Category: News

News stories

SCRC Teaching Partnership evaluation report published

The evaluation has found that at this stage the project is achieving the majority of its intermediate goals, including:

  • students converting academic learning into frontline skills
  • students feeling confident and resilient
  • practitioners developing teaching and learning skills
  • social worker’s practicing in a learning environment where there is access to research and opportunities.

There is strong evidence from students, practitioners and academics that demonstrates the benefits of the Teaching Partnership and the commitment of all stakeholders to making the project successful in its aims.

Read the Summary Report and the Full Evaluation Report.

A beacon of good practice

By Tracy Hind, EBE Co-ordinator

Tracy Hind, of Recovery Partners, a non-profit, user-led organisation, shares her journey of working with the SCRC Teaching Partnership on service user and carer involvement.

I have worked in youth and community development for nearly 30 years including with user involvement initiatives such as developing parent/carer participation on boards of directors, and training service users to conduct community research and to deliver and evaluate services. When Recovery Partners was commissioned to facilitate the Experts by Experience programme, I felt able to bring all this experience.

The Experts by Experience (EBE) programme was a direct consequence of the scoping we undertook in 2017-18 to find out what service user and carer involvement was going on in social work education. We made recommendations for how involvement could be improved and more funding became available, so we were able implement recommendations to recruit and train a cohort of EBEs.

The EBE programme included sessions on equality, working with practitioners, how social workers are trained, what social workers learn and do, self-management, and sharing lived experiences; how this might feel and how to look after yourself when this is challenging

We meet every six-eight weeks to keep developing as a group; we’re really cohering and people are taking on more responsibility. We had Christmas lunch this week and you could really see how they were supporting each other. The opportunity to develop the group has been great.

The EBEs we recruited were people who were interviewed as part of the scoping report. I asked them at the time if they would like to be involved in social work education in some way if there was a future opportunity and around two-thirds said yes. I kept in regular contact with them and when the funding was made available we were able to bring 19 people together for induction training. It’s a wonderful outcome from the scoping report.

We have had several challenges along the way. Some of the cohort’s expectations were quite high about how much impact they could have on social work practice (this was particularly the case for those that had had a negative experience). There was also some frustration around the pace of progress so we lost a couple of people along the way.

The diversity of lived experiences within the cohort is both a real strength and a challenge, and has certainly led to some lively discussions. There were some issues that were challenging to deal with between us, but we are now managing to work with this better. Right now it’s going really well, though we need more opportunities for the EBEs to become involved in.

We made a really conscious decision to work with the cohort taking a community development approach. We're really honest; we discuss everything including the challenges. We stay realistic. When difficult issues come up we surface them and if necessary follow up with one to ones. Nothing goes on that is unsupported or unaddressed.

Our meetings are very much about empowering ourselves as a group; this might include helping people who have struggled with confidence or supporting individuals to define what they want out of it, as well as further training including presentation skills, public speaking, and developing lived experience narratives. We appreciate people; we are hugely appreciative of the commitment the EBEs demonstrate. Some travel a long way to come along to all the meetings and at times some people have been really unwell, in these cases I stay in touch with them to keep them in the loop as much as they want. We respond to people; we don’t see them as having deficits because they are involved with services. Recovery Partners is user-led, I'm an EBE too there is no ‘them and us’, there’s only us. We’re grateful to the Teaching Partnership for supporting this approach.

We have two internal working groups; one to develop the values and mission statement (how we will work) which the group has signed off so it’s owned by the group. The other is an information pack which has anonymised biographies which include a bit about the EBEs’ lived experiences, what they are interested in doing, and what experience they’ve had. This will help raise the profile of the work we do.. It felt really good for the group to work on this together.

The highlight of my work with the Teaching Partnership has been the group work with the EBEs; when we come together as a cohort and we check in and talk about how we are doing, how opportunities have gone, what we need in terms of support. I’m really pleased the opportunities so far have gone well.

My hope is that this is just the start; sustainability is an issue but the Teaching Partnership is exploring ways to keep this going. It has felt like a lovely beacon of good practice in development - it feels really human, tangible and real. And there’s such a great amount of support around it.

