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Doing What Counts and Measuring What Matters

An evidence-based Motivational Social Work practice model built on the foundations of motivational interviewing, assessing the quality of practice against the outcomes that matter to children and families.

Project Description

Islington’s aim was to improve the practice skills of the social work workforce by introducing an evidence based practice model and by changing how they measured performance.
Motivational Social Work (MSW) 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. The elements combine social work values and skills and can be measured as behaviours during practice. Based on an understanding that what is measured has an impact on practice culture, they started measuring both the skills of direct work and detailed feedback from parents and children.

Through this project teaching, observation, and coaching around the seven elements were introduced. Social workers and their supervisors are supported to focus on improving practice skills using the MSW practice framework.


The DfE-funded independent evaluation published in 2017 found that there were demonstrable improvements in MSW practice skill and parent engagement, suggesting that MSW might be an effective approach to enhancing practice impact for children in their family and wider social lives even though it was not possible to attribute improvements in outcomes for children in the time period available.

Lead Organisation

Islington London Borough Council

This is a Partner in Practice


Tilda Goldberg Centre

University of Bedfordshire






Funding Information

Funding theme: Rethinking Social Work

Total amount awarded


Round 1 Dec 2014

Other information