The challenge of measuring effectiveness in social work: a case study of an evaluation of a drug and alcohol referral service in Scotland

CREE Viviene E., JAIN Sumeet, HILLEN Peter
Journal article citation:
British Journal of Social Work, 46(1), 2016, pp.277-293.
Oxford University Press

This article explores the challenge of measuring effectiveness in social work, building from an evaluation of a service for those with drug- and alcohol-related problems in Scotland conducted in 2012. Drug and alcohol misuse have long been recognised as major issues for the Scottish economy, health service and population, affecting high numbers of individuals, families and communities in Scotland. For this reason, it is vital that the services provided give ‘best value’ for service users and the country as a whole. But what is an effective service and how might this be measured? The authors argue that demonstrating social work effectiveness is always difficult, but that the complex and interconnected nature of drug and alcohol problems makes it even more difficult to isolate the effectiveness of one intervention from another and from the context in which it is located. (Edited publisher abstract)

Subject terms:
social work, case studies, evaluation, service provision, drug misuse, alcohol misuse, best value;
Journal home page
ISSN online:
ISSN print:

Key to icons

  • Free resource Free resource
  • Journal article Journal article
  • Book Book
  • Digital media Digital media
  • Journal Journal

Give us your feedback

Social Care Online continues to be developed in response to user feedback.

Contact us with your comments and for any problems using the website.

Sign up/login for more

Register/login to access resource links, advanced search and email alerts