A really empowering experience

By Sarah, Expert by Experience

I found about the Experts by Experience (EBE) programme on a note that went round; a list of interesting opportunities to help other people. So I called them up.

I live in Eastbourne and have been a service user of ESCC Adult Social Care for a number of years. The majority of my social workers have been brilliant, I have only had one bad experience but I wanted to be able to use my experiences to help in training and development of social workers.

I got a huge amount out of the training programme; it helped me to understand other people and other people's need. I learned a lot about other people and I grew in it as well. I learned about myself and how I feel about myself.

This has been my first opportunity to really feedback into the social work practice I have experienced. I think is really important to involve service users and carers in the education and recruitment of social workers because they can learn first-hand what it’s like to be us. Its fine social workers hearing about it and learning about it at university but to actually hear someone’s personal experience is incredibly valuable. It really prepares them for what it’s really like.

I have been involved in a couple of opportunities so far; reading portfolios, giving a talk to social workers about my experiences and putting forward the aims of our group. Reading the portfolios reignited my love for reading; before my accident I was a full-time nurse paramedic and during the training I did a lot of reading and it became something I no longer enjoyed. Reading the portfolios enabled me to see both sides of the coin; I have been a carer and a service user.

I have received fantastic support when taking part in these opportunities there’s always someone to explain things to me; for example social worker speak and acronyms. I have always felt really well looked and I was being listened which really made me feel good. And they have asked me to come back again and then again to give a talk to about 40 social workers.

I have teaching experience but I was a bit nervous about giving a talk as I haven’t taught for 18 years. It was interesting and I saw someone taking notes as I was talking; I felt really listened to and valued. I told them no matter whether you are dealing a drug addict or an adult being a pain you should always love your clients.

I am finding being part of the Experts by Experience programme is really helping me open up. I suffer from PTSD and its actually starting to help me to open up and talk about my accident. Its helped me to understand about social workers and what they go through. I personally feel like I have grown a little too.

I definitely want to keep being involved. It’s very important; not just for us to help social workers but for us personally to grow and learn. I also like the fact that I am helping others in some small way. If I give my experience hopefully it will help someone treat someone differently next time. I am so grateful to be a member of the EBE and Tracy is really fantastic.

Newly Qualified Social Worker, Daniela, shares her experiences as a student and NQSW

What course did you study?

MSc Brighton - 2 years and 2 placements

What teams did you have placements in?

My first placement was in the Early Help Short Term Team and my second was in the Family Support Team in Eastbourne.

How did the Hub model support your practice and learning whilst on placement?

On my first placement I was a bit apprehensive it felt like too much supervision but actually from the start I really enjoyed them. The hub offered me a different type of reflection compared the one to ones with my Practice Educator or Practice Supervisor. I not only had the opportunity to talk about my cases and the different issues that I encountered with my cases but also listened to my colleagues opinions and found out about their work.

I absolutely believe the student hub prepared me for practice. The student hub was based on applying theory to practice; we'd talk about theory and apply it to our cases - it was a really good experience. Talking about my cases and my feelings triggered by the difficult situations in families I worked with offered me the opportunity to really understand my feelings and find different solutions to apply to my cases.

What do you think are the strengths/benefits of the hub model?

One of the great benefits was meeting with my colleagues from both the University of Brighton and Sussex - it was a good experience to share different courses/modules we had completed and work techniques.

In the student hub sessions I learnt how to actively listen; I had been aware of the concept but not been able to apply the skill -  this now really helps in my practice.

What top tip would you give to social work students about to enter their first placement? What is the most important thing you learned?

Take full of advantage of your placement it will teach you to be emotionally intelligent so that you can reflect on your work and life. It will be difficult but the rewards make it well worth it.

How did you find the recruitment process?

I really enjoyed the interviews with care leavers; it gave me an opportunity to have a chat and find out how they perceived the social workers and how they like to be treated. The interview with the professionals was more nerve racking but I felt prepared.

What have been the highlights of your NQSW role so far?

I enjoy my supervision and the action learning sets; these are similar to the student hubs but add a little more as the groups are mixed Adults and Children's social workers. Its great to share experiences and see what issues adults social workers have to face. Its also good to know that I have a protected case load as an NQSW so I feel a sense of safety.

If you could sum up your first few months as a NQSW in a few words what would they be?

