Islington Council has developed and is implementing an evidence-informed practice model, built on the foundations of motivational interviewing and a developing understanding of how trauma impacts the brain and behaviour. Our practice model sets out seven elements of social worker skills that are linked to good outcomes for children. At its heart is skilful, relationship-based practice that builds consensus with the family and supports self-motivated behaviour change. Motivational Social Work has enabled Islington to measurably improve social worker skills, improve parents’ experience of social work practice, and we are now seeing significant reductions in re-referral rates that suggests that changes are being made in a more sustainable way.
The practice model has been built on seven elements. These are evocation, collaboration, autonomy, empathy, purposefulness, clarity about concerns, and child focus. These elements combine social work values and skills that can be measured as behaviours during practice.
In addition to practice observation, our internal research team have observed supervision sessions around the same cases and have developed a framework for measuring supervision quality, which appears to be linked to practice quality. Our emergent supervision framework has been shared with all practice supervisors, and in our CiN service all practice supervisors have had up to five observation and coaching sessions, which has significantly improved their understanding of, and skill in delivering, great supervision. Supervision coaching recently began in our CLA service, and we are currently training middle managers to observe and coach supervisors themselves.
What is measured has a huge impact on practice culture and Islington measures both the skills of social workers working directly with families and collects detailed feedback from parents and children. Practice reports collate learning from observation and coaching, with direct feedback from parents. Islington are also observing case supervision and grading it for effectiveness, providing coaching and feedback sessions for managers to help them improve their supervision.
An outcomes framework has been developed, but also a clearer understanding in our Senior Management Team around how to use data most effectively to improve outcomes for children and young people without adding unhelpful stress for social workers. Practice audits are focused around a six monthly cycle of practice weeks, where all senior leaders shadow a team and attend visits and meetings with social workers, then audit their cases alongside them. These activities have led to a significant culture shift in meetings where we discuss workforce performance and a deeper understanding of good and poor social work practice happening in Islington.