Changing children and families social work

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Changing children and families social work was a knowledge exchange partnership project (February – December 2013) led by The University of Edinburgh’s Social Work and CRFR Centre for Research on Families and Relationships. The project was funded by a grant from the Economic and Social Research Council with matched funding from the City of Edinburgh and East Lothian Councils. The aim of the project was to build and support a culture of learning within children’s social work services in order to maximise effective intervention with children and their families.

The project had three strands:

• Working with social work managers to support them to act as change agents to support a learning culture, bring about changes in practice and in organisational culture
• Facilitating critical reflection groups with practitioners to build confidence in understanding and articulating effective practice in children and families social work
• Supporting small scale practitioner research projects around particular themes and practices that are consistent with what is known to be effective practice

The project as a whole will be discussed in a forthcoming journal article, and will form a presentation at the Joint World Conference on Social Work, Education and Social Development in Melbourne in July 2014.

Supporting a culture of learning
Social work managers attended two workshops that explored how they could support a culture of learning. These workshops explored the managers’ role in supporting the transfer of learning and the various skills, forums and mechanisms they could use to support a culture of learning.

Critical reflection
Social work practitioners attended six critical reflection sessions. Critical reflection offers a process of analysing practice in order to reframe the practice in a way that represents the complexity and integrated nature of that experience (Fook and Askeland, 2007). These sessions involved small peer groups working together to assist each other to reflect on an example of professional practice. The critical reflection process is being written up for a journal article, involving both academics and social workers.

Research projects
Social work practitioners attended five training workshops on the research process. Practitioners were supported to plan and carry out a piece of research. They received guidance and research support from a mentor at the University of Edinburgh and/or an appropriate person within their organisation. They produced a poster presentation and a report on their project. Some social workers are now working on turning their project reports into journal articles, with support from academic staff. Practitioners have also contributed their learning to the undergraduate social work course, Research into Practice: Landmarks in Social Work Research.

Dissemination event
All the participants of the 3 strands, including guests from the participating local authorities shared their experiences and learning through presentations and group discussions:

The project generated a number of varied outputs including project posters, abstracts and reports, journal articles (still in process) and a literature review.

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A number of presentations will also take place over the next three months including a presentation at the Social Services Expo & Conference  on 18th March 2014, and at the City of Edinburgh Council and East Lothian Council.




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