Having the right conditions in place

Social workers need supervision, training, reasonable caseloads, integrated systems and good local commissioning to best support people as they prepare for adulthood.

Challenges we face

No social worker, however skilled and knowledgeable, and with whatever passion for person-centred practice, can effectively support a young person and their family to prepare for adulthood in isolation, and without the right support themselves. To practise effectively, social workers need to be operating in systems that bolster good practice. Some things in this section will be beyond the power of individual practitioners to put in place. However, it is important that practitioners can call on frameworks such as this, to make a case for working conditions and systems that allow them to work to their best ability, in support of young people and families.

In the current operating model, time and resources are often focused on servicing processes and minimising risks, leaving less time to focus on enabling people to live the life they want to live. Social workers, who came into the profession to deploy the best of their humanity, empathy and resourcefulness to help people flourish, can find themselves managing large caseloads and focusing on tasks and protocols to meet service throughput targets.

Putting people at the heart of social work: lessons from the named social worker Programme (Innovation Unit & SCIE, 2018)

Making it better

How best to put in place the structures and systems to support good transition work has been a matter of consideration for many years. In 2008, for example, the then Department of Health produced its ‘Transition – moving on well’ guidance, which called for joint strategic planning and good links between children’s and adults’ services; joint funding arrangements; a clear transition pathway; and transition teams with a skilled mix of core professionals delivering a comprehensive service to young people. It also recommended specialist commissioning for young people preparing for adulthood, alongside quality standards to enable performance management, and measurable outcomes to ensure a value-for-money service.

Top tips

  1. Create protected time to build trusting relationships with young people and their families.
  2. Allow time and opportunity to learn and develop, with an emphasis on reflective practice.
  3. Social workers should have permission and opportunities to work in creative, person-centred and risk-aware ways.
  4. Staffing should be consistent wherever possible, bolstered by contingency planning should staff leave, and by team awareness of other workers’ cases.
  5. Links should be in place with PSWs locally, for both adults and children.
  6. Decent commissioning is vital: a range of services, shaped by an understanding of adolescents.
  7. Collaboration with other services is also important, including co-location and shared management and budgets.
  8. Practitioners should work towards measurable outcomes that promote accountability, and measure things of real worth to young people.

Resources: guidance and tools



Preparing for adulthood: The role of social workers
Previous section | All sections | Next section