Strengths-based approach: Practice Framework and Practice Handbook
In January 2017 the Chief Social Worker for Adults in collaboration with the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SICE) hosted a round table event at SCIE to explore what strengths-based social work with adults, individuals, families and communities really means for practitioners and people using services. The event brought together professionals, researches and experts by experience to share examples of good practice and the challenges of working in a strengths-based way.
One of the next steps identified was to ‘build on the enthusiasm and output from the event and take forward the development of a practice framework and supporting guidance’.
Factors such as organisational context, structure and mandate, access to resources, legislation, theoretical cultures and professional knowledge influence and have the potential to shape professional practice for social workers working with vulnerable adults, families and communities. Personal identity, culture and background also play a role in influencing the way we think and what we do (Connolly 2007).
Practice frameworks are well regarded and understood as methods to drive forward effective professional practice in social work and human services (Connolly, 2007; Stanley 2016; 2017). They provide schematic templates for systematically improving practice analysis initially for assessment and interventions and also helping practice reform (Connolly 2007; Healy 2005; Stanley, 2016). Connolly (2007) made the point that there is a “tendency to use models, paradigms and frameworks for practice interchangeably,” thus getting the language right is important.
Practice frameworks are therefore a schematic template not based on or informed by organisational imperatives but designed through and informed by value-based practice, research and evidence. A practice framework offers a mapping out of what we do and why, offering a rationale for practice, while promoting a range of practice tools for assessments and interventions.
A practice framework ‘integrates empirical research, practice theories, ethical principles and experiential knowledge in a compact and convenient format that helps practitioners to use the knowledge and principles to inform their everyday work’ (Connolly and Healy 2009, p32).
This publication includes development of a practice framework for strengths-based social work with adults. The framework is supported by a practice handbook which outlines what is a strengths-based approach, its legislative context, the necessary skills and the enablers for it to be implemented. The handbook also has a range of examples of strengths-based interventions, with reflection on why they are strengths-based and how the practice framework can be applied to them, in addition to providing useful resources and links for practitioners.