Reflection, reflection, reflection.


Newly Qualified Social Worker, Aisling, shares her experiences as a student and NQSW

What course did you study?

MSc Brighton - 2 years and 2 placements

What teams did you have placements in?

My first placement was in the Integrated Team for Families in Brighton & Hove  and my second was in the Duty and Assessment Team in Eastbourne.

How did the Hub model support your practice and learning whilst on placement?

As a student I really benefited from the student hub, it taught me the importance of being able to reflect on my practice. It was great speaking with other students, hypothesising and making plans for my practice in the future.

I definitely believe the hub model me more practice-ready than I would otherwise have been. As a student it’s really important to be able to reflect on practice and get feedback on how you are doing. I would often arrive at the hubs feeling really stressed but left feeling enthusiasm again about social work.

What do you think are the strengths/benefits of the hub model?

The number one thing about the hub was that it allowed me to remember I was just a student. Statutory placements are amazing and provide you with the skills for social work that you wouldn't get without this but do come with stress and challenges and the hub is like a support group as well as learning group.

The other benefit was mixing with students from another university which I hadn't had before; these are likely to be friends and colleagues for years to come and certainly created the beginning of social groups. We supported each other in good and bad times; sharing experiences of our highs and lows with each other - a really positive place.

In the skills development groups we learnt the latest research and social work practice and it was delivered in a really interesting way relevant to practice and built on what we had already learned at university.

What tips would you give to social work students about to enter their first placement? What is the most important thing you learned?

  • Understand the importance of social work education and be willing to ask for support and guidance.
  • Accept that you are going to make mistakes; be open and honest - people will understand.
  • Try new experiences and embrace as many opportunities as you can early in your placement as you will be really busy once further into placement.
  • The best way to find an answer to a practice question is through your own manager or a current Newly Qualified Social Worker – seek them out.
  • Enjoy your placement but do your portfolio as you go and keep your evidence up to date. This is key!

How did you find the recruitment process?

You need to be able to talk about the job and speak about your experiences on placement and the hub really helped me preparing for this so that together with the experience I gained on my statutory placement I felt capable and ready for the interview and to do the job.

What have been the highlights of your NQSW role so far?

Coming back to the team where I was on placement. I have an amazing manager. It’s a difficult climate at the moment but people are still laughing and I love it.

If you could sum up your first few months as a NQSW in a few words what would they be?

Exciting, challenging, tiring but rewarding.

Aisling circle

Exploring the use of expert assessments in courts within the context of SWIFT provision of those reports: project update

At our recent research minded event we heard from Anna Wilson, Operations Manager in SWIFT, in ESCC, whose project is looking at the provision of expert assessments by SWIFT (specialist family services) within the pre-proceedings and proceedings process. Anna commented: “There’s currently no feedback loop between ourselves, the judiciary and Cafcass so I wanted to find out what learning there might be about how we provide assessments and whether this learning could also help think about what might make court processes work better.

The aims of the research are:

  • What difference does SWIFT assessment make to decision making within the MBA process?
  • What difference does SWIFT assessment make to the progress of care applications made?
  • Do the SWIFT assessment outcomes completed in pre-proceedings as part of the MBA process reflect the ultimate outcome of care proceedings?
  • What are the implications for social work practice?

It’s still a work in progress and I’m finding getting interviews with the judiciary (due to the extensive governance arrangements)  and Cafcass (who I am struggling to get a response from) quite challenging.

There is very little other research and the difficulty is that how proceedings run are culturally different geographically.”

What would really help the lived experience of victims of cuckooing: project update

At our recent research minded event we heard from Seb Barnes, Practice manager for the Mental Health and Substance Misuse Team West, who is in the early stages of his project which is going to explore what really helps the lived experience of victims of cuckooing. Seb is already the Adult Social Care lead for Cuckooing in East Sussex and sits on a cross organisational working group to address this issue. Seb reflected:

“We have had some success but also a number of failures which can lead to significant risk for the victims. It’s a real challenge – So how do we get the voice of the victim included? It’s a real challenge as victims often have problems with the law and substance misuse issues.

I am doing this research on my own; I started with a literature review and it’s clear whilst this is a big issue there is very little academic research; I haven't found a single study on this from the victim’s point of view. I am planning on conducting semi-structured interviews which will work better for victims.

