Evidence for strengths and asset-based outcomes

A quick guide for social workers

Strengths and asset-based approaches in social care focus on what individuals and communities have and how they can work together. Rather than on what individuals don't have or can't do

This quick guide contains strengths and asset-based recommendations from a range of our guidelines and quality standards. We are recognised for developing guidance based on the best available evidence, following extensive systematic reviews. Guidance is developed by groups of experts, including people with lived experience.

Strengths and assets

The terms ‘strengths’ and ‘assets’ are often used interchangeably to apply to either individuals or communities. This guide uses ‘strengths and asset-based approaches’ in relation to both individuals and communities.

Personal strengths and assets:

  • relationships
  • experience
  • skills
  • aspirations.

Community strengths and assets:

  • knowledge
  • people
  • spaces
  • networks
  • services.
An illustration of 3 people, one in a wheelchair, outside a number of community buildings including a library and an entrance to a park

Personal strengths and assets

These evidence-based recommendations from NICE focus on identifying and supporting an individual’s strengths and assets:

  • Through person-centred conversations, build a picture of each person’s individual strengths, preferences, aspirations and needs.
  • Provide any support needed to enable the person to express their views and participate in the conversations, including independent advocacy if required.
  • Involve the person’s wider social network (carers, family, friends, advocates) if that is their wish, and explore the support it may offer.
  • Share information with the person in an accessible way so that they feel informed about care and support services, financial advice, safeguarding procedures, rights and entitlements, how to make a complaint, and personal budgets.
  • Consider how to support and promote positive risk-taking.
  • Promote the person’s interests and independence, including through contingency and crisis planning, and their preferences for future care and treatment.

'What's strong?' not 'what's wrong?' Thats a great place to start.

Lynne Bowers, health and care worker and advocate

Community strengths and assets

Building a stronger connection between the person and their community is mutually beneficial. The following evidence-based recommendations show ways in which the connection between a person and their community can be developed:

  • Use your own knowledge, networks and relationships to help identify assets and facilities within the local community.
  • During care planning, involve a practitioner who has the knowledge and competence to work with a range of social care, health and housing services, including those provided by the voluntary and community sector.
  • Support the person to identify the strengths and assets available in their community.
  • Share information with the person about resources and support available in the local community, including voluntary organisations, user-led organisations and disabled people’s organisations (and promote more widely, for example in community spaces and services).
  • Provide information about access to peer support services and opportunities for the person to offer peer support (using their skills, life experience and cultural awareness).
  • Enable people using care and support services to build social connections and a sense of mutual support.
  • Support people with mental health issues to maintain links with their home community (including education, employment and social contacts) during inpatient stays and at discharge.
  • Make it as easy as possible for people to use and contribute to the support available in the community:
    • Are there any barriers that people might face? These could include being without access to IT for a range of reasons, childcare, access to transport, language, literacy, numeracy, low income or disability.
    • What support might help them overcome these barriers? For example, access to IT and digital training, using familiar and accessible places, providing childcare support and offering information in plain English, an accessible format or a different language.

Supporting people to shape their communities

NICE guidance highlights the evidence for co-production, which means enabling people using care and support services to use their strengths and assets to shape services in their community.

Think about the best ways to promote co-production. Consider how to communicate with vulnerable or isolated people; recently established communities; people with learning disabilites; and people who do not use digital or social media. 

Senior social workers may have opportunities to enable people to:

A number of community buildings and a park with people.

Work with local authorities and service providers

to produce information, policies and procedures.

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Shape individual services

through involvement in decisions about how services are commissioned, run and governed, and in checking the quality of the support provided.

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Help recruit and train staff

through involvement in interviewing, developing and delivering training, job descriptions, and supporting and training others to become experts by experience.

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Share views and personal experience

through forums within services, audits, planning and evaluating services and providing mentoring for practitioners.

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This content has been co-produced by NICE and the social care institute for excellence (SCIE). It is based on NICE’s guideline on evidence for strengths and asset-based outcomes.