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People-work not paper-work: evaluating efforts to reduce bureaucracy and increase time with people in social work


   Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

   Monday, February 27, 2023  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

We are interested in completing one or more comparative studies, studying the impact of a practice modification, by measuring outcomes with a group of practitioners who have used a new tech/procedure/approach designed to reduce bureaucracy.

The intervention

This study will measure the effect of a change to social work practice. We have completed exploratory studies in the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust and the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust (Northern Ireland) but we are keen to work on projects anywhere in the UK, Ireland and beyond. Candidates can consider a range of ways in which they would like to trial a change to service delivery. A change in practice may be brought about by, for example:

·        the use of information technology adjunct (such as verbally dictating case notes instead of typing notes);

·        new approaches to sharing information across disciplines using applications such as Microsoft Teams;

·        alternative office arrangements (the use of work station enclosures/or offices to reduce the distractions impacting on open plan offices, for example) which might help administrative work to be completed more quickly

·        training and on-going management focus on relationships with service users.

·        reductions in the range of professionals involved in case work (defragmentation of social work services)

Outcome measures

This proposal places face-to-face time with service users as a primary measure of the success of any practice modification. This would be measured through practitioner self-reporting, service user reporting or researcher observations.

Measures of service user satisfaction may also be of interest. Service users’ rating of their relationship with their social worker would be captured with an established questionnaire tool (such as the Working Alliance Inventory, Horvath and Greenberg, 1989). If the service users in question are children then a child-orientated version would be deployed (such as the Children’s Alliance Questionnaire, Roest et al., 2016). In addition, measures of impact on social workers’ job satisfaction would also be deemed relevant.


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