Evidence Guide for Business Services Workbook
How do you collect evidence?
There are many different methods you can use to collect evidence. You can:
- use workplace documents and forms
- assess or 'test'.
No single method is better than any other. However, it is important that you choose the method that will work best to provide the evidence you need to collect. In other words, the type of evidence you need will determine the method you use. Here is an example.
You want to know if a client is able to set up and arrange their own work environment, equipment and materials. A work supervisor or assessor observing the client in the workplace actually doing this task and recording their observation would be a good way to collect evidence.
You need to know when clients start and finish work, so management implements an attendance sheet that clients or supervisors use to sign in and out each day.
So how do you choose which method to use? First of all, you need to be very clear about what evidence you need. Do you need evidence or information about a client's communication abilities? The budgets for a project? Or the amount of training a client has had in using assistive technology?
When you're clear about what you need, then you can decide what method is going to give you the 'best' evidence – evidence that 'proves' or shows something, without a doubt. This means evidence that is:
Authentic means the evidence is 'real' and factual – it comes from an appropriate source. For example, evidence about how a client performs in the workplace should come from the workplace itself. The workplace is the 'real' source.
Valid means the evidence is directly related to what you need. For example, if you need evidence about a client's ability to travel independently to and from work, you must focus your evidence gathering on that type of travel. You don't need evidence about the client travelling in other situations, or their ability to travel on all forms of transport.
Reliable means the evidence can be relied on. For example, let's say you need evidence on a client's need for adaptive technology. An assessment by a professional in the field would be considered 'reliable' evidence, as would case notes and workplace supervisor observations.
It's worth mentioning here that the reliability of evidence is strengthened when it comes from a variety of sources. This enables you to confirm or question facts. In the above example, the combined data from the professional's report, client case notes and supervisor observations would provide a more reliable bank of evidence about client needs than if only one source of evidence was used. If all sources are telling you the same thing, you know you have reliable, solid evidence on which to base your decisions or claims. If there are inconsistencies or questions about the facts, you know you need to look at the evidence again, or seek out more evidence.
Current means the evidence is up-to-date, or from the time period that you require. For example, the DMI requires evidence over a period of at least three weeks prior to its completion. All evidence must come from that time period, otherwise it is not valid.
A business service is collecting evidence to complete a client's DMI assessment. In the Physical Assistance and Personal Care domain, there is an assessment item that asks the following question.
During the past three months, what level of assistance has this service provided to enable the worker to:
- (f) maintain work pace without tiring.
The organisation needs to collect evidence that is authentic, valid, reliable and current. Which of these would be the better method to use?
Option 1 – The manager interviews the client in their office after work one night, and asks them if they were able to keep pace during the day.
Option 2 – The client's work supervisor records on an official form, over the period of a week, any assistance the client receives to maintain work pace. An occupational therapist also observes the client in the workplace, as part of an ongoing workplace assessment.
In this scenario, Option 2 describes the method that's going to collect better evidence. Why? In Option 2, the evidence will be:
- authentic – observations are of the client, in the workplace
- valid – focuses on recording any assistance the client receives
- reliable – the work supervisor and the occupational therapist will have the skills and experience to identify when the client tires, and what assistance they need. Individually, you'd expect that the evidence they collect would be reliable. However, bringing together evidence from two sources strengthens the overall reliability of the data
- current – if the evidence is collected within three months prior to the DMI being completed, it meets the DMI's requirements.
Option 1 is not the best way of collecting evidence for two main reasons. The evidence is not:
- valid – it focuses on collecting information about 'keeping pace', rather than the assistance the client receives to keep pace
- reliable – the client may not be able to give objective evidence, particularly in an interview situation with a superior. They may not want to admit they need assistance to keep pace. The reliability of the evidence would also be open to question, as it is only coming from one source.
You may be required to record information as part of your day-to-day job requirements. This information could include, for example:
- client case notes
- training information
- administration records, such as leave and attendance.
Remember that any information you are required to collect is important, and can be used as evidence by the organisation. So, your information should be recorded:
- in the required format
- clearly and accurately
- within the correct timeframe
- according to the policies and procedures of the organisation
- in line with the organisation's obligations under the Funding Agreement.
If you are collecting information about clients, you must explain to the client (or their advocate) what you are doing and why. This is a requirement of the Commonwealth's Privacy Act 1988. In addition, any information about clients should be treated as private and confidential. It is not for public disclosure or display.
Your workplace will have policies and procedures about maintaining client confidentiality, and collecting and storing client information. Make sure you know your responsibilities in these matters – it's important for you and for clients.
Quality and quantity are also important considerations when collecting evidence. How much information is enough information? What details do you need to include? Compare the following examples of case note entries, written by a client's work supervisor.
|Example 1||Example 2||Example 3|
|Today Clara seemed uninterested in work. She seemed tired and a bit grumpy, and I eventually asked her what the problem was. She told me that she was feeling tired. I asked her if she was feeling sick, and she said no, she was tired because she watched TV late the night before. I had to give her four reminders about the task at hand throughout the day.||Clara tired today.
Received four prompts to remain on task.
|Clara tired today. (she had a late night watching TV) Uninterested in work. |
Received four prompts throughout day to remain on task.
Is Example 1 the best record and therefore a more reliable piece of evidence, because it is longer and the most descriptive? Not necessarily.
- Example 1 is a detailed description of Clara's day, but Example 3 records the same data in a more concise way. In both examples we know Clara was tired, why she was tired, and what actions were taken.
- Example 2, however, is too brief. It doesn't provide an explanation as to why Clara was tired, so it's missing an important piece of information.
As mentioned previously, you need to record information in appropriate formats and according to workplace policies and procedures. However, it's worth keeping in mind that more information does not necessarily mean you have 'better' evidence. Evidence is about facts – and facts can be recorded in a concise way. What's important is that:
- all of the relevant information is included
- it's easy to understand – someone else could pick it up and understand what's been recorded.