Named social worker — what we’re learning from local authorities

blog | 14 Feb 2017

Having a named social worker means having the opportunity to develop relationships that really work.

Why a named social worker?

Adults with learning disabilities, and their families, need much better support to help them live happy and fulfilling lives. Despite national reform initiatives, such as Transforming Care and ongoing local improvement programmes, and a mountain of good intention from front line staff, there is more to do to develop the right kinds of relationships with adults with learning disabilities — relationships that enable them to thrive.

What is a named social worker?

A named social worker means my social worker; a professional with whom an individual forms a constant and meaningful relationship. Having a named social worker means having the opportunity to develop relationships that really work because they are built on a deep understanding of what an individual needs, wants and what they can do.

For the last four months, Innovation Unit and the Social Care Institute of Excellence have worked with six sites identified and funded by the Department of Health, as they develop their local version of a named social worker model. The Department has created space for local areas to work out what is the best version of a named social worker in their context. We are learning that in different places the approach looks very different.

Action and learning on the ground

Our second learning report from this work describes the role that named social workers are playing and some of the lessons being learnt through practical implementation.

Sites such as Liverpool and Sheffield are asking themselves what they can learn from this pilot which is applicable across a much wider cohort. They are asking themselves the question: ‘What is it that makes a named social worker different, and how can we make that part of normal social work practice?’.

Other sites are less focused on what good social work practice looks like, and are looking instead at how a named social worker role can be used to generate systemic change. For example Camden and Nottingham are testing the contribution of a named social worker who has specific functions beyond the core role of a social worker working with individuals.

In Hertfordshire they are looking to change the dynamic between the individual and their social worker and to elevate the voice and contribution of the social worker in the broader ecosystem of professionals. By becoming experts in ‘user- centredness’ the social worker contribution and influence in professional discussions is clear and unique.

Calderdale are taking a similar approach, but with the intention that by applying deeply values-driven practice, social workers will model a way of working which demands changes from professionals elsewhere in the system.

For more detail on what the sites are up to see their hypothesis here and their implementation highlights here.