2.4 Measuring outcomes
In many social work situations, measuring success is difficult. As Pritchard and Williams (2010) argued in relation to child deaths, quantifying what has been a successful preventative strategy or early intervention is more difficult than measuring what is unsuccessful. Mullen (2011) reviewed journal articles that examined outcomes across several areas of social work areas of practice from 1990, and suggests that there is evidence for the effectiveness of a wide range of social work interventions with a wide range of populations, but also a need for more specific research studies (such as those reviewed by Stein) to strengthen evidence-based practice.
There is a debate about the role of evidence-based policy and practice, and it is a developing field (Fisher, 2014). However, it is reasonable for practitioners, while remaining critically aware, to have the confidence to draw on the many research papers, articles and briefings that can shed light on the relationship between interventions and outcomes in their field of practice. It is a moral and ethical imperative to evaluate knowledge for practice.
In the next section, you will look at some other areas for intervention.