Choosing Digital: Embedding digital practice in children's social work

Published: 16/11/2021

Author: Research in Practice

A new dedicated website, 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.

Choosing Digital

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Choosing Digital 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.

During the Covid-19 pandemic the social care sector, along with the rest of world, had to move to digital-based interaction. This was a very different way of connecting for the majority of social care workers and the young people and families they work with. Many were concerned that the human nature of social work could never be recreated in digital spaces. The reality was that digital practice sometimes worked really well and sometimes didn’t.

Research in Practice worked with the LIIA, ALDCS and NWADSC to develop Choosing Digital as a practice tool to use with families, and a toolkit of ideas to support digital practice, to help everyone understand when and where digital practice might be possible, preferred, or potentially unsafe, especially in decision-making meetings.

Choosing Digital also took a Design Thinking approach, meaning it was user-centred, empathetic, collaborative and iterative. As a result, the project worked with young people, parents and carers, social work practitioners, work force development leads, and strategic leads. 

The new website explores interaction more generally and how it can be used to develop relationships. Choosing Digital does not suggest that digital interaction should replace physical interaction in social care practice, but that families and practitioners consider the benefits of a blended approach to practice in social care. The Choosing Digital practice tool draws heavily from the DEEPR framework for human connection, and recommends the strength-based resources developed for this framework, along with the work of the Children's Society to develop tools to support digital practice.

Choosing Digital's objectives are to maximise the potential of digital practice to rebalance power dynamics, improve relationships and increase engagement.