Open access innovations

We work collaboratively on a range of partnership programmes that aim to innovate excellent practice and build capacity across the social care system.

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While each programme has a different focus - all aim to increase the use of evidence-informed, emotionally intelligent and systemic approaches to social care.

We're strongly committed to sharing these learning approaches widely. We have made learning from these innovation projects open and free to access to enable all practitioners, researchers and people with lived experience of social care and the allied sectors of health, justice and education to access them.

This is an expanding area of our learning resources and we continue to welcome approaches from all sectors to increase the use of evidence-informed practice. Programmes include:

Choosing digital: Embedding digital practice in children’s social work

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Choosing Digital provides a collaborative decision-making tool that recognises the benefits of a blended approach to interaction between young people and their social care workers.

During the Covid-19 pandemic the social care sector, along with the rest of world, had to move to digital-based interaction. Many were concerned that the human nature of social work could never be recreated in digital spaces. Choosing Digital provides a collaborative decision-making tool that recognises the benefits of a blended approach to interaction (both in-person and digital) between young people and their social care workers.

It is a collaborative project from Research in Practice in association with the London Innovation and Improvement Alliance (LIIA), the Association of London Directors of Children’s Services (ALDCS) and the North West Association of Directors of Children’s Services (NWADSC). The content is open access and available to everyone.

‘We found that practitioners needed to put some planning into virtual visits. Initially, they were very ‘tick-boxy’, but when senior management looked at the quality of visits it was really evident that those consisting of a planned piece of virtual direct work were much more useful.’ 

Choosing Digital participant

Practice Supervisor Development Programme

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The Practice Supervisor Development Programme (PSDP) is a significant investment by the Department for Education that aims to provide high-quality continuous professional development (CPD) for social workers in which they are responsible for supporting and developing the practice of others. The programme, which started in 2018, has been highly rated by the social care sector has been extended to 2022.

Key programme aims include empowering practitioners to build confidence, mobilising academic knowledge and practice expertise, and working in partnership with the sector. The programme also engages with organisational culture, recognising the key role that employers and leaders play in enabling high-quality learning. Several video clips demonstrating its impact have been released on an open access website.

‘I feel this training has been excellent, very interactive, informative and a safe space to really reflect and be critical of my own practice, the quality of supervision I provide, receive and has given me some good ideas and creative ways to share the learning with my team and put this into practice. The facilitators have instilled a motivation in me to discuss issues around race, discrimination and oppression.’ 

PSDP Participant.

Supporting the Principal Social Workers networks to lead practice

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We were delighted to win the contract in 2021 to support the Principal Social Workers (PSW) networks and to be working with them to 2023.

We are providing administrative support, hosting network events and ensuring communications reach PSW members. We have launched new dedicated web pages for PSWs to share news, views and relevant guidance within the network.

As a network and as individuals working at organisational, regional and national levels PSWs hold unique and vital insights into the demands the profession faces, and the hands-on expertise on leading practice, even in the most challenging times. Our aim is to share this knowledge more widely and advocate for practitioners.

Social Work Organisational Resilience Diagnostic

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The Social Work Organisational Resilience Diagnostic that aims to help leaders and managers create the conditions that enable workers to sustain and develop resilience was updated in 2021 to bring in learning from COVID-19. In our short audio clip Sam Clayton introduces the background to SWORD.


A brand-new version of the SWORD workbook including features supporting remote working. It offers targeted, evidence-informed tasks and strategies to support organisational improvements and develop conditions to better support social care worker wellbeing. The workbook is used following an initial SWORD diagnostic survey to explore staff wellbeing. The SWORD survey and workbook can be used across the whole social work and broader social care profession.

SWORD has been co-produced with the Research in Practice Partner network in a project led by Dr Louise Grant, University of Bedfordshire, and Professor Gail Kinman, Birkbeck University. 

Tackling Child Exploitation Support Programme

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The Tackling Child Exploitation Support (TCE) programme is an investment by the Department for Education that aims to support local area partnerships to achieve strategic change in relation to child exploitation and threats from outside the family home (known as extra-familial harm). Their work covers child sexual exploitation and child criminal exploitation, including county lines drug trafficking. Designed and delivered by a consortium led by Research in Practice with The Children’s Society and the University of Bedfordshire since 2019, TCE has been extended to 2023 to develop ‘Practice Principles’ for local safeguarding partnerships.

To share learning from the programme, TCE have created an open access website to act as repository for the sector. Here TCE have gathered and interpreted the evidence unpinning the programme, and have ensured that all resources, tools and learning that have been generated through delivery of the programme are available to freely access.

‘Extremely useful to hear from other perspectives and understand what approaches other areas are taking. Some really useful tips on how to get partners on board, overcome challenges with information sharing and employ a more proactive approach. It was really interesting insight and gave me a chance to reflect on my case work and see where I can implement new things.’ 

TCE Participant.

Research and evaluation

We are a leading research and evaluation provider in Children’s and Adults Services, supporting providers to understand the impact that their services are having. Our evidence-informed approach is central to research and evaluation and we weave research evidence, professional expertise and the views of those with lived experience throughout our evaluations.

Our evaluations this year have included working with organisations supporting parents at risk of having their children removed, and evaluating a pilot providing support for foster carers.

In these evaluations we used quantitative data from surveys, organisational and statutory data collections, alongside qualitative data from interviews and focus groups. We triangulated research evidence with the views of professionals working in and with the service, and the parents, carers and where appropriate young people supported by the service. This enabled us to obtain a holistic view of each service and conduct thorough, robust evaluations.