Social workers need attachment training, says NICE draft guidance

The clinical standards body proposes the use of tools to help assess attachment and make decisions about placements

All social workers in the care system should be trained in recognising and assessing attachment, according to proposed guidelines.

The guidelines by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), currently up for consultation, argues that health and social care providers should train all key workers in assessing attachment difficulties and parenting quality, for children in – or on the edge of – care.

The recommendation is part of the key priorities for the guidance, which also proposes a video feedback programme for the parents of preschool-age children on the edge of care to help improve their parenting and build attachment.

Foster carers and adoptive parents

Intensive training for foster carers and adoptive parents before, and for up to a year after, the placement should be considered for primary school-age children, and interventions for young people should be modified to allow for physical and sexual development, transition to adolescence and emotions about their birth parents or original family.

Do you need to brush up on your attachment knowledge?
Find assessment and direct work tools, case examples that show you how to apply theory to your practice and guidance on talking about attachment in court in the attachment knowledge and practice hub. This resource for Community Care Inform subscribers was produced with Professor David Shemmings, an expert in child protection and attachment and relationship-based practice.

NICE recommends children with attachment difficulties, and their parents or carers, should get equal access to help and interventions – regardless of the type of placement. The structures around children with attachment difficulties should remain consistent.

This would mean keeping the same social worker throughout the period the child or young person is in the care system or on the edge of care.

Intervention tools

Professionals should also take greater steps to actively involve children and young people in the process of entering care or changing placement, the guidance states. This could involve explaining the reasons for the move or familiarising the child with their new carers and placement.

A series of intervention tools should be considered to help guide decisions on interventions for children and young people. This included the ‘Strange Situation Procedure’ for children aged 1-2 years, and a modified version for 2-4 year-olds. Adult and child attachment interviews were also tools that practitioners should consider, the guidance said.

The consultation on the guidelines closes on 13 July 2015.

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