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The Gruffalo, The Chief Social Worker, The Care Review, And The Missing Theory Of Change

The Gruffalo, the Chief Social Worker, the Care Review, and the missing Theory of Change

Just last week, as Isabelle Trowler was speaking to Social Work Week (an online event organised by Social Work England) England, yet more experienced people, knowledge and culture carriers said they are leaving ‘this year’. The common reason is that they are fed up with the ‘warm words’ of government. They want planning they can believe in. Social work/care is about making a commitment.

We need to retain these people especially as the newcomers to social work/care are reportedly staying short periods of time, doing what asked, pressured working, then realising … ‘this isn’t what I came to do, I didn’t think it was like this … OK how can we change it, it’s a BIG job, … there are easier ways to make a living and enjoy life’.

Social workers/carers experience everyday walking through the wood with the Gruffalo.

They experience the terrible tusks, terrible claws, and terrible teeth in his terrible jaws” of the care system. They have looked for Hope, the map from here to the sunny uplands of the Care Review, but have concluded, “You ought to know, you really should, There isn’t a Theory of Change in this wood.”

Next step needed with Care Review Implementation? The Theory of Change. Where is it?

The Theory of Change for the Care Review needs to address all of the Care System Gruffalo – it’s “terrible tusks, terrible claws, and terrible teeth in his terrible jaws”.

A Theory of Change process defines and includes all of the necessary and sufficient conditions required to bring about a given long term outcome.

A Theory of Change then uses backwards mapping from the long-term goal to the intermediate and then to the early changes that would be required to cause the desired change.

These connected outcomes are the “pathway of change” away from demoralisation and despair. The material situation is so much more than Turning the Curve (remember that?) will resolve.

Connecting the warm words of Isabelle Trowler and the first stage of a Theory of Change Identifying long-term goals

‘Massive’ cut in care population is key success measure for DfE reforms, says chief social worker – Community Care

 “We [will] have a massive reduction in the number of looked-after children and children are living happily and safely with their birth parents and extended families and those families are well supported and the workforce is truly multidisciplinary, with truly expert knowledge and skill, and the child protection part of the system is razor sharp in identifying significant harm and acting upon it quickly

Good, now we know where we are going.

But we have no map, nor do we know the means by which we will get there.

The Government response to the Care Review, their Children’s Social Care Implementation strategy, known as Stable Homes Built on Love, lacks a crucial aspect necessary for planning – a Theory of Change.

A Theory of Change is needed in order to know what and how to achieve the Care Review outcomes.

Unless we know and include the detail of the circumstances we are in now (see below), and the means required to reach the ambition, the quote is of a Utopia.

A Theory of Change is all important. The Education Committee Inquiry must make the request of government.

Make the quote of the Chief Social Worker Step # 1 in the Theory of Change

Step # 2 Backwards mapping and connecting the preconditions or requirements necessary to achieve the goal, explaining why these preconditions are necessary and sufficient.  

Articulated here is a comprehensive description and illustration of how and why a desired change is expected to happen in a particular context.

Step # 3 ‘Identifying your basic assumptions about the context’.

At this time, in this economic and social situation, it is necessary to have the following included: poverty rising, needs and demand for statutory intervention rising, finances for care squeezed with local authorities advising the recent sums are too small to make the necessary changes, workforce demoralised and diminishing, either leaving – or having to be cut, or ‘productivity’ increasing (the recent money came with strings)

The utopian warm words of the Chief Social Worker at Social Work England are no longer acceptable, they are not addressing today’s reality, they address the end point. They do not address the situation in a Theory of Change way.  

The Care Review says if we do this and this and this then that and that and that will happen. These improvements and these savings. Estimated.

In doing this the Care Review is not a Theory of Change nor is Stable Homes Built on Love. It is going about things the wrong way round. 

It is counter intuitive, but correct, to assert that to take the Care Review/Stable Homes Built on Love forwards the next steps in a Theory of Change would take the thinking backwards as follows

  • Step # 4 Identifying the interventions that your initiative will perform to create your desired change.
  • Step # 5 Developing indicators to measure your outcomes to assess the performance of your initiative.
  • Step # 6 Writing a narrative to explain the logic of your initiative.

As a final reflection on the Social Work England address we are taken back to the Chief Social Workers at the THIRD BRIDGET LINDLEY ANNUAL MEMORIAL LECTURE entitled “Care Proceedings in England: the Case for Clear Blue Water” bridget-lindley-memorial-lecture-isabelle-trowler.pdf (

“As a 20-something young woman with anarchist political leanings, a class analysis of the world order which I still hold today and a very suspicious attitude towards state power and a perspective which compelled me constantly to declare to anyone who would listen (invariably that meant only my parents and my cat, Ginger) that whoever you vote for, the Government always wins”

If this remains true – what is it that the government think they are winning in approaching the Care Review/Stable Homes Built on Love without a Theory of Change?

It is now no longer credible to make any considerations regarding the implementation of the Care Review, Stable Homes Built on Love, without the Theory of Change for it being published for discussion, development, scrutiny.

Perhaps, even, without the Theory of Change, Stable Homes Built on Love is jeopardised?