Partners for Change Outcomes Management System

Published: September 30, 2019

The report evaluates the Partners for Change Outcome Management System (PCOMS), a behavioural health outcomes management system that was designed for counselling and other therapeutic services.


The Oranga Tamariki four site trial evaluations focussed on the feasibility and effectiveness of using PCOMS in statutory social work with children and whānau in New Zealand.

In particular, the evaluation addressed the following questions:

  • What, in practice, is working more or less well with PCOMS, and why?
  • What supportive factors and obstacles have been encountered during implementation?
  • Is PCOMS appropriate for use with Māori?
  • What is the evidence that Oranga Tamariki short and medium term PCOMS outcomes are likely to be realised?
  • Has the PCOMS trial produced unintended outcomes (positive or negative)?
  • How might the implementation of any second and larger trial be refined or improved?
  • To what extent is the use of PCOMS within statutory social work in Aotearoa New Zealand: (a) desirable (worth doing), (b) feasible (possible) and (c) usable (practical), and why?

As well as undertaking face-to-face interviews with 15 staff from across the four participating sites, the evaluation incorporated a literature scan; a review of Oranga Tamariki PCOMS documentation; findings from an Oranga Tamariki PCOMS survey; and Oranga Tamariki administrative data held on the Better Outcomes Now (the developer’s) website.

Key findings

The evaluation’s overall summary findings were that:

  • Almost all interviewed social workers participating in the trial reported struggling with PCOMS. For most, any early enthusiasm waned.
  • PCOMS usage appeared to be well below expected levels. Almost no-one on the trial consistently used PCOMS as an engagement, measurement, and feedback tool as intended.
  • For intake and assessment social workers in particular, PCOMS was deemed by them to be inappropriate for use with parents; in part because they were focussed on the immediate safety of the child.
  • However, some staff did find PCOMS valuable as an engagement tool with children and young people, and a reasonably large proportion of young people reported liking it.
  • The trial generated little evidence to suggest that adopting PCOMS across Oranga Tamariki operations would meaningfully achieve any of the outcomes that some of the randomised-controlled trials have found in other settings.
  • There may still be value in using PCOMS as part of a broader practice development initiative on working directly with children and young people.