Registered social workers must demonstrate the use of evidence and research to inform their practice in order to meet professional standards. This is echoed in Social Work England’s continuing professional development (CPD) standards.
But how is evidence relevant to social work practice?
As a best interests assessor, I was responsible for making informed, independent decisions within the context of a Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS) assessment. Using a range of information including people's views and specialist's reports is key to decision making. This was central to my social work practice. I also used case law to support these decisions and would seek advice from experienced colleagues.
Despite having reliable sources to inform my professional judgement I was often faced with a lack of clarity on best practice when considering the restrictions people were experiencing. For example, when considering restrictions relating to the risk of violence and aggression I would check if a mental capacity assessment and best interests assessment was in place and ask for the opinions of the person and those involved in their care. NICE guidance clarifies the best practice approach to dealing with violent and aggressive behaviour, including the use of advance decisions relating to restrictions and ensuring that the person's human rights have been discussed.
NICE’s role is to improve outcomes for people using care and support services. Our social care guidance is developed by independent committees of experts by experience and experts in practice, including social workers. Recommendations are based on evidence about what works in practice, expert testimonies and stakeholder consultations. This robust process means that frontline staff can rely on the guidance.
Practical ways to evidence CPD
CPD standard 4.1: Gathering feedback from people with lived experience
NICE guidance on people’s experience in adult social care services includes recommendations about co-production – enabling those with lived experience to shape the services in their community. For example, sharing their views and experiences and working with local authorities and service providers to produce information, policies and procedures. Andrew Errington, a principal social worker at Coventry Council, has written a shared learning case study showing how the council developed a culture of co-production.
CPD standard 4.3: Use of research to inform practice
Applying learning from our quick guides, which summarise NICE guidance on social care topics, may help to evidence use of research to inform practice. The information provided in our quick guides can be used to support people who use care services, and to aid conversations with health professionals.
Andrea Honeybun, a newly qualified social worker in the learning disability team at Cumbria County Council, explains:
“NICE quick guides are clear about social care standards and are simple to understand. I use them when I’m explaining difficult issues to the people I support. For example, I recently used the NICE quick guide on advance care planning to start a conversation with a woman I’m working with. She has a learning disability and is supported by her elderly mother. The quick guide provided me with a clear structure to follow during an emotive discussion. Following our conversation, I wrote up my reflections, evidencing CPD for my assessed and supported year in employment (ASYE) portfolio.”
CPD standard 4.4: Demonstrating good subject knowledge
NICE guidance covers a broad range of topics and could be used to evidence subject knowledge on key aspects of social work practice. Our guidance documents can be particularly helpful when there is debate about what good standards of care look like, such as in safeguarding enquiries.
Daniel McBride, a practice manager at Cheshire East Council, said:
“For safeguarding concerns related to quality and standards of care I use NICE guidance to support my assessment of services. I used NICE guidance on pressure ulcers: prevention and management to inform an enquiry about how a severe pressure ulcer had developed for a person in a residential home. The guideline helped me to develop my knowledge about pressure ulcers and evidence the rationale for the safeguarding enquiry conclusions. The guideline was helpful to share with the care provider to maintain standards of care in this area and to prevent future safeguarding incidents.”
CPD standard 4.5: Creating a learning culture
There are various ways NICE guidance and quality standards could be used to keep updated on best practice and support a learning culture. For example, reflecting on guidance in team meetings.
Mark Anslow, a service manager in children’s services at Bradford Council, said:
“I used NICE’s quality standard on healthy workplaces: improving employee mental and physical health and wellbeing to implement a programme of mindfulness training for children’s social care practitioners. Feedback from the course has been positive. Many participants commented that they now feel better equipped to cope with stress. I reflected on my learning in my CPD log. This work shows how I keep up to date with national guidance to create a supportive learning environment for our children’s workforce.”
NICE guidance can provide social workers with a reliable tool to inform best practice, particularly when opinions are conflicting, or risks are high. The following resources could support social workers with CPD submissions before the 30 November deadline.
Case scenarios produced in partnership with a range of national social work organisations, with practical suggestions on how social workers might apply NICE guidance.
NICE’s CPD podcast featuring social work leaders’ creative approaches to CPD and how using evidence in practice can empower and support decision-making.
Webinars on a variety of topics feature experts by experience and experts by practice discussing their experience of using NICE guidance.
For more information on CPD standards and submissions please visit the Social Work England CPD website.
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