This paper describes an innovative systems methodology for evaluating child protection social work practice and improving organisational learning. It draws on learning in other high-risk areas where the importance of understanding performance in context has been recognised. Using a case study for illustration, the methodology is presented. This evaluative approach engages management, staff, service users and other stakeholders in assessing the factors that influence practice and outcomes. The data collection tools developed included surveys to reach staff, multi-agency professionals and service users, together with in-depth interviews to get a deep understanding of causal factors and their interactions. Data included organisational cultural factors that influence the effectiveness of decision making, improve patterns of interaction with families and other professionals, remove constraints on practice, help prioritisation and improve consistency of care. The paper discusses some of the practical implications of applying the instruments, such as avoiding bias and dealing with unresponsiveness. It also supports the gathering of feedback from vulnerable service users
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