Getting social care conversations right to improve care and support: exploring evaluation of “The 3 Conversations” in adult social care

Madeleine Stevens In progress  


The 3 Conversations (3Cs) is a particular strengths-based approach to providing services that work collaboratively with people seeking support, including carers. Adult social work in England is increasingly seeking to try out ‘strengths’ or ‘asset-based’ approaches; these, rather than focussing on what is lacking, set out to recognise the strengths in individuals, those around them, and their communities. A strengths-based approach aims to support people to be independent, and focus services where they are most needed.

An important feature of the 3Cs approach is the aim of avoiding traditional lengthy assessments of needs. Instead, the intention is for a series of ‘Conversations’ to take place: First, listening and making a connection; second, working intensively with people who are in crisis to put together an emergency plan; and third, where further help is needed, discussing longer-term support needs based on what the person seeking support sees as ‘a good life’. In common with other strengths-based approaches, people decide what ‘outcomes’ they want to achieve themselves, in discussion with practitioners.

3Cs is being tried out in more than 25 local authorities. Those delivering and receiving services using the 3Cs approach have described better-appreciated, more appropriate and less costly supports being put in place, potentially leading to improved quality of life for those requiring support. Workers describe increased job satisfaction and managers suggest there have been reductions in provision of long-term care packages. However, concerns have been raised about strengths-based approaches. Some argue that it is merely a way to withhold services or make more demands on the families of those with care needs. Rigorous evaluation is therefore needed.


This study aims to develop a description of 3Cs in practice, and an understanding of the types of impacts which may be experienced as a result of its implementation, how these might be brought about, and the importance of context in these processes of change. Based on this improved understanding, the project aims to assess and present the scope for future robust evaluation of the approach.


This study has been designed as a collaboration involving practitioners involved in design, implementation and delivery of the 3Cs approach locally, carers and people with care needs who are using services, and academic researchers.

The methods combine analysis of data collected by three local authorities implementing 3Cs with qualitative work using workshops and interviews. These will explore the experiences of 3Cs and understandings of mechanisms of change, and types of impacts, of those involved in 3Cs as users and potential users of services, practitioners and designers.