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Doing What Counts: Measuring What Matters

Project start date: December 2014

We (Islington Council) were awarded £2.97m to develop and implement an evidence-based practice model: Motivational Social Work. This model was built on the foundations of motivational interviewing. As a result of our project, we were able to significantly and measurably improve the skills of social workers.

Islington is a Partner in Practice – click here for more information

Project Summary


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 MSW practice model is built on seven elements. These elements combine social work values and skills and can be measured as behaviours during practice. They are the measurable core of what makes the difference in social work practice. We aim to drive up improvement in the practice skills of our social work workforce by teaching, observation, and coaching around the seven elements. As we received funding for Phase II of our Innovation Project, we have continued to develop and evolve our approach based on the learnings from Phase I.

Measuring What Matters
Performance indicators tell us how quickly we are responding to families, but nothing about the quality of our work. We now measure both the skills of direct work and detailed feedback from parents and children. We understand that what we measure has a huge impact on our practice culture, and we use detailed practice reports to inform our approach to practice and supervision. Social workers and their supervisors are supported to focus on improving practice skills using the MSW practice framework.

Practice reports collate our learning from observation and coaching with direct feedback from parents. We have recently started observing case supervision and grading it for effectiveness, providing coaching and feedback sessions for managers to help them improve their supervision. Our vision is to develop behaviour measures for practitioners and managers at all levels, in a variety of practice settings, and use specific feedback and coaching to improve practice at all levels.

Find out more

Project contact details

Stephen Rice

Project evaluators

Behavioural Insights Team

Project partners

Tilda Goldberg Centre, University of Bedfordshire



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