As other practitioners have found ethics is an issue especially as I am talking to clients. I have to get it through ESCC internal governance process and the University of Brighton ethics board.

The other challenge as always is time. My day job is very demanding and I only have one day a month study leave. My team are really behind it and we are a research beacon team, which helps. You need to get yourself into the right headspace intellectually. And you also need to think about where to do it; I have young children at home and if I’m at work I will get embroiled in work.

For me good research is about improving our practice; I am on the board with other organisations to work on this and we need to get it right.

As an example I worked with one victim who had a safeguarding plan with police to keep him safe. He said he couldn't be housed in Hastings because the gang would find him so Hastings Borough Council arranged for him to go to Basildon. Everything was put in place but when he arrived at Basildon housing office they said “You’re not a vulnerable adult we’re not going to house you”. So then he had to rough sleep for a few days until we could get to him and provide accommodation. Then we had the additional cost of putting him up in a hotel in Hastings for a few weeks whilst we negotiated with housing. We really need a joined up approach to this work.

When I reflect on this, cuckooing is a kind of modern slavery; the victims of which receive a lot of care and support but often cuckooing is not being categorised as modern slavery. I hope to address these inconsistencies and biases with this project and make a difference for victims of cuckooing across East Sussex and hopefully beyond."

Wellbeing from concept to practice: project update

At our recent research minded event we heard from Anna Bouch (Adult Social Care, Brighton & Hove City Council - pictured right) and Jackie Lelkes (University of Brighton) who have now completed their project and are hoping to get their paper into the European Journal of Social Work shortly. The subject of their project was ‘Wellbeing from concept to practice’, here Anna shares their results:

“The Care Act has created a challenge for social work practice; to operationalise the concept of wellbeing. We have a statutory duty to promote wellbeing, so we wanted to understand how practitioners think about this concept. Do we actually do relationship based practice? These are the concepts that wellbeing is driven by.

The definition of wellbeing is broad and touches all aspects of a person's life - so how do we promote wellbeing? In assessments are we really thinking about this or are we thinking about eligibility criteria?

The Act doesn't give you a very good definition of wellbeing and everyone interprets it differently. Then you consider that we're asking people to think about this when they are under stress, unwell, etc.

We Interviewed 36 social workers and asked two questions:

  • What do you understand by the concept of wellbeing?
  • And for someone who lacks mental capacity?

We really wanted to find out if we apply the same practices across these two groups of people.

The responses for people with capacity included:

  • I think about how fluid wellbeing is for me - and how it might feel for another person
  • That holistic sense of who that person is
  • Sometimes it’s linking in with things that they’ve lost
  • It’s kind of prescribed in our assessments isn't it?
  • This wellbeing things I’ve you the idea the the sky’s the limit, we can’t do it
  • I suppose it still has to fit in the eligibility

It was clear we had two different thought clusters:

  • Artistic 56% of respondents – these people were comfortable with uncertainty, viewed it as dynamic and nuanced, saw the value as in the relationship, appreciated that small things can make a difference, and referred to emotional state.
  • Formulaic 44% of respondents – these people saw it as linear process driven by the organisation and its expectations, about containing risk and were risk averse, they felt they had to follow instructions and couldn't question, felt that they can't do this in the context of pressures on them - time poor.

Who's right? Well neither, it’s about balance. We have to work to process AND we need to embrace uniqueness. Consideration of wellbeing is HOW we do something and how we work in Brighton & hove does encourage us to think about the person but within the confines of process.

The responses for people without capacity were very different; all the artists disappeared and only two people talked about the individual. It all became formulaic and about risk. For the people with capacity it was clear that practitioners viewed the client as holding the risk but for people without capacity social workers hold all the risk.

Practitioners who took part in the project found many associated benefits. They found it incredibly valuable to talk about the concept, they liked having their assumptions challenged, and they liked developing things as groups and sharing knowledge.

The key take away points of this research include that:

  • how you consider wellbeing is about you as well as the person
  • to consider is a process
  • it’s always in the moment.

