New ESSS Outlines: disability hate crime, child sexual abuse and parental substance misuse

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After a busy couple of weeks with a huge interest in our work, we’re very excited to share the first outputs from the Evidence Search and Summary Service: ESSS Outlines. The first three topics have been:

  1. Disability hate crime reporting
  2. Child sexual abuse
  3. Parental substance misuse

We’ve decided to call these ESSS Outlines, to reflect the nature of the outputs as something that gives an idea of the shape of the overall topic or issue being explored. Outlines are brief and selective summaries, produced using flexible and thorough approaches to identify and evaluate a wide range of evidence — from research, practice and experience — to ensure robust outputs that meet the needs of social service stakeholders in Scotland. We think it’s really important to include a combination of different forms of evidence to maximise the opportunity for people to use this in their work, and will be writing about how we’re approaching this in blog posts to come.

The nature of the evidence base relevant to social services means that traditional approaches to systematic searching aren’t possible or helpful in the wide and varied information landscape we’re working in. As a result, we’re taking an iterative approach to each search, using our information seeking expertise and critical evaluation skills to identify the most relevant and useful materials for the specific enquiry the people we’re supporting have asked us to look into. At the same time, we aim for these outputs to be of relevance to the wider social services field and want to make sure that where possible they give some insight into the broader context.

The Outlines are all available as downloadable pdfs from the Iriss website, and are licensed under Creative Commons with a Attribution-Non Commercial-Share Alike 2.5 UK: Scotland Licence. This means that everyone is welcome to share (copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format) and adapt (remix, transform, and build upon the material) however they like — as long as they give attribution to the Iriss ESSS for producing the summary and the individual authors of the resources provided for conducting the research being discussed within the Outlines.

If you’re interested in us producing an ESSS Outline for you, please get in touch.

Evidence Search and Summary Service Launch

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Last week saw the launch of the new Iriss Evidence Search and Summary Service (ESSS). We’re really excited to make this free service available to the social services sector in Scotland, to help support practice, service improvement and continuous learning. This post gives a bit of  background as to who we are, where we come from and what we’d like to achieve with the service.

We’re looking forward to getting out into the social services sector to meet people we can help with our service. We’re particularly keen to find out what your information needs are and how we can develop a service that provides the evidence and information you need. Key to our approach will be co-produce evidence searches and summaries that help you make informed decisions about your work.

The service is funded by the Scottish Government and sits within Iriss, a charitable company that promotes positive outcomes for people who use Scotland’s social services. A lot of their work is centred on ensuring that everyone in social services has the knowledge, tools and skills to effectively use evidence and to innovate. The new ESSS service will organically contribute to the aims of Iriss. It will communicate evidence and inspiration to the sector, create conditions for information sharing, help people to make use of evidence to improve services and support, and enable culture change through filling knowledge gaps and supporting the development of skills around evidence, innovation and digital literacy.

Contributing to Scotland’s national Knowledge into Action Strategy, we aim to bridge the knowledge-practice gap, by supporting practitioners, planners and policy-makers to identify and apply evidence, ensuring that decisions about frontline practice, service design, development and delivery are based on sound evidence. Scotland’s strategies for social services highlight the importance of embedding the use of knowledge and evidence in social services practice. It is important for social services to:

  • Work on continuous improvement and innovation
  • Apply new knowledge to policy, planning and practice
  • Use robust evidence and effective application of knowledge in all its forms
  • Achieve better outcomes for people who use social services, and the wider community.

This work isn’t easy, and we know that social services need support and guidance to handle the amount of information available, its broad distribution and wide range of formats, and the complexity of new policy development. ESSS exists to help social services providers to use a range of useful and up to date evidence and knowledge, and build their confidence that they work they undertake is evidence-based.

What we’ll be doing through the ESSS is similar to the work being undertaken by the Knowledge Managers and Health Librarians in places such as NHS Education Scotland’s Knowledge Network, who provide knowledge support for the delivery of health and social care. We’ll be working in partnership with them to develop a service that meets the needs of the workforce and facilitates the use of evidence in practice, service improvement and continuous learning.

The social services sector needs a tailored approach to best respond to the unique nature of the sector and the nature and cultures of the evidence and knowledge relevant to it – something we’ll be writing more about in future posts. We’ll also be writing here about the kinds of evidence we search, how we go about ensuring that we find and evaluate evidence appropriately, and how we aim to communicate this effectively. We’d like to get a dialogue going about this work, share experiences in a social services context internationally and across the library and information world.

The new Evidence Search and Summary Service aims to increase the application of evidence, through providing expert support to source and bring together evidence from research, practice and experience. It’s vital for us to make different kinds of research evidence more accessible and easier to understand for all kinds of people working in social services across Scotland. We’ll be working with each person we support to make sure our products meet their needs.

We’re also working to supporting people in social services to increase their confidence, skills and capacities around finding, evaluating and using evidence. In turn, we believe this will lead to improvements in the quality, efficacy, cost effectiveness and outputs of service and practice developments.

If you’d like to find out more about ESSS and the products and services we offer, you can visit our website. You make an enquiry about your information and evidence needs through the website. Alternatively, you can email us at or phone us on 0141 559 5057. We’re also on twitter at @irissESSS.

If you’ve got any thoughts about the new service and its potential, please do feel free to start a discussion in the comments below!