We carried out an evaluation of the use of objects in social work, gathering feedback from social workers and practitioners involved in Coram’s ‘objects in social work’ experimental groups. The groups were run by emeritus professor Mark Doel between March 2021 and October 2021 in Sheffield, London and New York. The use of objects in conversations aims to enable social workers, and children and young people themselves, to better understand their life stories and their support needs. We observed the experimental groups and held one-to-one interviews with 11 experimental group attendees and Mark Doel, to hear about their experiences of using objects in social work and of taking part in the groups.
This report analyses feedback from social workers and practitioners involved in Coram’s ‘objects in social work’ experimental groups, run by emeritus professor Mark Doel, between March 2021 and October 2021.It is hypothesised that the use of objects in conversations in social work enables social workers and children and young people themselves to better understand their life stories and therefore their needs. As a result, social workers become more skilled in supporting children and young people and giving them stability in their lives.
It is also hypothesised that the use of objects in social work will be relevant for use by adoptive, foster and kinship carers, and for families and children to use together, too.
To help develop the project and its evidence base Mark Doel set up three virtual experimental groups of 6 to 10 social workers and practitioners (‘staff’) in London, Sheffield and New York to explore the use and impact of objects. The groups met once a month from March 2021 to October 2021 for 1-2 hours each time. Each session was guided by an object theme from a Resource Pack (Table 1), for example ‘lost and found’ objects, ‘newest and oldest’ objects. Additional themes also emerged from the groups themselves, such as most recent significant object, and these suggestions were used with and by the group.
As group facilitator, Mark Doel started each session with his own object story and members were then encouraged to share their own object story and reflect on any examples of the use of objects from their practice.
Overall, staff feedback about the use of objects in social work and the objects group sessions was positive.