Supporting social workers’ digital capabilities

27 March 2020

SCIE and BASW launch digital practice framework and resources for social workers, employers and educators

Using digital technology has never been more important for social work, their employers, educators and the adults, children and young people they support.

The coronavirus outbreak and the necessity for social distancing means that the use of all forms of digital technology has rapidly increased. Social media and video conferencing are keeping colleagues and families connected; apps and assistive technology are monitoring people’s health and wellbeing; and data systems are supporting the management of supplies, staffing, budgets and projections.

New resources published today by the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) and the British Association of Social Workers (BASW), aim to support the development of social workers digital capabilities and skills to know how and when to use digital technology safely to improve practice.

Developed over the last year with support from a sector-wide advisory group and in consultation with the sector, the digital capabilities resources are available via the SCIE and BASW websites:

The resources include:

The digital capabilities statement

This is a framework to guide practice. It identifies the knowledge, skills and values social workers need to develop their use of digital technology in practice. It supports social workers to meet and adhere to the regulatory standards - The Professional Standards – developed by Social Work England, and sector-wide agreed levels of ethics, knowledge and performance in the Professional Capabilities Framework and the Knowledge and Skills Statements for children and adult social work.

Digital capabilities - Ethical considerations

Social workers can consider their ethical responsibilities when using digital technology.

Presentation materials and films:

A series of downloadable powerpoint presentations and films that explain the digital capabilities statement and how it supports social workers, educators, sector leaders and people who use services.

Stakeholders’ report

A report on the key issues that stakeholders need to consider in relation to social work, plus findings from the project’s surveys, focus groups and literature review.

Practice examples

Examples of digital technology at use in social work practice and education (within the Stakeholders’ report).

Speaking about the resources, Ruth Allen, Chief Executive of BASW and Ewan King, Chief Operating Officer at SCIE issued a joint statement saying:

The Digital Capabilities Statement launches at a time when the importance of digital competency and connectivity have been brought into sharp focus by Covid19 and the accompanying lockdown. Using digital technology was already an expanding and critical skill for social workers in all sectors. Now it is suddenly the new normal. SCIE and BASW hope that the digital capabilities statement and related resources will provide social workers, their employers and educators with a valuable framework to support the use of digital technology now – and in the future. The statement is a practice framework – not a new set of standards. Instead, it supports compliance with regulatory standards, and reflects the Professional Capabilities Frameworks and the Knowledge and Skills Statements that social workers already use.

Dr Denise Turner, Senior Social Work Lecturer at London Metropolitan University and chair of the Advisory Group for this project said:

With universities closed across England, social work education has faced the particular challenges of students finishing placements, in addition to their University work. Educators and students alike are rapidly learning new skills, managing different online platforms and thinking innovatively to maintain contact and deliver essential services at this challenging time. The Capabilities Statement launched today provides a framework for much of this activity, reminding everyone involved of the potential of digital technologies, whilst lending important context and ethical guidance. In the past week, perhaps more than ever before we have all seen the necessity for digital skills to help keep us connected at a time of national crisis.

Bev Latania, Chair of the Principal Social Workers – Adults Network, welcomed the digital capabilities statement saying:

Digital skills and the role of social work goes hand in hand. Social Workers must understand the importance of digital technologies on both their own professional accountability and working alongside/supporting citizens. This has never been so well understood as it is now due to the coronavirus and the situation social workers find themselves in. Digital technology is being used to keep in touch with peers and stakeholders when remote working and the use of telephone, skype and other online tools to assist with meetings and ensuring services continue to run. Assistive technology to enable citizens to remain in their own homes and use of communication apps so care agencies can keep in touch are some of the ways we are being supported by digital interventions. The Digital Capabilities Statement is an excellent framework where, we as social workers and as councils, can reflect and audit our own internal resources and drive up standards, knowledge and skills.

The digital capabilities for social workers project is part of the Building a Digitally Ready Workforce programme, commissioned by Health Education England, with support from NHS Digital. Patrick Mitchell, Director of Innovation and Transformation at Health Education England said:


This is a critical programme of work where both health and care share the same ambitions for the digital agenda and the same understanding of the scope and reach needed, which has been brought into sharp focus by the Covid-19 lockdown. This project demonstrates the immediate value of the work we are doing together on transforming health and care through making sure our staff have the digital capabilities and literacy, and it shows the way to a digital future for the health and care workforce, through education and training.

In relation to COVID-19, BASW is currently carrying out a survey of how social workers are responding to the coronavirus outbreak.

BASW and SCIE will be hosting a webinar on digital technology during a crisis, and how the digital capabilities statement can help.

Notes to editors

The digital capabilities for social workers project is part of the Building a Digitally Ready Workforce programme, commissioned by Health Education England, with support from NHS Digital.

The project was supported by a sector-wide Advisory Group, chaired by Dr Denise Turner from the Social Work Department at London Metropolitan University. The Group included adults and young people who use social work services, carers, social work practitioners, educators, sector leaders, and technology experts.

Press Contact

Phone: 020 3840 4063