What is meant by “good practice” in social work?

I’m Fidelis Naka and I’m a social worker within the Family Safeguarding Service team.

It’s been Practice Week this week within Children’s Social Care in Jersey, as well as being Social Work Week. Additionally, on Tuesday 19 March, it was also World Social Work Day.

Practice Week is a vital time for professionals to discuss all the good work being done to support children and families. Social workers are also given an extended opportunity to reflect on recent history and/or practice, assess where we are and ask: ‘what next for modern, progressive, person-centred social work?’

As a social worker, I believe the answer is simply “good practice”. To explain what is meant by good practice, we have to understand what those two key words are and how powerful and meaningful they can be when put together.

Taken separately, “good” can mean pleasant, acceptable, high quality or of high standard, while “practice” is the art of doing something regularly with the aim of improving your skill or ability. Therefore, “good practice” is the evidence or effectiveness of something that has been tried over time, improved upon, with lessons learned and of a standard that aims to improve quality and productivity.

We are facing an increasingly challenging society and the children and families we support are becoming more complex. As such, good practice must be reassessed, adjusted and adapted to suit the needs of the specific family or young person being supported. It should therefore be needs-led and person-centred.

Good practice always ensures the parents’ views and the child’s voice are listened to throughout our interventions, support, and planning. This efficiently promotes their development and general wellbeing.

Good practice also means having accurate recording and listening skills, speaking clearly, and using simple language that is easily heard and understood. Language can be a barrier; it is good practice to seek the support of an interpreter; this would lead to greater involvement from the families we support.

Furthermore, good practice should incorporate the Jersey’s Children First Wellbeing Wheel (active, respected, included, safe, health, achieving and nurtured) as these are the fundamental aspects required for children and young people to grow and achieve their full potential.

We must ensure children are seen (at visits), review meetings are held within timescales, and minutes and/or conference reports are shared – Initial Child Protection Conference (ICPC) at least two working days before conference and Review Child Protection Conference (RCPC) five working days before conference.

This offers families the chance to read, understand, and raise any issues they have with the reports and helps to prepare them for the conference. It is also just as important to make a referral for a child’s views to be heard by an independent advocate.

Good practice also means having a clear understanding of why we’re involved with a family (what the concerns are), what the family’s strengths are, and what the plan is to support the children and family we’re working with. Where concerns can further escalate, it’s good practice to raise these with supervisors and management, and seek consultation or supervision to prevent any delays in interventions.

I feel more optimistic and positive about our wonderful profession than ever before. I am proud to be part of a protected profession which strives to bring real change and have a positive impact on the lives of vulnerable children and families in our society.

Social workers must attend training sessions and workshops to stay informed and keep up with good practice. This will not only remind us of what good practice is all about but deepen the breadth of our knowledge in a diverse and complex society.

Thank you for reading.

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