SCIE Report 36: Enabling risk, ensuring safety: Self-directed support and personal budgets


'seeing the individual in the context of family, friends and community, and reflecting their hopes and fears for their own future is where social work can bring an important contribution.' (Putting People First 2010)

The role of the social worker

As the knowledge about risk management and self-directed support grows, the importance of social work skills is highlighted.

Self-directed support is not just an administrative exercise, but requires the sort of support, empowerment and communication skills offered by trained social workers.

Evidence shows that many people still want the support of experienced social workers when they feel most vulnerable, in order to manage risks and benefits, and to build their self-esteem and aspirations so that they can take control or make difficult decisions.

For example, older people who are directing their own support and using a personal budget have been found to value and benefit from the specific professional support that a social worker can offer.

The research examined for this report shows the importance of professional social work for providing the type of empowering, relationship-based support required both by personalisation and adult safeguarding.

The social worker therefore has a crucial role to play in the type of family mediation and community building work which has been identified as being important for wider risk prevention and combating the sort of isolation which may put people at risk.

For person-centred support social work becomes more important where people do not have natural circles of support in place – perhaps because they have lost touch with their families. In terms of social work risk assessment skills, it has been emphasised that competent and confident risk assessors do not compromise practical creativity for simplicity or an 'off the shelf' answer.

In Control's implementation and development of the self-directed support and personal budget process found that social workers make an important contribution at each step, particularly when individuals are in difficult circumstances or when they lack friends, family or other natural support.

In particular, the evaluation has clearly highlighted the importance of the social work role for addressing risk enablement and safeguarding issues during the support planning process.

Further reading


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  • SCIE Report 36: Enabling risk, ensuring safety: Self-directed support and personal budgets