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Evaluation of Social Work Practices pilots with adults


Social Work Practices pilots with adults were enabled by The Contracting Out (Local Authorities Social Services Functions) (England) Order 2011, which came into force 1 August 2011.

This independent evaluation sought to establish the specific elements of the Social Work Practices pilots with adults in England. It evaluated the short to medium term effects (two years) of these features on the workforce (particularly in relation to burnout, time/task allocation and job control and demand) and on the service provided to users, and examined the quality and quantity of support received.

Research team

Shereen Hussein (Principal Investigator)
Jill Manthorpe
Jess Harris 
Michelle Cornes 


Department of Health, Policy Research Programme


The evaluation employed a longitudinal matched-case-control design adapted to social research. We investigated change over time within the pilot and host sites through qualitative interviews and an online staff survey. The data were complemented by existing research through synthesising the literature. We also collected secondary data, in relation to the workforce, budgets and users’ outcomes.


The aims of the pilots varied hugely and the evaluation found that this form of outsourcing local authority work depended greatly on local ambitions but also capacity. The host sites also varied in the expectations they placed on the new organisations. Comparing social workers’ burnout and autonomy in the surveys, initially pilot social workers were more enthused and spoke of higher morale. Such benefits were not generally sustained.


2011 – 2014


A series of articles is underway.

Final report

Manthorpe, J., Harris, J., Hussein, S., Cornes, M. & Moriarty, J. (2014) 'Evaluation of the Social Work Practices with Adults Pilots: Final Report', London: Social Care Workforce Research Unit, King's College London.

Manthorpe, J., Harris, J., Hussein, S., Cornes, M. & Moriarty, J. (2014) 'Evaluation of the Social Work Practices with Adults Pilots: Summary Report', London: Social Care Workforce Research Unit, King's College London.


Moriarty, J. (2014) 'Social Work Practices with Adults: Commissioning and democratic facets', Councillors’ and Trustees’ Seminar. Accountability at ‘arms-length’: Exploring accountability when service delivery is outsourced (organised by Research in Practice; Research in Practice for Adults), Birmingham, 13 November.

Hussein, S. (2014) 'Independent Social Work Practices with Adults: what we know from their evaluation', Kingston University, 11 September.

Manthorpe, J. (2014) 'Developing professional, evidence based social work in a time of austerity: the challenges and opportunities across child and adult services now', 6th Annual Social Work and Mental Health Conference, London, 19 June.

Manthorpe, J. (2014) 'The Care Act 2014: charter for social work', Social Services' Mental Health Conference, Camden, 14 May.

Manthorpe, J., Harris, J., Hussein, S. & Cornes, M. (2014) 'Adult social work practices: models and innovations', NCVO, London, 31 March.

Manthorpe, J. (2014) 'Home sweet Home', The future role of social work in adult services: challenges and opportunities. A Making Research Count conference, London, 10 January.

Stevens, M. (2013) 'What skills will practitioners need in a post Munro/Francis world?', Social worker and team manager meeting, Warwickshire, 21 November. References

Manthorpe, J. (2013) 'Changing Social Work Practices', Continuing Professional Development event, London Borough of Lewisham, 24 May.

Blog post

Moriarty, J. (2013) 'Contracting out social care services – an opinion piece', Social Work/Social Care & Media, 27 August.


The evaluation informed policy and practice decisions by the Department of Health and the Cabinet Office and by The College of Social Work about future development of SWPwAs, and wider exploration of the role of the social worker.

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