The right values, skills and attributes

Social workers need to be confident in applying their professional value base, in making decisions with young people and families, in being creative, in taking risks and in learning from mistakes.

Challenges we face

A solid grounding in social care law, practices and theories is central to good social work practice with young people with learning disabilities. More important still is having a set of attributes and values that, combined with the benefits of in-depth knowledge, can help young people work towards their life goals.

Making it better

The issue of confidence is clearly closely linked to that of knowledge (Underpinning knowledge). If a social worker knows their ground in relation to people’s legal entitlements, and their legal duties, then they can act with more assurance; a virtuous cycle can develop in which effective interactions breed more confidence for future work.

Top tips

  1. A well-established system of peer support, expedient and formal supervision, and appraisal is necessary for confident practitioners to develop.
  2. Staff with an understanding of the value base of social work, and what it brings to multidisciplinary settings and to work with young people, will be able to operate more assuredly.
  3. Services should develop a culture in which it is recognised that young people will make mistakes, and in which they can learn from those mistakes without the rest of their lives being shaped by risk-averse practices.
  4. A culture should also be developed in which it is recognised that social workers will make mistakes, and in which they can learn from those mistakes without the rest of their careers being shaped by risk-averse practices.
  5. Social workers need to embed human rights into their practice, to ensure that laws based on people’s rights, such as the Mental Capacity Act and the Care Act, are fully implemented.
  6. Social workers need the skills to support decision-making and autonomy in the young people they are supporting, while balancing this with the needs of parents and carers.
  7. Basic human and professional skills of politeness, empathy and transparency are the foundation stones of good professional practice.

Resources: guidance and tools



Preparing for adulthood: The role of social workers
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