Tilda Goldberg Centre

Contact the TGC

The Tilda Goldberg Centre
Room B401, Park Square building
University of Bedfordshire
University Square
Luton, LU1 3JU

T: +44 (0)1582 489369 E: goldbergcentre@beds.ac.uk

Key Studies

Since 2010 a number of TGC studies have had a major impact on policy and practice in the UK and beyond. A selection of these key studies are showcased below.

Evaluation of the Systemic Unit Model (Reclaiming Social Work)

2011 - 2012

Project Lead: Prof Donald Forrester

Research Team: David Westlake, Georgia Glynn, Dr Angela Thurnham, Michelle McCann, Guy Shefer, Mike Killian.

The move to delivery of Children's Services in systemic units - sometimes known as the "Hackney Model" or "Reclaiming Social Work" - has received a lot of attention in recent years. The Tilda Goldberg Centre carried out an independently funded evaluation comparing practice and experiences of services in three local authorities, one using the systemic unit model. The evaluation took a "realist" approach and involved a team of researchers spending over six months observing practice. Our findings suggested that the Systemic Units approach was positive and had a number of advantages over the traditional model.

This study has had a major impact on policy, including being quoted by Michael Gove. Many local authorities have made changes to their services in relation to the Systemic Unit model, and we have carried out smaller scale evaluations of some of these.

Please download the full report - PDF 2.0 MB or the shorter report - PDF 674.0 KB aimed at practitioners and managers.

Helping Parents and Protecting Children? A Randomised Controlled Trial (RCT) of Motivational Interviewing in Child Protection

2012 - 2014

Project Lead: Prof Donald Forrester

Research Team: David Westlake, Charlotte Waits, Roma Thomas, Charlotte Whittaker, Dr Mike Killian, Michelle McCann, Dr Vivi Antonopoulou.

This study builds on previous work by Donald Forrester on the use of Motivational Interviewing (MI) in a child protection context. It is the first randomised controlled trial of child protection fieldwork in the UK, and one of very few in the world.

We worked with a London local authority, trained a group of social workers in MI (a communication style based on counselling), and randomly allocated over 600 cases between trained workers and a control group for seven months. We achieved a remarkably high response rate, with around 65% of families who were asked agreeing to take part. We also collected a unique dataset of over 130 audio recordings of meetings between social workers and parents.

Emerging findings suggest links between skill in MI and engagement of parents, but show no significant difference between the groups. A key finding is the importance of organisational culture, which has parallels with other studies including the one above. The data collection for this project was so extensive that we now have a 'treasure trove' of data which we intend to explore in the coming months and years.

The study is already having a positive impact at local and national level. The host local authority plan to change their approach to social worker recruitment as a direct result. Many of the innovative methods we used here (e.g. testing and grading the skills of workers using role play and in real practice) have influenced the development of the new Frontline social work qualifying course.

An Evaluation of the Option 2 Intensive Family Preservation Service


Project Lead: Prof Donald Forrester

This study was an evaluation of a crisis intervention service aimed at families where serious child protection concerns are related to parents' use of drugs or alcohol (Option 2). The mixed methods evaluation compared outcomes for families referred to Option 2 with a comparator group who received normal service. Findings were positive; families who received the service were doing better and children in these families were less likely to enter care.

The study had a major impact on policy and practice. The initial study carried out for the Welsh Government contributed to widespread reform of services in Wales, including the establishment of Intensive Family Support Teams in local authorities. The Goldberg Centre was commissioned to produce materials and advice to support the development of evidence based practices across Wales.

Bedfordshire University

Research» Key Studies