BU’s combination of theoretical and practice-based research into health and social care education and practice gives the balance needed to deliver effective training programmes with wide-reaching impacts.
The programmes are based in research and feed further research themselves through evaluation. This creates a cyclical and evolving approach that has been successful in the ever-changing and always scrutinised health and social care sector.
This work is in accordance with the Social Work Reform Board’s aim to improve social work practice by developing the skills practitioners need to meet new challenges. It links to very recent developments in health and social care practice (e.g., Francis Report 2009, 2013).
Under the direction of Professor Keith Brown, accompanied by Dr Steve Keen and Dr Lynne Rutter, BU established key research themes to develop and simultaneously evaluate professional practice.
This has been delivered through key awards and a range of publications, including 20 monographs written on behalf of Learn to Care – the professional association for workforce development managers in local government.
The primary research themes are the:
- Development of reflective practice
- Development of evaluative research tools
- Assessment of the impact of CPD on the practice of social workers and their organisations
- Identification of learning needs and development of future provision.
At the time of the case study’s publication:
In the last five years, 6,170 health and social care practitioners have completed BU’s research-grounded CPD, equating to 14% of the current registered workforce of social workers. This includes over 500 practice educators; 500 social work managers; 500 adult/childcare social workers; 1,600 mental health practitioners; and 2,900 completing the first ‘consolidation’ stage of a social worker’s CPD.
The programmes have won two prestigious National Training awards during that period (9 in total) and BU has worked in partnership with 28 NHS Trusts, 96 Local Authorities and 39 other major employers in England including British Forces Social Work Service.
The total now trained to date since the Centre for Post Qualifying Social Work was established is 10,515, which is 25% of the social work workforce.
One of the most significant areas of research is in leadership and management in the sector. Professor Brown received a ‘Skills for Care’ research grant in 2007 to develop programmes for this.
Specifically, the leadership and management development programme has been accessed by over 500 managers from 18 wide-ranging organisations. The impact has been evaluated by Keen and colleagues. Managers indicate highly statistically significant improvements in:
- Levels of general awareness and confidence in their work role
- Perceived ability to communicate non-verbally, lead change through people and create a strong learning climate
- Feeling less overwhelmed in dealing with conflict at work.
This unique provision of research-based CPD, coupled with evaluation and publications, demonstrates the research team are continuing to make a positive difference to the most vulnerable in society.
Graham Ixer, former Head of Social Work Education at the General Social Care Council, states that those undergoing BU’s research-grounded CPD programmes are, “more confident in decision making within their job roles, showing increased ability to apply critical reflection to the social work task and an increased ability to communicate more effectively to their peers, professional colleagues and service users.”
He continues: “BU’s evaluation of post-qualifying training’s impact shows for the first time a growing evidence base in the difference it makes to social work practice and in particular, the increased confidence social workers have in their role, which is essential in today’s complex, demanding and challenging social work environment.”