A case study in use of live case analysis

We were commissioned as part of an improvement programme following a complaint investigation in a local authority that had identified significant issues for single and inter-agency work with young people with complex needs. The first workshop was commissioned by senior managers to examine issues about the quality of transition planning and use of eligibility thresholds taking account of important case law including the Islington Judgment and support and to develop an action plan for for case specific and service improvement.

An initial workshop brought together several different services and professional disciplines. The first workshop identified significant missed opportunities in working with the young adult who had made the original complaint and importantly allowed participants to highlight the factors that contributed. Issues identified for improvement included services working to different specific legislation and guidance, insufficient knowledge about each other's roles, preoccupation with definitions to comply with threshold criteria, insufficient clarity or confidence in negotiating transition between different services especially at the point of moving from children's to adult provision.

The workshop led to the development of an action plan to support the implementation of learning and improvement in regard to lead professional roles, development of vulnerable adult's strategy, assessment practice and effectiveness of reviews. A further series of workshops were commissioned in relation to other complex and high cost high risk cases. Action plans were developed following each of the workshops.

The work led to the development of a Live Case Analysis Toolkit (LCAT) developed as part of the Social Services Improvement Agency improvement programme. The methodology is based on an action learning/action research learning process that develops effective learning through reflective action and experience. It is based upon the principle that complex activity such as safeguarding work can be undertaken more effectively when attention is paid to the learning that is achieved through the course of doing the activity.

The action learning process recognises that knowledge and understanding that is acquired through experience can be significantly enhanced when it is opened up to critical reflection and challenge as part of an iterative process. Practitioners need to be aware of and with the help of others and with appropriate facilitation be prepared to question, challenge and explore what it is they do not know or understand. Action learning is a cyclical process where learning and applying that learning in order to promote change and improvement are undertaken concurrently.

Reflection on past practice is used to review past actions and inform forward planning and future activity. In action research people work collaboratively to develop collective understanding to better serve improved organisational as well as individual understanding, knowledge and practice. It is an approach that can be applied in learning reviews particularly following a significant event.

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