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My call to action for strengths based social work

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Thought provoking strengths based workshop inspires my new report

So much of what we do in our profession is about enabling people to have the best possible lives. We are there to help them build on their strengths and focus on the things that work to overcome the barriers preventing them reaching their potential.

Even in the most challenging and difficult of times, there are things we can do to give people strength and hope that things will get better. One of the ways we do that is by focusing on what matters to people, their talents, resources and their own unique perspective on life.

People are experts in their own lives and usually the best solutions come from their own experiences with support from others.  It’s a deliberately empowering approach, supporting individuals and families to be in control of life decisions, bolstered with the tools and support networks to succeed.

In January 2017, in partnership with the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) we hosted a workshop focusing on ‘strengths based social work with adults’. The event was about exploring what strengths-based social work with adults, individuals, families and communities really means for practitioners and people using services.

The event brought together professionals, researchers and experts by experience to share examples of good practice and the challenges of working in a strengths-based way. You can read more about that workshop here courtesy of friend of this blog and Chief Executive of the British Association of Social Workers (BASW), Dr Ruth Allen.

I am happy to be publishing a report that will share with you the discussions that emerged including summaries and presentations from the day. This extends the call to action around strengths-based social work. The intention is that it will be used to inform work on the development of an overarching practice framework and more detailed implementation/support tools.

Tony Hunter, SCIE’s Chief Executive looks back at the workshop

SCIE was delighted to host this workshop which we saw as an opportunity to develop the good practice reflected in our 2015 guide to implementing strengths based approaches to assessment and eligibility as part of the Care Act.


Since then SCIE has been developing its work in promoting and disseminating the growing evidence base for the transformative impact of strengths and asset based approaches, most recently in developing a model for enabling asset-based places.


Strength based approaches are strongly rooted in coproduction and personalisation with choice, control, citizenship and connectivity all common themes.’


You can find out more about the broader community benefits of asset-based approaches in this blog from Martin Farran, Corporate Director of Health at City of York Council

For me, strengths-based practice is about helping individuals to identify their assets, supporting them to solve difficulties and sustaining positive change.

I’m seeing social workers focusing more on seeing the person first; their strengths, assets and the outcomes they want, rather than starting with what's wrong and considering which formal services can fix things.

By picking up on the social, relational and environmental issues in the right way at the right time, we can make sure people are connected to the appropriate support within the context of community based solutions.

Strengths-based social work is about re-balancing the focus of care and support with an explicit need to promote well-being, prevention and solutions people can shape themselves within their social networks and communities.

This social connectivity is positively associated with reduced illness and death rates. This is why it is imperative we promote a community strengths based approach to working with individuals, families and communities.

I hope this report provokes discussions, debates and contributions to improving social work approaches with adults, families and communities.

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  1. Comment by Mick Ward posted on

    My blog on why Social Care Staff need to know the community they work in:

    Mick Ward
    Deputy Director (Integrated Commissioning)

  2. Comment by Lyn Romeo posted on

    Thanks Mick. Strengths based practice cannot function effectively without a deep understanding of community and a broad awareness of local health and care challenges. Good social work depends upon a rich appreciation of the lives and environments of those we seek to help. Thanks for sharing!

    Best wishes


  3. Comment by Jacqueline White posted on

    This is a useful tool that enables practitioners to transfer the power that they hold by virtue of their role, to the service user. The profession should embrace models such as Family Group Conferencing as part of a strengths based approach where people get to explore their network and make their own decisions.


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