Supporting CPD with evidence-informed practice in Hull

Published: 14/10/2022

Author: Suzanne Smith and Claire Rutherford

As Link Officers, it’s been an exciting year, supporting social workers and practitioners across children’s social care in embedding the Research in Practice resources.

This year, we established our social work academy in Hull, so we are seeing many students, apprentices and newly qualified social workers (NQSWs) come through our doors. This is wonderful to see and one of the privileges of our roles, not only as Link Officers, but also as Practice Educators and Principal Social Workers. We have to say, we both love research and get excited by new resources and tools.

Social work, as we know, is constantly changing, with research and knowledge continuing to evolve. It’s therefore essential that our staff are helped to keep with the pace of change and are enthused in their continued professional development (CPD). This is where we feel Research in Practice supports us to become reflective, informed and courageous leaders in practice, resulting in our workforce having the information they require to provide excellent services to children, young people and their families.

Embedding evidence-informed practice

In Hull’s social work academy we have found that generating awareness and utilising Research in Practice amongst staff from the very beginning is critical. If we embed this from the outset, we know that our social workers will be inspired to utilise the exceptional resources within the Research in Practice learning and development resources and attend learning events.  

One of our key starting points has been to ensure that all students and NQSWs are introduced to Research in Practice in their induction; we use Research in Practice power points or videos, as well as a practical demonstration of the resources. On the back of these successful inductions, we have often heard students say ‘If only I had had access to this when writing my dissertation’. Coupled with the NQSWs, we have an abundance of long-standing social workers, who have all experienced the benefits of utilising the resources to ensure that there is an evidence base when supporting children and families.  

We know that evidence-based practice is essential in ensuring fairness to the families with whom we work, but also in evidencing professional integrity and expertise. When we won the Link Officer of the Year Award at the Link Officers’ Annual Meeting in May, we were absolutely ecstatic and we both felt that this was great recognition.

Promoting continuing professional development

We wanted to share what we have done in Hull to ensure the learning continues to land and is part of everyday practice. As Link Officers, Practice Educators and Practice Leads within the social work academy, our visibility has been key to promoting learning and this is being done in a number of ways:

  • Each month we have ‘Stop the Clock’ sessions. These take place over three hours in each service area. This allows protected time to embrace learning and to think about why we came into social work, the importance of evidence-based social work and the need to resist compliant behaviours. These motivational sessions help us to focus on the importance of our role and in doing so, we ensure that learning is linked to the resources.

  • Every two weeks we have an inward facing newsletter with one section that includes Principal Social Worker news. Research in Practice updates always feature here and we include links to a wide range of learning resources.

  • The NSQWs are supported via targeted workshops and monthly reflective peer sessions where there is a focus on encouraging them to access Research in Practice resources, including Continuing Professional Development (CPD) resources.

  • The social work academy Practice Educators and Practice Leads have also used innovative ideas to share learning. Examples of this have been in short webinars that are cascaded through links in the newsletter, with the social work academy sharing top tips and demos of accessing Research in Practice resources.

  • Our assessors and Practice Educators embrace the resources and this is threaded through the work we do with social workers in terms of professional capabilities for social workers.

  • We have a good working relationship with our Research in Practice account manager and our monthly virtual meetings enable us to keep up to date with not only new developments and learning themes from research, but also our specific organisational CPD workforce needs. Our account manager is always on hand to direct us to resources that we might quickly need and we have been taught a few technology skills in the process!

Developing a ‘growth mindset’

Finally, as Link Officers we both absolutely champion Research in Practice. This includes sharing our expectations of adopting the tools in practice, resolving issues within and amongst the teams and always demonstrating enthusiasm for the social work profession. We know how important the role of social workers is and this is why we are developing a ‘growth mindset’ amongst all the workforce, ensuring that our intervention and support is evidenced-based and our children, young people and their families gain a quality service. This is why we really value Research in Practice; the quality of the resources being easy to understand and implement in practice.

We feel very proud to have been nominated – and won – the Link Officer of the Year Award and will continue to champion Research in Practice from frontline practitioners to senior leaders.

The key message in all of this is that learning and resources need to be routinely embedded and shared across the service, from students to senior leaders.

Suzanne Smith and Claire Rutherford

Suzanne Smith is a Practice Educator in the Hull Social Work Academy and Claire Rutherford is the Principal Social Worker for Hull City Council Children Young People and Family Service.