Using NICE guidance in social work: examples for principal social workers

Examples of how to use our guidance

These example scenarios feature fictional situations and people. They show how NICE guidance could be used by principal social workers (PSWs).

Use our guidelines and quality standards to find specific recommendations to support your professional judgement in your everyday work.

View example scenarios for different social work settings

Examples for Adults’ PSWs

Featured scenario: developing community assets

A social worker makes a home visit to a family following concerns of neglect highlighted by the school. Katie, the mother, becomes angry with the social worker. She feels that they are interfering and have no right to be there asking such personal questions when she's no worse than other mums she knows.

After reading the chief social work officer's annual report, a principal social worker considers how they can support strengths-based social work and promote wellbeing in their area.


The principal social worker uses the community engagement guideline to show their director the evidence for community engagement as a way of improving wellbeing. This results in the creation of a multi-partner working group to strengthen local community assets. The group uses the community engagement quality standard to measure and report on their progress.

Further guidance

The guidance recommends involving the community in identifying local needs and priorities and identifying community assets.

One woman chatting to two women with their backs to camera

More scenarios and resources

Scenario 2: developing a culture of co-production

An elected member questions what level of priority should be given to co-production at a strategic level, considering current pressures on the council's budget. The director for adult social care asks the principal social worker what evidence there is for the effectiveness of co-production at a policy level.


The principal social worker develops a presentation for a council meeting, using guidelines on people's experience in adult social care services and decision-making and mental capacity. The presentation demonstrates the evidence for the effectiveness and importance of involving people in shaping their own care and support.

More information

The guidance includes advice on local authorities working with people to co-produce information, policies, and training and makes recommendations for service providers and commissioners.

Scenario 3: applying principles of the Mental Capacity Act 2005

The Local Safeguarding Board asks each partner to evaluate how they have implemented principles from the Mental Capacity Act (MCA) 2005 in relation to capacity assessments and best interest decisions. The principal social worker is asked to lead on this piece of work for the council.


The principal social worker works with the MCA lead to develop an audit to demonstrate how key principles from the Act are being implemented locally. NICE guideline recommendations on decision-making and mental capacity are used to develop the audit questions, as they are aligned to the Act and are based on robust evidence of good practice.

More information

The guidance highlights the importance of doing mental capacity assessment audits which include people’s views and experiences, and implementing the actions resulting from best interests decisions.

Resources relevant to adults' principal social workers

Visit the adults' social care topic page for all NICE guidance, NICE Pathways and quality standards on adults' social care.

Quality standards

Examples for Children’s PSWs

Featured scenario: developing a positive identity

A local placement resource panel has asked to see evidence of how the looked-after children’s team encourages children and young people to develop their personal identity.


The manager asks for help from the children’s principal social worker, who suggests using actions within the guideline on looked-after children and young people and quality standard on looked-after children and young people to develop questions for an audit. The audit highlights areas of good practice and opportunities for making further improvements.

Further guidance

The guidance includes a number of actions focused on life-story work and broader activity to make sense of identity and relationships.

Closeup of a smiling child's face while he uses a climbing frame

More scenarios and resources

Scenario 2: ensuring supported, coordinated transitions

Parents and young people on a children’s services co-production group have highlighted that there isn’t always a single person coordinating support for children as they transition to adult services.


The principal social worker is asked to work with the co-production group to review processes to ensure that a single named worker is always allocated to support transition. The principal social worker uses the guideline on transition from children’s to adults’ services and quality standard on transition from children's to adults' services to ensure that the work is informed by the best available evidence.

More information

The guidance includes information about involving young people and carers in service design, support for a named worker role, and good practice for named workers.

Scenario 3: supporting unaccompanied asylum-seeking children

A council has been criticised for the way that it supports asylum seekers. In particular there have been instances of racist bullying at school which have appeared in the national press.


The director asks the principal social worker to benchmark the support provided to asylum-seeking children and young people, including links to health services. The principal social worker uses NICE's recommendations on looked-after children and young people and post-traumatic stress disorder as part of the benchmarking standard, along with other relevant national guidance and good practice.

More information

The guidance recommends that mental health services and services for people with PTSD are accessible for black and minority ethnic and asylum-seeking children and young people, with appropriate interventions and support.

Resources relevant to children's principal social workers

Visit the children's social care topic page for all NICE guidance, NICE Pathways and quality standards on children's social care.

Quality standards

Positive workplaces for social workers

Featured scenario: retaining social workers

A local council is struggling to retain social workers. Analysis of exit interviews shows high levels of sickness absence and negative impact on mental health and wellbeing due to the emotional pressures of the role.


The principal social worker and workforce lead use NICE's guideline on mental wellbeing at work and the Local Government Association's Social Work Health Check to create a business case. This asks the council to introduce new systems and opportunities for social workers to promote mental wellbeing, reduce sickness absence, and improve retention rates.

Further guidance

The guidance advises organisations to assess and monitor employees' mental wellbeing and consider flexible working opportunities for staff.

Female care worker baking with a boy who has Down's syndrome

More scenarios and resources

Scenario 2: investing in line managers

A council's human resources department has raised a number of concerns about the way that absence and performance issues are being managed within social work teams. Completion of practice supervisor self-assessments by team managers has highlighted inconsistencies in the training and support they have received.


On behalf of the director, the principal social worker works with human resources and the workforce lead to benchmark existing line manager induction training against NICE guidance on workplace health: management practices. The training is updated to include additional content to empower line managers to offer proactive support and manage sensitive situations with greater confidence.

More information

The guidance includes advice on positive senior leadership behaviours and a list of skills and knowledge that line managers should receive training in.

Scenario 3: ensuring positive organisational change practices

A local council is proposing to relocate locality teams to a number of health centres, as part of a new integrated support service. The team managers are aware that the proposed changes are impacting negatively on the wellbeing of many of the team. They are concerned this might undermine their professional identity.


The team managers use the NICE quality standard on improving employee mental and physical health and wellbeing to make a case to the director for the introduction of a staff engagement forum to discuss and help shape the proposed integrated support service. The staff engagement forum is introduced and provides staff with a positive forum in which to consider solutions to address their concerns.

More information

The guidance highlights the value of managers taking a proactive approach to identifying and managing stress and having staff engagement forums, so that staff can be involved in organisational decisions.

About these examples

We've produced these example scenarios to help principal social workers understand how to use our guidelines and quality standards.

Our guidelines focus on a particular topic or setting and provide a comprehensive set of recommendations for action.

Our quality standards focus on areas of variation in practice and can be used to measure improvement or demonstrate good quality.

Case study

Using NICE to support evidence-based practice

Rachel Scourfield is a consultant social worker at Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council.

Rachel outlines the work she’s been doing to embed NICE's evidence-based recommendations.

A man and a woman in discussion sat at a table.