almost invisible because they form such a small proportion of the sample particularly in rural areas; nearly half the black and ethnic minority population lives in London but studies in London will not be representative of the wider UK. Some minors and minorities will be illegal populations but they are arguably only 'criminals' on account of being 'victims' e.g. asylum seekers.
Official statistics of crime and child abuse will always underestimate the quantity of criminals/victims on account of concealment. General household surveys only ask adult householders about their income, work, lifestyle, and consequently miss out children's perspectives, homeless people, travellers. Self-report studies are when researchers ask as many people as possible about crimes they may have committed and crimes they may have suffered with a promise of confidentiality. Self organised groups for minorities such as Asian mothers and young carers are a useful source of qualitative research data. But agencies which work with asylum seekers must be careful to protect their service users who may be staying in the country illegally or working illegally.
Who does quantitive research focus on?
People who are representative of a specific group
Who does qualititative research focus on?
Real people with real lives
Documents Interviews Focus groups Observation Ethnography