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BASW and SCIE launch Digital Capabilities for social workers report

Evidence shows social workers want to engage with digital technology to improve practice

Social work practice and the needs of people who use services should drive the development and use of digital technology, concludes a new report published today by the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) and BASW.

The Digital capabilities for social workers: Stakeholders’ Report reveals that social workers want to engage with digital technology; however, they want it to enable relationship-based practice and improve the experiences of people who use services.

One of the main conclusions of the report is that social workers and ‘experts by experience’ (i.e. people who use services and carers) should drive the development and use of digital technology. In order to do that, employers, tech developers, policy makers and educators need to enable them to be genuinely and effectively involved.

Speaking about the launch of the report, chief executive of BASW, Ruth Allen said: “Social workers and the people they support need to be at the centre of digital developments – including advising tech developers and procurement leads on requirements, inputting to national policy, and codesigning programmes with universities.

“This requires a joint effort. Employers, policy makers and tech companies need to enable social workers to have the time, confidence and authority to be genuinely involved.

She added: “SCIE and BASW hope that today’s report sets out the case for greater involvement, together with practical, sector-informed advice and insights.”

The report is based on a literature review, survey, workshops and interviews, and is commissioned by HEE’s Building a Digital Ready Workforce programme.

It uses a broad definition of digital technology including data, assistive technology, social media and networks, and online learning. It sets out key messages for specific stakeholders.

For example, it identifies the need for educators, trainers and supervisors to build the development of digital capabilities into core programmes – potentially using the Health and Care Digital Capabilities Framework.

The report also found that critical reflection, understanding of ethics, and good decision-making skills are required across social work and need to be adapted to digital challenges. Social workers will encounter ethical dilemmas – for instance balancing the right of people using services to online privacy and confidentiality balanced against disclosing information in safeguarding.

The report includes:

  • Key messages and implications for stakeholders including social workers, educators, senior managers, supervisors, technology developers, experts by experience (people who use services and carers)
  • Findings from the project’s information gathering activities
  • Examples of how organisations are currently using digital technology to enhance social work practice, and how universities are improving social workers’ digital capabilities

Further information