Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Developing an evidence service for the children and families workforce

Karen Seditas shares learning from the Evidence Request Bank - a one year pilot development project which aimed to open up the evidence base for delivering public and third sector services to children and families in Scotland.

The Evidence Request Bank (ERB) aimed to help services to access and use social research evidence by supporting them to identify specific gaps in knowledge and consider how evidence could help address them. The ERB produced reviews of relevant evidence, and supported services to plan how to use evidence in practice. An evidence-to-action cycle was created to support project partners we worked with.

The project was led by the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships (CRFR) in collaboration with Parenting Across Scotland, West Lothian Council, Children in Scotland and the Scottish Government, and based on previous development work by CRFR.

How project partners are using the ERB evidence reviews:
  •  West Lothian Council: used an evidence review on transitions to primary school to create a driver diagram to inform tests of change as part of its Early Years Collaborative work. The review enabled them to direct resources to areas that are likely to be effective, and help practitioners be confident that they are doing the right things in a complex area.
  • Parenting Across Scotland: held a seminar to discuss a review of data on family households, used the data to inform its online information resources and policy work, and will discuss specific areas, gaps in data, and implications for policy and practice further.
  • Parenting Across Scotland and the Scottish Government are developing accessible materials (e.g. infographics) from the report on family households for further sharing.
  • Children in Scotland: is planning forum events to discuss implications of the ERB evidence reports relating to children and families, and sharing evidence through its training programme, magazine and website.

What we learned about enabling the children and families workforce to use evidence includes:
  • Even when people want to use evidence to inform their work, they find it difficult to be clear about what they want to know and to make decisions about what should be prioritised.
  • Approaches to using evidence may differ depending on the context and purpose of why it is needed, and on the previous experience of staff in using evidence in their work.
  • Involving whole teams in discussions on how to use evidence helped to explore different understanding and expectations of using evidence and demonstrated how evidence can inform service delivery. It also helped to direct resources where they were most likely to be effective.
  • A range of issues may affect how organisations react to evidence. Even where organisations want to use evidence, services may not have the resources to change in response.

You can read more here:

Read the evidence reviews here:

What next for the ERB?
In the immediate future, the Evidence Request Bank will be integrated with What Works Scotland (WWS) (, a new initiative to improve the way local areas in Scotland use evidence to make decisions about public service development and reform.

Keep up to date with Evidence Bank developments and What Works Scotland by joining the mailing list here:

The ERB development project was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), with additional funding and in-kind contributions from the partners.
What Works Scotland is a collaboration between the Universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow and funded by ESRC and the Scottish Government for 3 years until 2017.

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