Northern Ireland’s first Social Work Strategy has reached a milestone.
Established in 2012, the Strategy’s vision is to influence and shape social work services for the future in Northern Ireland.
Its main aims are to strengthen practice, lead innovation and improve services, both for social work professionals and those they help.
A review, recently conducted to mark the end of stage 1 of the Strategy, highlighted its achievements.
More flexible and responsive services are being developed and service users are much more directly involved in planning and shaping the services they receive. Highlights include:
• a new regional out-of-hours emergency service;
• locally led innovation projects, which receive short term funding to improve practice and service delivery;
• pilots of different ways of working, including ways of reducing unnecessary bureaucracy.
However, there is recognition that the next stage of the Strategy needs to focus on a small number of agreed key priorities in order to improve the effectiveness and impact of social work.
Stakeholders involved in the first phase of delivery of the strategy met in July to reflect on stage 1 and to consider how the lessons could inform the transition to stage 2 and proposals for delivery. Stakeholders included representatives from the statutory and voluntary sectors, service users, carers, Universities, NIASW and staffside. There was broad endorsement of the proposals, including agreement for the key priorities of co-production, improvement, leadership and better outcomes for service users.
There was overwhelming support that the next phase needs to actively involve and engage frontline practitioners, service users and carers, while delivery needs to be embedded in individual, team and organisational practice and activity.
Based on feedback from the event, proposals for governance and structures on Stage 2 delivery will be developed with a strong focus on stakeholder engagement.
The Department of Health’s Chief Social Work Officer, Sean Holland, said:
“Social workers have enthusiastically grasped the opportunities the Strategy has provided to build their capacity and capability, to strengthen workplace supports and to improve social work practice and services.
“We’ve begun to put pride back in the profession and there is a growing sense of a strong, confident and vibrant social work community across Northern Ireland.
“Over the next five years we are going to focus on putting improvement at the heart of social work – a focus on improving practice and on improving outcomes for people who use our service,” he said.
The Social Work Strategy’s stage 2 proposals can be viewed on the Department of Health’s website at: https://www.health-ni.gov.uk/publications/improving-and-safeguarding-social-wellbeing-putting-improvement-heart-social-work-proposals-paper