Help us address the gaps in social work knowledge and guidance on digital safeguarding

Two new research projects are attempting to fill the knowledge gap in how practitioners should work with social media and digital technologies

Photo: SkyLine/fotolia

By Claudia Megele

As social work practitioners we know that digital and social media technologies can be a great source of support for adults and are an integral part of children and young people’s lives, influencing their relationships, identity, development and wellbeing.

But social media also poses new risks and ethical challenges in practice and, therefore, it is unsurprising that social media is an increasing feature in safeguarding cases and serious case reviews.

However, although social media and digital technologies are increasingly embedded in workplace and professional relationships, and in spite of their impact and importance in practice, there is little known about how social work and social care professionals use social media and the knowledge, skills, capabilities and support they need.

Lack of appropriate guidance

This is aggravated by the the lack of appropriate practice guidance and further complicated by the combination of a changing practice landscape, changing service standards and changing professional and service users’ expectations.

The lack of due and routine consideration of online support and online identities and resources is a significant gap in current research and practice.

Therefore, to address this gap, the Principal Children and Families Social Worker (PCFSW) Network is leading on two important and complementary research projects to generate relevant evidence and best practice guidance on digital professionalism and effective online safeguarding.

The network is working with a wide range of partners including Cafcass, the National IRO Managers Partnership and a number of local authorities on the projects. Specific outputs from them will include an e-book comprising the findings from each research project, tools and resources for practitioners and a showcase of innovative digital professionalism and online safeguarding practice by local authorities.

Capturing the voice of practitioners

The voice of practitioners has not always been recognised in the development or application of technology in social work and social care. To help ensure these projects are practice-focused and practitioner-led, and to capture this voice, we have launched a survey of practitioners to understand their current use and challenges and the skills, capabilities and support that they need.

By taking 15 minutes to complete this survey you are contributing to shaping best practice guidance in this area and helping identify the skills and development opportunities that are needed for good digital practice and effective support for practitioners.

Community Care is a media partner in this project and there will be periodic updates on the development of these project and their findings, recommendations and outcomes. A full list of project partners is available here. If you wish to partner with this research please contact

Claudia Megele is head of service for quality assurance and practice and principal social worker at Hertfordshire County Council, and national chair of the Principal Children and Families Social Worker (PCFSW) Network. She is the author of  Safeguarding Children and Young People Online (2017, Policy Press) and Social Media and Social Work: Implications and Opportunities for Practice (2019, Policy Press). She is speaking at this year’s Community Care Live on digital safeguarding – register now for your free place

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One Response to Help us address the gaps in social work knowledge and guidance on digital safeguarding

  1. Abbso999 September 17, 2019 at 10:52 pm #

    Is this research not being carried out by Basw and Scie? Was it not also carried out by NHSDigital a couple of years ago? Why repeat it?

    Also there is lots in this piece that has been said in academic work by a researcher at UCLan in Preston.