Short social climate questionnaire is found to have validity in secure learning disability services


The EssenCES is a short questionnaire used for assessing the social climate of forensic psychiatric wards. The Climate dimensions measured are ‘Therapeutic Hold’, ‘Patients’ Cohesion and Mutual Support’ and ‘Safety’ (versus threat of aggression and violence).

Studies in forensic services have suggested that the questionnaire is a valid instrument for assessing ward atmosphere. The authors of this study set out to look at the psychometric properties of the measure in a secure service for people with learning disabilities.

They worked with 51 people, 37 men and 14 women, aged between 18 and 71 years all of whom were inpatients of a secure learning disabilities service. They were all asked to complete the EssenCES as part of routine clinical practice.

What they found from their analysis of reliability was an acceptable level for all three subscales of the instrument.

Looking at one particular aspect of the scale, they found that social climate ratings were more positive on low secure wards than medium secure wards.

They conclude that their findings can be seen as

preliminary evidence to suggest that the EssenCES subscales (patient report) are reliable in this previously unconsidered population.

The authors also point out that validity requires further investigation and that future research could consider links between social climate and treatment outcomes within forensic secure services for people with learning disabilities.
The Essen Climate Evaluation Schema measure of social climate in a secure service for people with intellectual disabilities, Quinn M et al., in Advances in Mental Health and Intellectual Disabilities, 6, 4, 171 – 178

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John Northfield

After qualifying as a social worker, John worked in community learning disability teams before getting involved in a number of long-stay hospital closure programmes, working to develop individual plans for people moving into their own homes. He worked for BILD, helping to develop the Quality Network and was editorial lead for the NHS electronic library learning disabilities specialist collection. This led him to found the Learning Disabilities Elf site with Andre Tomlin as a way of making the evidence accessible to practitioners in health and social care. Most recently he has worked as part of Mencap's national quality team and also been involved in a number of national website developments, including the General Medical Council's learning disabilities site.

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