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About the Social Services team

We work with governments and their development partners to support the development, strengthening, and implementation of social services.

Our key focus is on improving service delivery to achieve sustainable positive outcomes for individuals, families, and communities. We specialise in child protection (addressing issues such as child and family separation, disability, and violence against children) but also support the strengthening of policies and systems addressing vulnerabilities and disadvantage experienced by, for example, adolescents, older people, and people of all ages with disability.

We aim to prevent and respond to temporary and longer-term challenges and vulnerabilities experienced by individuals, with a particular focus on care and protection. While social care services interventions may be funded by or include some elements of cash assistance, social care services are in-kind services, distinct from cash transfer programmes. Examples of social care services include alternative care for children, early intervention and rehabilitation services for persons with disabilities, and personal care services for older people. Social work in a variety of forms is a key discipline at the heart of social care services organisation and delivery.

Key questions

Governments and development partners continue to explore:

  • What is the demand for social care services?
  • What are the expected short-term benefits for individuals, families, and communities?
  • What are the anticipated longer-term social and economic impacts of providing social care services, and the cost of inaction?
  • What types of social care services are effective and appropriate in different settings?
  • How should social services be planned, organised, and paid for?
  • Which government sectors and civil society actors should be involved in the provision of services?
  • How can social care service delivery be effectively coordinated and integrated across sectors to achieve intended outcomes?

Our team offers technical advice and support across social services development from policy and strategy planning through to advising on the design of specific interventions and workforce development. Examples of our experience across the policy cycle include:

  • Research

For over 25 years, significant attention has been given to introducing innovative social services in countries of central and eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CEE/CIS) which, in combination with other forms of social protection, have the potential to prevent and appropriately address unnecessary child and family separation.

In order to better understand the extent to which national social protection policies have proven to be effective, we carried out a multi-country study which assessed strengths and challenges, showcased promising practices, and made recommendations for regional application, drawing heavily on the experiences of those requiring or receiving social assistance.

We also completed a review of family support services in Kazakhstan. In addition to documenting the development process to lessons learned and promising practices, the team provided expert advice and support to ongoing policy and practice reforms at national and subnational levels.

  • Designing policy options

We carried out a situational analysis of the strengths, gaps, opportunities, and challenges of the social care sector in Uganda, proposing recommendations and policy options for further strategic development. This included developing an overarching conceptual framework and articulating a set of directions to underpin a national strategy for social care within the wider social protection framework, with an emphasis on integrated child care reform and the need to provide quality family-based alternative care for children.

Our findings and recommendations were published by the Ugandan Ministry of Gender Labour and Social Development and comprehensively reflected in the 2014 Uganda Social Protection Sector Review, the purpose of which was to inform ongoing operational planning for delivery of the Uganda Social Protection Policy.

  • Policy development

We were engaged by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to advise the Government of Mongolia on the design of a wide-ranging national disability reform, which aims to ensure inclusiveness and strengthen appropriate integrated services for persons with disabilities (PWD). Our multidisciplinary team designed and facilitated a consultation and engagement process with national stakeholders, including PWD and national disabled peoples’ organisations. We produced detailed plans to guide a significant strategic investment by the ADB and the government over several years. The framework for the reform included strengthening disability diagnosis and screening to facilitate the shift towards a social model of disability, improving service delivery for PWD including children, improving access to the physical environment, improving work and employment prospects for PWD through a dual offer and demand approach, and raising awareness to change negative attitudes towards PWD.

  • Organisational reform

A rolling challenge for governments and partners seeking to develop or strengthen social care services is ensuring that appropriate human resources are deployed for the successful achievement of intended policy goals.

We carried out a capacity and institutional assessment of Zimbabwe’s Department of Social Services (DSS), focusing on its effectiveness in responding to the needs of Zimbabwe’s orphans and vulnerable children and delivering on its statutory mandate of child care and protection. Learning from this assignment subsequently informed the development of a methodological framework for use in capacity gap analysis across east and southern Africa.

We provided evidence-informed policy advice to the Ministry of Civil Affairs in China exploring how social work can help improve social assistance programmes by supporting a shift towards a social development approach, facilitate the graduation of social assistance recipients into sustainable livelihoods, and ensure that the system is better able to meet growing and changing social needs. This work included supporting the design of studies and surveys in seven provinces, providing policy recommendations based on expert analysis.

  • Capacity building

We help governments to deliver social care services that are tailored towards the needs of the individuals and which support them in the family and community. This often involves significant changes to existing practices and the way that services are conceived, procured, delivered, and monitored.

We are assisting the government of the Kyrgyz Republic in delivering on its social and child protection policy commitments. Work has included carrying out assessments of a number of residential care institutions, including those caring for children with profound disabilities, and developing detailed transformation and alternative or substitute service development plans.

In Tajikistan, we developed and piloted a methodological framework to support the commissioning or transformation of services, serving also as a tool for setting, improving, and monitoring service delivery standards.

In Croatia, we provided technical expertise to the Ministry of Social Policy and Youth and to regional authorities across the country to develop transformation plans for residential social care institutions for children and adults, and evidence-driven plans for community-based social services development.

  • Monitoring and evaluation

Using a combination of qualitative and quantitative methodologies, we are evaluating a major US-funded project in Uganda, which has the aim of preventing the avoidable separation of 43,000 children from their families and reuniting 2,000 children living in institutional care back into a family environment.

In Ghana, where the government has shown a strong commitment to strengthening the national child protection system, we are evaluating the relevance, effectiveness, efficiency, and long-term sustainability of a set of child protection interventions that have been piloted in 20 districts across the country.

Our people

The Social Services team is led by Chris Rayment. 

Denise Stuckenbruck is a principal consultant specialising in child protection. Her primary interest lies in strengthening public sector systems and capacities to deliver social services for children through coordination with a wide range of policy sectors.

Monica Martinez is a consultant and specialises in child protection. Particular experiences have focused on children on the move, refugee and forced migrations, violence against children, GBV, the linkages between child protection and social protection, and generally strengthening of child protection systems

Volodymyr Kuzminskyi has extensive experience advising governments on social services policy and improving coverage and quality of service delivery for vulnerable groups with a particular focus on community based support for children and families. His expertise is wide-ranging but has experience in the development of approaches for service planning and commissioning and in the delivery of capacity building programmes.