I have always been keen to maker sure adult social workers apply approaches and interventions that will make a positive difference people’s lives. Often, it isn’t clear which of these approaches and interventions have an evidence base. In these situations, social workers are relying on their own or their colleagues' experiences to steer their practice with people and families.
So, I was pleased when NICE (the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) began work on guidelines for social work with adults experiencing complex needs.
This was completed and published in the summer. I am delighted to host blogs from two members of the guideline committee, Ellie and Chloe, who reflect on their involvement and the importance of the guidelines.
Read Ellie's reflections below then click the link at the bottom of this post for part two from Chloe.
Ellie, guideline committee member with lived experience of drawing on social work services
When I applied to become a lay member of the NICE guideline for social work with adults experiencing complex needs, I was asked what the most important issues were.
Every person has their own priorities, but there are some things which often come up in my discussions with service users or people considering accessing services. These include timely assessments, to be treated with respect, treated fairly and to be made aware of our rights.
We want support to access often multiple complex systems and our social workers to advocate for us. We want good multi-agency and multi-disciplinary team working and streamlined assessments. We want to be treated as individuals and respected for our own ability to decide our needs. The guideline provides evidence-based recommendations for best practice to inform social work delivery in England. Will it support and improve the issues that are important to adults with complex needs? Yes.
Relationships central to social work
Trust is essential to relationships. One aspect of the guidelines that stands out to me is an increased recognition of the expectations and previous experiences of social workers and social services that person may bring. These might be from depictions of social work in the media, experiences within communities and from previous contact with services.
Acknowledging and giving space to discussions about expectations of social work can help develop trust. Where a person has had positive experiences, a social worker can build on that and has an opportunity to manage expectations. When previous experiences or expectations are more mixed, the simple act of listening can help a person feel safer.
Adults with complex needs often have extensive experience of health and social services. For social workers, who have gone into the profession because they want to help it can be hard to hear us talk about times services may not have helped. People may fear a defensive response.
The guidelines offer an opportunity for open discussions within social work about supporting adults who may not have had the care experiences social workers hoped to deliver.They may need extra time to establish trust with people and the recommendations support this.
Most importantly, implementing the guidelines will help create a positive experience for adults with complex needs by giving us space to talk about our experiences and expectations and then, throughout the rest of our care, providing recommendations for best practice that include the issues of most importance to us.