West Midlands Teaching Partnership - July 2019

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Social Work Teaching Partnership

The Social Work Teaching Partnership

Welcome to the West Midlands Social Work Teaching Partnership Newsletter.

In this newsletter, we will keep you informed on updates, developments, events, masterclasses, best practice and research, within the West Midlands Social Work Teaching Partnership. 

In this edition:

Driving the placement workstream forward


I have been a qualified social worker for 6 years after graduating from Keele University.  I initially worked on a safeguarding team in Staffordshire following my final university placement with the same team, where I also completed my ASYE year. A year later I moved within Staffordshire LA to the Family and Friends Team where I assessed and supported kinship carers of looked after children.  I also qualified as a Practice Educator and had the pleasure of supporting and overseeing students through their final placements as well as mentoring new social workers on the team.

Throughout my own time as a student, ASYE and qualified social worker I have been lucky enough to have quality training and support from colleagues, managers and trainers/lecturers which gave me the opportunities I needed to grow and develop in my role as a social worker.  So, I have tried to replicate this with the students and social workers that I have worked with, as I fully appreciate the need for good experience and training as a necessary factor in the career progression of all social workers.

Therefore, I am thrilled to be given the opportunity to work with the West Midlands Social Work Teaching Partnership as a Consultant Social Worker, assigned to the Placements workstream.  Working alongside 27 local authorities, trusts and universities whose aim is to ensure the future of good social work training and education for students and qualified social workers alike within the West Midlands region. 

I admit that working with so many different partners is not without its challenges due to size and geographical locations of the partners, as well as the diary/workload commitments of partners.  However, it is so interesting to see the variations of the different partners, to be able to collate good practice ideas and to be given the opportunity to help formulate regional ways of teaching/training and working which will benefit current and future social workers alike.

Within the Placements workstream, we have developed a Statutory Placement Definition which all partners have agreed to.  We have also looked at the value and contribution of Student Units and hope to trial them throughout the partnership at the start of the next academic year.  The workstream is now looking at issues around placement arrangements and with the PE & CPD workstream, we are looking at the role and expectations of PEs in their support and guidance of students.  The partnership is aiming to develop a more regional approach to expectations of students, PEs and partners to make placements the positive and valuable learning experience it should be for students, PEs and teams alike.  Therefore, the outcomes of this workstream will benefit everyone involved!

Maria Day, Consultant Social Worker, West Midlands Teaching Partnership

Upcoming events and masterclasses

The West Midlands Teaching Partnership has funded a number of masterclasses to share knowledge and learning. They provide an excellent opportunity for social work professionals to continue professional development. Book your place via our EventBrite page.

All of our HEI partners are arranging further masterclasses so watch this space for further updates. 

Book and Brew Success for Heart of Worcestershire College Student


Heart of Worcestershire College’s (HoW College) BA (Hons) Social Work student, Natalie Harris, brought different generations together to enjoy a ‘Book and Brew’ morning at Church Hill Middle School, Redditch.

Natalie, who is currently studying at HoW College, completed her first student placement at Onside Advocacy; a charity which supports vulnerable people disadvantaged by disability, mental ill health and learning disabilities.

During her placement, Natalie undertook the role of Advocate and Community Case Worker with the Reconnections Project, which aims to tackle loneliness.

Discussing what she enjoys most about the placement, Natalie said:

“I enjoy direct work with service users, encouraging them to progress to independence and become happier in their lives.

I’ve also enjoyed the experience of being the service user voice when they are being treated unfairly, and challenging poor service provision.”

As part of her placement, Natalie organised a ‘Book and Brew’ morning; inviting elderly people to Churchill Middle school, to enjoy a choir performance, as well as tea & cake with the students.

Talking about the event, Onside Advocacy member, Adelaide Battersby said:

“It has been lovely to get out the house and meet the children. I have loved talking to them and hearing about what they want to achieve.

The choir performance in the morning was absolutely brilliant.”

When talking about the next 12 months, Natalie hopes to be working as a qualified Social Worker, eventually going into child protection.

Talking about what she enjoys most about studying at HoW College, Natalie stated:

“The social work team are helpful and I have learnt so much from them over the last two years.

I like that the classes are small and feel that any contributions I have made during discussions are valued and respected.”

HoW College delivers a BA (Hons) Social work course in affiliation with Birmingham City University (BCU).