Research project update; the opportunities and challenges

At our fifth research minded event we heard back from practitioners running research projects. All are at different stages but all are addressing key frontline practice issues (there are articles about first three in this newsletter):

The event was rounded off with a table top discussion on what practitioners thought was possible in terms of research in their own practice; what they had learned today and what would help practitioners to start doing research. It was felt that the key learning was not underestimating how long it’s going to take to do research. Anna Bouch (Brighton & Hove City Council) reflected:

“At the beginning of this research minded journey we were nervous about the cultural change required to gain the engagement and interest in research but what we’ve found is that practitioners and managers have been great – now we need to make sure we maintain this enthusiasm for embedding research into practice.”

There were a number of suggestions for giving practitioners confidence to undertake research, including a workshop on research, ensuring academic support, access to journals and the support of beacon teams.

Enthusiasm abounds at the SCRC’s fourth practice research event

We were joined by over 35 practitioners from across the partnership at our fourth Research Mindedness and Practitioner Research event held at the AMEX Stadium in October.

The event was kicked off by Cath Holmstrom (University of Brighton) and Dr Reima Maglajlic, (University of Sussex) who invited delegates to bring along an object that symbolises research. The range of objects brought along was incredibly diverse and illustrated how everyone interprets research and being research minded differently. Examples included plants, ‘clouds’, paperweights and many more items.

The morning included a presentation by the Brighton & Hove Hospital Team about their Journal Club which was established by Andrew Haughton, who gave an overview on why and how he set up the Club and how to sustain it going forward:

“I set up journal club about year ago because I wanted an ASYE project and had heard about fellow students who had done research groups or journal clubs on placements – there wasn’t one in the team. I really enjoy reading research and sharing with the team. Colleagues commented that they didn’t really talk about research anymore so were enthusiastic about the concept. We have made it voluntary and collaborative.

A really beneficial factor in establishing this Club has been the support of my supervisor – management buy in was the key. I was also an ASYE so had more time and access to articles and was still fresh from university.

When thinking about how to move forward I googled and researched about how to run a journal club; RiPfa have a How to run a journal club briefing which is a good place to start. I took the bits I liked from this but found it a bit formal and wanted it to be more engaging and informal.

Thinking about tips I would give to others who would like to set up something similar, I would say:
1. It’s important to have a regular space and we have a meeting room we can use.
2. You need someone with drive and tenacity to be behind it.
3. Lightly, lightly – you mustn’t get disheartened if one month people don’t turn up.
4. Make sure the research is accessible in terms of readability so that practitioners can easily digest and absorb ahead of club.
5. You need a chair or facilitator for each meeting so that someone can focus it; How is this going to impact on our practice. You could have a rotating chair so that each member of the team has the opportunity. It’s a good space for balance between experience and research.

Difficulties I have and do encounter are around two key issues:

  • Lack of protected time for the Club – the team has been really supportive but currently we are running the Club in our lunch break so it’s difficult to always get people. Moving forward I am looking to put together an evaluation that we can take to management and say what benefits the team have found in the journal club and hopefully get buy in from managers to embed the Club with a monthly hour of protected time for this purpose.
  • Access to journals is difficult – RiPfa is good but tends to be an overview of subjects. If we still have ASYE in team they will still have access to the university subscriptions, but this is something that could may be explored by the teaching partnership.

The Club is going well and 9 out the 12 months it has been running participation has varied between 3 and 10 in the room. The team has taken it on board now having had a reticent and we are now sharing more and more research.

If I was starting again I would do things slightly differently. It’s been quite organic in its development. I would have involved the teams earlier to check availability and what would work best and asking if people were willing to give up their lunch. Another factor in addition to getting the management buy in to set aside time (outside of lunch) would be to put into practitioner PDPs.”

Laura Power, a Newly Qualified Social Worker in the team commented:

“I like how collaborative the Journal Club is and how enthusiastic the team are – it’s quite informal and you don’t have to have read the article in advance. It’s really useful for students and ASYE for PCF 9. It’s a really helpful way of keeping up to date with research; for example we explored a piece of research around making safeguarding with older people more personal. I was able to bring this to a case recently and as a result make a much better referral.”

At the end of the event, the most common feedback included a desire for more such events structured to provide a framework for supporting practitioners with confidence and skills required to make changes at individual and team levels.