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Residential child care agencies as learning organisations : innovation and learning from mistakes

McPheat, Graham and Butler, Luke (2013) Residential child care agencies as learning organisations : innovation and learning from mistakes. Social Work Education. ISSN 0261-5479

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The residential child care sector has been scrutinised via numerous inquiries following revelations of abusive and poor practice. These inquiries have made numerous recommendations which involve changes in practice and organisational culture, much of which is congruent with the features of a learning organisation. This article details research which evaluates the extent to which residential child care agencies exhibit the characteristics of a learning organisation. The research involved qualitative and quantitative methods, drawing on the experiences of a range of staff from the residential child care sector within Scotland. The findings revealed that residential child care agencies exhibit many features of a learning organisation, yet the extent to which these characteristics are perceived to exist differs significantly in line with the position staff occupy. Most significant were the findings that many staff do not feel supported to take risks nor encouraged to develop innovative practice; mistakes are not used as learning opportunities and a culture of blame is felt to exist. The implications of this are significant and this article identifies changes necessary to allow residential child care agencies to operate as learning organisations.