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Collaboration isn't easy, but essential in social work

Social workers must employ the same skills they use with clients to forge strong collaborative relationships with other professionals.

The message was spelt out to practitioners during a workshop at BASW Cymru’s annual conference.

Lack of collaboration and joined up working between agencies is regularly highlighted in serious case reviews into child deaths.

Alex Clapson, a trainer and lecturer who jointly lead the workshop, stressed collaborative working was a challenge but could made a huge difference.

“Collaborative working is hard work. People think short-term. They think it is easier to do it themselves. It’s easier to tie the shoelace of a child than show them how to do it.

“It requires investment of time to make it work well, but once you have these relationships established it’s effective.”

The Social Services and Wellbeing (Wales) Act places a duty on professionals to co-operate with each other.

Fellow workshop leader Jonny Matthew, a senior adviser to the Welsh Youth Justice Board, said: “In social work we all know we need to do that. It will be interesting to see if this has an impact on other professionals who are allied to us.”

Identifying “networkers” in organisations who enjoy bringing people together was key, added Mr Clapson.

“Networking takes real energy. The people who do it well are probably the ones who keep their families together. You can’t guarantee everyone has one, but you need people who love to do that.”

Mr Clapson said there also needed to be more opportunities for joint training between professionals, an area that has suffered in the face of cutbacks.

“We used to have it with teachers and police. That doesn’t seem to happen any more.”

Attributes key to effective collaborative working include flexibility, empathy, open-mindedness to other approaches, reflection and preparation.

Barriers include poor communication, power differentials, poor understanding, lack of reflection, organisational protocols and putting personal feelings first.