Research Project—Social service responses to child and family poverty: International perspectives

Invitation to participate in research study: Social service responses to child and family poverty in different countries

ACWA invites all of its members to participate in an international research study by the International Association for Outcome-based Evaluation and Research on Family and Children's Services to improve practice responses to cycles of poverty that compromise child and family wellbeing. This remains a huge challenge around the world and the research team very much hope that evidence from this study will make a small contribution to the significant knowledge gaps in this domain.

The study is being undertaken by a group of child and family services researchers from 10 countries, with Australia represented by Dr Patricia M McNamara PhD, Senior Fellow (Hon) of the Department of Social Work at the University of Melbourne, and ACWA's long-term academic partner, Professor Elizabeth Fernandez PhD from the University of NSW.

What is this research about?
The study seeks to understand more about how social service workers perceive child and family poverty and about how they respond to poverty in direct practice in different countries. We are also keen to
learn how we can best prepare professionals in these disciplines to respond as effectively as possible to families and children living in poverty.

Who can participate in this research?
Members of any social service discipline (social work, youth work, family support work, child protection, psychology, counselling or other) who are currently carrying a caseload which includes families living with poverty and have a minimum of three years’ experience are warmly invited to participate in this research.

Which countries and researchers are represented in this study?
Australia, Germany, Israel, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States are represented. The researchers are all members of the International Association of Outcome Based Evaluation and Research in Family and Childrens Services (iaOBERfcs). As Australian researchers in child and family welfare, we have been members of this international organisation for 20 years.

What will I be asked to do?
If you agree to participate, you will be asked to complete an online survey. This will take about 15–20 minutes of your time. The survey will ask questions about your professional background, your current workplace, what has influenced your understanding of poverty experienced by children and families, your practice responses to poverty and how you feel policy and practice might be improved to better meet the needs of children and families living in poverty. We aim to collect a substantial number of surveys from Australia to develop a clear picture of social service responses to child and family poverty in this country in addition to comparing Australia’s approach with a range of other countries.

What are the possible benefits?
It is hoped that this research will contribute to the limited knowledge base around social work responses to child and family poverty. We need to better understand how social workers perceive and respond to poverty, personally and professionally. We will learn from professionals in these disciplines currently working with families in poverty about what they know helps good practice to be delivered in this area. We are also keen to learn about barriers to best practice they have identified. That knowledge will help the disciplines of social work and other relevant disciplines to better educate and prepare members to offer the best possible practice responses to children and families in need. Interrupting cycles of poverty and disadvantage can improve child and family wellbeing for current and future generations.

What are the possible risks of participating in this study?
We do not believe that participation in this study carries a high level of risk. Reflecting on children and families living in poverty, however, can be distressing at times, even for the experienced professionals who will be participating. For this reason, the Poverty Study—Debriefing Statement contains a list of services that you can access in an emergency or non-emergency situation. If there is immediate risk of harm to you or to others, please call 000 immediately. If there is not an immediate risk of harm you can contact Lifeline via phone (call 13 11 14), join the Crisis Support Chat online or find non-emergency services in your local area.

Do I have to take part?
No. Your participation is completely voluntary. If you don’t wish to take part, you don’t have to. There will be no consequences for you of any kind if you choose not to participate.  Your employer will not be aware of which (or if any) staff members have completed this survey. It is important, however, to be mindful that this survey is anonymous. No one, including the researchers, can trace your identity after you submit your completed survey to us. For that reason, we cannot withdraw your data once you have submitted your completed survey.

Will I hear about the results of this project?
When the project is finished, we will send your employer a summary of our findings and ask them to disseminate this as widely as possibly within the organisation.

What will happen to information about me?
The information collected in the survey will be communicated in different ways. This may include research briefs, conference presentations and the publication of research findings in academic journal articles

We do not believe that you are likely to be recognised in publications or presentations arising from this study. We are recruiting from a very large pool which makes individual details about you less recognisable. We will also take steps to remove any reference to content (eg information about you or quotes from you) that could make you recognisable. Nevertheless, it is possible that you yourself or those close to may still recognise you.

The researchers will, however, protect the anonymity and confidentiality of all participants’ responses to the fullest extent possible, in accordance with the Commonwealth Privacy Act 1988 and Victoria’s Information Privacy Act 2000. The completed surveys are being submitted online directly to the Italian research hub located at the Emanuela Zancan in Padua, Italy where the data will be analysed. This research centre has over 60 years’ experience in managing the security of sensitive information and is registered as a research institute with the Government of Italy and the European Union. The data will be stored during and after the research has finished (for five years) in a secure research repository at the Zancan Foundation. It will then be permanently destroyed.

Is there any potential conflict of interest?
We have not identified any conflicts of interests for this Research Team.

Who is funding this project?
There is no funding for this research project. All researchers are giving their time pro bono.

Click here to access the survey specifically designed for Australian social service workers.

By opening and submitting the survey it is assumed that you have given your consent to participate in this research. If a “verification” message shows on the screen as you are opening the survey, please click “Skip Verification”. You do not need to provide any information to access the survey.

Please share this opportunity within your organisation and direct any questions about the research to:

Dr Patricia M McNamara PhD
Senior Fellow (Hon)
Department of Social Work, The University of Melbourne
M: +61 417138884

Professor Elizabeth Fernandez PhD
Social Work Program, School of Social Sciences, University of New South Wales
T: +61 (02) 9385 1865   E: