How learning disabilities framework for adult social workers fills longstanding guidance gap

Capabilities statement outlines expectations of social workers working with emphasis on strengths-based practice, co-production and challenging health inequalities, says Becky Reynolds

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By Becky Reynolds, British Association of Social Workers

Learning Disability Awareness Week 2019 (17-23 June) saw the launch of an innovative framework to support social work practice with adults who have a learning disability.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) commissioned the British Association of Social Workers (BASW), in partnership with Research in Practice for Adults (RiPfA), to develop a capabilities statement and continuing professional development pathway alongside associated resources.

It is landmark guidance filling a longstanding gap in this vital field of social work and is essential for practitioners supporting adults who have learning disabilities.

The development of these frameworks has been through co-production between adults with lived experience, their family, friends and carers, social workers and wider stakeholders.

As a social worker, listening to people’s experiences of social work has been a powerful and enlightening experience. This new framework urges all practitioners to pursue partnership and co-production to ensure good practice grows from listening and acting upon the voice of lived experience.

Promoting rights and relationships  

The capabilities statement builds upon the professional capabilities framework (PCF) and knowledge and skills statement to identify the essential capabilities for social workers in this specific area to deliver the very best social work practice.

The capabilities promote rights and relationships as the core of social work practice, focusing upon strengths-based practice grounded in human rights, social justice and promotion of individual dignity.

The essential role of social workers in challenging health inequalities is recognised and outlines that social work has a “vital” part to play in challenging commissioning and care planning decisions promoting the skills of social workers to support individuals in the community.

The capabilities statement is accompanied by a continuing professional development (CPD) pathway, which outlines the necessary training and learning opportunities for social workers to develop in this area of practice.

This also supports social workers to reflect upon their own abilities through identifying capabilities for each of level of social worker as detailed in the PCF.

Commitment to framework needed

The launch of the statement and pathway was a momentous moment – for the first time we have a comprehensive framework outlining the essential knowledge, skills and values necessary for social work with adults who have learning disability.

The framework has the potential to support social workers to operate in partnership with adults with lived experience of learning disability to strive towards their individual goals.

As a profession, we must collectively commit to using the framework in all aspects of social work practice, reflection and supervision both individually, in teams, organisations and on a national level.

Social workers must continue to listen to experiences of social work and act upon this to improve people’s lives – the capabilities statement has the potential to change social work practice with adults who have learning disabilities.

We must come together as a profession to ensure the voice of lived experience is truly embedded in social work practice.

‘We must listen’

Maris Stratulis, national director, BASW England, says: “It has been a great journey and privilege to work with so many stakeholders in the development of these co-produced resources.

“We must listen to the voices of people with lived experience, their carers and families. It is now time for action and to truly embed and implement these resources of excellence into direct practice and continuing professional development.”

Becky Reynolds is professional officer at the British Association of Social Workers 

This year’s Community Care Live 2019 boasts over 30 free learning sessions to equip you to face the key challenges in social work practice today. You can also sign up to any of our eight legal learning sessions to help ensure you have the legal literacy your role requires. Register now to ensure you don’t miss out. 

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