Monitoring and performance indicators
Why are they relevant to research mindedness?
For the research minded student, practitioner or team, monitoring data
and progress against performance indicators can be used alongside published
research to inform decision making. They can assist in testing the relevance
of research findings for local situations and be used as data sources
for undertaking research at a local level on personal research. There
are many examples of social work students and practitioners become involved
in formal or informal research programmes to investigate either the
effectiveness of particular initiatives they are involved with, or the
personal and social circumstances of particular service users groups.
Practitioners often have direct access to valuable data sources that
researchers have difficulty in obtaining, which is a good reason for
researchers and practitioners to work collaboratively on practice focused
research. Being research-minded will help you to recognise the opportunities
that may be available to you for research and how to seek support to
undertake the research.
monitoring information about the activities of statutory agencies is
not new and can be traced back to the time of Henry VIII, and collection
of information about the operation of the poor law Steyaert
Monitoring data has been an important source of data for services and
researchers for decades. Data collection has become more sophisticated
and extensive as a result of the development of computerised client
The Information Social Care strategy has been a major initiative by
the Department of Health to co-ordinate the modernisation and standardisation
of management information systems related to client records. The development
of the Electronic Social Care Record is crucial to the success of Information
for Social Care. To meet the e-government targets, the ESCR should be
operational by October 2004, with all new service user records being
created in this form.
The DH has a special section on its website with information about the
developments – see Information
for Social Care
Alongside these developments have been moves to consider integrated
information management between health and social services. These developments
should improve the quality and quantity of data available to researchers,
if service users consent to access for research purposes.
After Children Computer System. Software that assists collection
of data on children in a standard format.
Personal Social Services Performance Assessment Framework (PAF)
was launched in November 1999 as 'a set of indicators large enough to
be comprehensive and small enough to be manageable, to be consistent
with best practice and it sits at the heart of performance assessment
in a wider sense'. The key elements are shown graphically (courtesy
of the DoH).
Quality Protects as an example of performance indicators
Protects Programme was launched by the DoH in 1998 and was the main
vehicle for delivering the aims in Modernising
Social Services of effective protection, better quality care and
improved life chances for children. Local Authorities who received funding
from the programme were required to develop Management Action Plans
(MAPs) based on the 6 priorities. These set out how the councils intended
to improve their services. An annual evaluation of these plans was undertaken
by the DoH.
Please note 12/03: the Department for Education and Skills is now
responsible for Children's Social Services and plans are being made
to transfer this content from the Department of Health
The pressures to perform
Locally determined indicators may supplement national indicators, but
increasingly it appears that standardised monitoring will focus outcomes
upon those that directly contribute to achievement of national targets.
For the research-minded student or practitioner this means you must
take a critical approach to analysis of monitoring and performance data.
Questions of bias, validity, relevance and transferability should be
addressed Attainment of performance indicators or targets can demonstrate
how standards have been raised, though minimum standards may mean there
is a need to go further to show real change.