Sharing practice across adult's and children's services


In Cheshire East, we have been committed to forging stronger working relationships across children and adult teams, with both service areas focusing on strengths-based frameworks.

In Children's Services and across the Partnership, work has focused on the implementation of Signs of Safety as a model of practice that keeps the child at the heart of our work. This is being mirrored in Adult Social Care, using a strengths-based framework that promotes independence, working in partnership and a real focus on individual strengths and networks of support.

Cheshire East Adult Services is proud to be part of a small number of authorities piloting this approach supported by Lyn Romeo.

Working across the Teaching Partnership, we have been able to see how working together can strengthen practice.

In March 2020 we will be hosting a Practice Educator Conference, providing an opportunity to come together across the Partnership to celebrate Social Work, with focus on building resilience within our profession that benefits the people we work with.

Sarah Flint, Principal Social Worker for Children's Services, Cheshire East Council

Rebecca Spurrell, Professional Lead for Adult's Services, Cheshire East Council 

Strength Based Practice Framework for Adults


Coventry City Council Adult's Services is taking forward a ‘strength based approach’ through their new Adult Social Care Practice Framework. 

This brings together our approach to practice, identifying what underpins the work and how this informs interventions. A Practice Framework also provides the opportunity to demonstrate how we ensure staff have the practice tools, conditions, skills and learning opportunities, supporting staff to improve practice where required.

The Practice Framework will form part of a whole system strengths-based approach to care, support and inclusion to support our approach of looking first at what people can do with their skills, resources, relationships and their communities. The Practice Framework will be supported by a range of different activities which have been in development over the last 18 months. These include;

  • New suite of documentation to support our strength based practice approaches
  • Motivational interviewing training to develop strength based conversation techniques
  • Strength Based Practice Toolkit for practitioners and managers
  • Focus on reflective supervision approaches and the development of peer group supervision
  • Capture stories of difference using storyboards via an online storyboard
  • A practice quality assurance framework including an annual  Organisational Health Check survey and complimentary thematic reviews
  • New real time client and carer 'experience' survey
  • Effective process for deafblind assessment
  • Implementation of Adults Family Group Conferencing approaches

Read the framework.

Andrew Errington, Principal Social Worker for Adults, Coventry City Council

A Week in the Life of a University Academic


Despite the summer break, it has been a busy week for the University.

This week, it was a pleasure to hear from our enthusiastic students who are registering with HCPC ahead of starting their new jobs, alongside final year students who received their degree results.

One of the most satisfying aspects of this job is watching how our students develop during their degree and grow into their professional roles, often coming back to pass on their hard- earned wisdom to our new students.

I had an interesting meeting recently with some advanced social work practitioners in one of our partner authorities to discuss how we could collaborate together more effectively at a local level. We talked about how we could make the best use of their practice expertise for our students, inviting them in to give input into key modules on safeguarding and risk assessment in year 2, as well as thinking about their views on leadership and managing change in the final year. We also discussed how the university might further support them as a professional group, identifying opportunities for research briefings and potential joint research projects.

My afternoon was spent holding admissions interviews for our MA programme. It is always interesting to hear from potential candidates about their reasons for wanting to train as a social worker and I had an enjoyable morning listening to some really strong candidates sharing their hopes for their social work careers and for the profession as a whole.

I also received the results from our National Student Survey. I am happy to say our results were pretty good this year with an overall satisfaction score of 94%, a significant improvement on last year’s score. As a team we have made a commitment to incorporate more blended learning within our teaching programme, using virtual classrooms, student online forums and video lectures to complement our face to face classroom teaching.

I spent a chunk of yesterday writing a research ethics proposal as part of my part-time PhD research project. I am exploring social worker’s emotional responses to children within my research and am halfway through my study. It has been a privilege to interview social workers about their experiences of working with children and frequently moving and inspiring to hear about the work they are doing, often in challenging situations. 

Lastly, I attended a School of Allied Health and Community away day this week. As a teaching team, we have focused on this for our students, organising well being drop-ins, as well as formal teaching on building resilience and managing change in complex organisations. As a profession we need to really prioritise the emotional well being and self-care skills of our workers and seek to create emotionally sustaining work environments. This is something we look forward to collaborating with colleagues from across the Teaching Partnership in the coming years.

Peter Ayling, Senior Lecturer in Social Work, University of Worcester

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