Last November, 12 frontline children’s social workers and team managers in Dorset became the first participants in Reinvigorating Social Work, a new approach to social work CPD.
Developed by the council, Reinvigorating Social Work offered them something greater than the usual piecemeal diet of training: 10 weeks of structured and practice-focused development tailored to their individual needs.
Rooted in a belief in relationship-based practice and direct work, Reinvigorating Social Work mixes training workshops, one-on-one coaching, action learning and mentoring to give social workers tools and insights that can help them get it right for children and families first time.
And those 12 workers are just the start. Between now and June 2019, every single permanent social worker and team manager in Dorset will follow in their footsteps – getting their chance to benefit from an agenda-setting programme that is backed with £2m from the Department for Education’s Innovation Fund.
“Reinvigorating Social Work is about getting back to the basics of social work,” says Tanya Hamilton-Fletcher, the operational and programme lead for Reinvigorating Social Work at Dorset County Council.
“Typically, once you’re a practising social worker opportunities to step out and reflect on your own learning and development are hard to find. Reinvigorating Social Work gives all our social workers and team managers that opportunity.
“It’s got a strong emphasis on relationships-based practice, purposeful engagement with families and direct work with parents and children. It also helps social workers recognise and value what they bring to families.”
During their 10 weeks on the programme social workers attend workshops, get one-to-one coaching on putting the lessons from those workshops into practice and take part in action learning sets that help them reflect on and consolidate what they’ve learned.
There are also a ‘discovery day’ where participants explore their individual behaviour styles and gain insights into themselves and the qualities they possess that can enhance their practice.
To make this all possible the Reinvigorating Social Work programme has its own team of social workers who step in to ease the workload of those taking part in the programme. This, says Tanya, ensures the social workers on the programme get the space and time they need to make the most out of what’s on offer.
“The intention is that social workers have a reduction in their workload of approximately a third during their time on the programme,” she says. “It’s part of what I think makes this such a good CPD opportunity.
“Having your employer commit and invest in you in this way is a very positive thing. It gives our social workers protected, reflective time to refocus on why they do what they do and re-engage with the reasons why they became social workers in the first place.”
What our social workers say
It’s a statement the social workers that took part in the programme’s debut run in November very much agree with.
“It was some of the best training I’ve done and has given me tools I really feel I can use,” said one. “Sometimes I go on training and it feels too basic. Reinvigorating Social Work has broadened my toolkit for working with families.”
Another added: “I have gained a vast amount of differing knowledge and skills that I will be able to implement in practice, meaning a better service to my current and future service users.”
Tomorrow’s CPD today
Today the programme is fully underway and soon every Dorset social worker and team manager will have taken part in a CPD offer that is poised to set the standard nationally.
“At the end of the programme the Department for Education will be disseminating the lessons from Reinvigorating Social Work nationally so other local authorities can learn from what we are already doing,” says Tanya.
“This is about us investing in our social workers’ practice and through that making a tangible difference to the lives of children, young people and families by ensuring that they get the support they need first time and don’t end up being re-referred.”