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Social work in 2016 must be service user led

Posted on 5/01/2016 by

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Social Work must be service user led

The Care Act implementation has resulted in discussions about delivering a genuinely personalised approach to social care and social work and making a difference. My wish for 2016 is that all social work practice is characterised by excellent engagement, listening, empathy and working together with individuals, children, families and communities. I hope we can draw on people’s strengths, ensuring values of self-determination and human rights are upheld, and work to continually develop our professional knowledge and skills base.

A service user led and relation-focused approach is essential if we are to work effectively with people and families to make the most of their emotional and practical assets as well as accessing the care and support they need. Moving from a deficit to asset/strengths based approach sounds straightforward but a significant culture change is needed. But if we are we to support people in making the changes needed to deliver better and safer outcomes it is imperative that we make this move. 2016 will be a year of seeking and – I hope – delivering even more effective outcomes.

Cooperation, participation and inclusion have long been social work’s unique markers, as we strive to fully involve service users, family members and carers in the pursuit of better lives. The manner and end result of our practice is what matters most, yet often we focus too much on structure, procedure, strategy and planning. We forget these things are all aiming at good practice – not substitutes for it.

And good practice in 2016 should see a sharper focus on assessment and accreditation for post-qualification specialisms in social work, initially in child and family statutory work and with continuing support for the assessed and supported year in employment arrangements for all social workers. This is about promoting trust, confidence and resilience in social work. My wish is that more progress is made this year on improving the public perception of social work and the value of work done by the wider social care sector.

My wish is that the NHS can take a much broader view and embrace the value social care can bring to table

It remains essential for social work to lead on protecting human rights wherever they are threatened, applying holistic, person-centred approaches promoting independence, balanced carefully with protection and care. The ongoing requirement for approved status for social workers undertaking best interest assessor roles under the Mental Capacity Act and approved mental health professional roles under the Mental Health Act enshrines the value we can add and provides career milestones for social workers in adult services. My wish is that we can build on this and develop stronger recognition for advanced practice in these and other areas.

The challenges facing social care given the difficult spending review settlementmean social workers must be even more resourceful and imaginative as they work to identify best options for, and with, people. They must speak up and speak loudly to challenge care decisions and be part of the solution. Hopefully, this will be demonstrated in a proposed pilot scheme with named social workers able to challenge and advise clinical teams considering care and support options, including admitting individuals to assessment and treatment units. This a golden opportunity to demonstrate the real value social workers bring in working alongside people, particularly those with learning disabilities, to ensure their voices are heard and their human rights respected.

It comes back to empathy. It is the keystone of a social worker’s skill and the basis for building relationships with people who use care services. Not only that, it establishes and sustains positive professional support networks with colleagues across the health and social care sector.

I believe social workers can step up and demonstrate their confidence and leadership to move away from traditional models in favour of personal choice, social inclusion and citizenship. Health has much to learn from social care’s progress in working with service users and carers. Personalisation and outcome-focused approaches are in the ascendant, but there is still more to do to get them right.

My wish is that the NHS can take a much broader view and embrace the value social care can bring to table. It can often feel like the NHS pays lip service to social care and fails to recognise its vital role in truly integrated approaches to responding to people’s health and wellbeing, especially in mental health, primary care and end of life care. With that of course is the wish that social care can be supported at the level required and that we value social care workers delivering day-to-day support.

Have a happy, hopeful new year!

Source: The Guardian