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Confident social work practice is crucial to person-centred dementia care

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Education and training, Knowledge and skills

Working with people living with dementia and those who care for them is an aspect of social work practice that will only grow in importance for our profession.

As the number of people living with the condition continues to rise (for the foreseeable future at least), it’s vital that social workers equip themselves with the knowledge and skills to offer the very best support they can.


In 2014, in partnership with the sector, I commissioned and published a manual for good social work practice: supporting adults who have dementia.

The manual was designed to be used by social workers at all levels, from front line practitioners to senior colleagues, supervisors and managers.

The aim then, as now, was to support all social workers to deliver best outcomes for the people with whom they worked.

To mark Dementia Awareness Week (14-20 May 2017) I launched new resources to support confident social work practice with dementia.

Commissioned by me and developed by Research in Practice for Adults (RiPfA), they build on previous resources, broadening the application of knowledge into practice.

They include case studies, practical guidance and tools drawing from the lived experiences of people with dementia and those who care for them.

The live launch included a webinar which I hope some of you were able to take part in.

For those of you that missed it, the recording can be accessed here.

I believe that developing our knowledge, skills and capability ‎in this area will be crucial. How else can we support people to enjoy the best possible lives they can than through personalised, co-designed care and support? And we achieve this by deploying the three most important social work skills at our disposal: communication, relationship building and critical evaluation.

We must start with people and their carers, providing emotional and psychosocial support, not just practical help.

This is our core business – empowering people with positive risk taking approaches and making sure their rights are respected and supported.

For me, person-centred dementia care is about considering the whole person, taking into account not just their health needs, but also their life history, abilities, skills and interests.

As social workers, we seek to build meaningful relationships with people with dementia and their family carers, making sure they remain at the heart of the decision making process. This is what strengths based social work is all about.

Of course, the challenges of dealing with the volume and complexity of this work remain. Resourcing issues persist and we must continue to collaborate positively with health colleagues in a turbulent and constantly changing health and care environment.

However, the wellbeing principle enshrined in the Care Act provides the best opportunity to focus on outcomes for people rather than processes.

It reminds us of our obligations to work with colleagues in health, housing and other areas to provide genuine integrated responses to care and support. Above all, we must always put the person’s needs and life goals first.

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