Legacy report details
The unique range of social care needs attributed to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer or Questioning (LGBTQ+) young people are often not addressed due to the lack of knowledge and guidance on how to adequately support them. This study is an evaluation of the effectiveness of an e-learning training module aimed at improving social workers’ knowledge of, and attitude towards, LGBTQ+ young people in England.
This evaluation was a randomised controlled trial (RCT), conducted with children’s social care workers in England, and formed part of the wider LGBTQ+ Young People in Social cAre (LYPSA) project that sought to improve the social care experiences of LGBTQ+ youth in England.
The objective of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of the e-learning module and therefore sought to answer the following research questions:
- How effective is the training course in changing social workers’ heteronormative and cisnormative attitudes and beliefs about LGBTQ+ young people?
- How effective is the training course in changing social workers’ perceived knowledge about LGBTQ+ young people?
- Are the effects moderated by previous employer and external LGBTQ+ knowledge training?
- Are the effects moderated by: (1) age, (2) gender, (3) religiosity, (4) connection to the LGBTQ+ community?
How we went about it
The evaluation involved a large-scale RCT whereby 614 social workers completed an online pre-test examining the heteronormative attitudes and beliefs, and perceived LGBTQ+ knowledge. Afterwards, participants were randomly allocated to either receive the online training (intervention condition) or any business-as-usual training provided by their employer or local authority (control condition). A post-test was then completed by 466 participants, resulting in the final sample for analysis. The post-test for participants in the intervention condition also enquired about their experience of taking part in the training. Both quantitative and qualitative data were collected from the post-test survey.
At post-test, the RCT revealed that participants in the intervention condition:
- Scored a statistically significant lower (better) score on the heteronormative attitudes and beliefs scale than those in the control condition
- Scored a statistically significant higher (better)score on the perceived LGBTQ+ knowledge scale than those in the control condition
While we take this to be good initial evidence of the effectiveness of the programme, there were some limitations to the research design which mean we should be cautious in how we interpret the results. The sample was self-selecting, meaning that the sample consisted of social workers who volunteered to take part in, and completed, the training. This means that the findings may not be generalisable to the social work population as a whole.
There was no strong evidence to suggest that moderators influenced the effectiveness of the training, however those who had completed the training were satisfied and felt more confident about being able to support LGBTQ+ youth.
Lastly, training might be more effective at decreasing heteronormative attitudes and beliefs for children’s social workers who: 1) have 0-10 years of experience, 2) identify as straight, 3) identify as a woman, 4) have a connection to the LGBTQ+ community, or 5) are over 35 years old.
The findings suggest that there is initial evidence that the e-learning module can effectively increase the perceived knowledge of LGBTQ+ youth while decreasing heteronormative prejudices, laying the groundwork for the establishment of an effective social care workforce that can support all young people.
The study also highlights key areas for future research and recommendations for policy and practice. For example, testing the longitudinal replication of these results and the impact of training on the practice of children’s social workers. We recommend policy makers should consider implementing LGBTQ+ training for all qualified social workers and consider implementing such training within pre-qualifying social work courses.