Practice development: collaborative working in social care

What is collaborative methodology?

The collaborative approach requires groups to come together to share their knowledge and ideas on a particular area for improvement. This can work across authorities and organisations or between different teams within an organisation. Ownership is very important in any change management approach, so the groups themselves need to work with the people using their services to identify areas for improvement.

The basic format focuses participants on an identified area for improvement based on frequent assessment of:


Collaborative organisations need to share information and ideas, and agree methodology. Returning to their own sites, they can implement this and bring case study material (such as the example below) back for discussion.

Where you are now

Staff and people using the service have identified that health and safety concerns are preventing the promotion of independence. Baseline measurement is established by the collection of case material where it is evidenced that people providing the service have been unable to promote independence and/or that people using the service have been denied opportunity for this reason.

Where you would like to be

Positively promoting independence while maintaining an acceptable level of safety for staff and people using the service.

What you need to do to get there

  • Analyse the cases where the problem has been identified.
  • Identify specific barriers.
  • Check health and safety regulation and legislation – ensure that assumptions about health and safety requirements have not been made.
  • Work with providers to ensure a common understanding of the application of health and safety measures.
  • Carry out individual risk assessments.
  • Identify evidence and resources to support positive risk assessment.
  • Identify solutions.
  • Inform relevant staff of the outcome and any changes in practice.
  • Monitore valuate.

Case study

Peter lives in a residential home and has dementia. He wants to go to the local newsagent every morning to collect his newspaper, this is something he has always done since retiring. Staff at the home have said that this is too risky as Peter often forgets what he is doing once he has bought the paper and fails to return home. There is never enough staff on the morning shift to allow for Peter to be accompanied to the shop and, in any case, he prefers to go alone. They arrange for the newspaper to be delivered.

The social worker and care home staff identify the barriers:

  • Peter’s poor memory
  • inadequate staffing levels to support Peter to go to the shop
  • staff attitudes.

A risk assessment is carried out with care home staff. This identifies that, with a simple reminder, Peter would invariably return home safely and the risk would be minimised. The social worker discussed solutions with the staff. The following arrangements were made:

  • An agreement was made with the newsagent that he would have a conversation with Peter every morning when he buys his paper and remind him that he needs to return home after leaving the shop.
  • Peter was given a mobile phone so that staff could contact him if he did not return when expected.


Independence is supported. The social worker could simply have agreed with staff that the activity presented too high a risk for Peter but a change in approach resulted in the desired outcome for Peter without risk being significantly increased and there was no extra cost to the service.

SCIE resources that may support and inform your work in this area

Baseline data on evidencing existing practice can be gathered from completed assessments, care plans and case file materials as well as anecdotal evidence from staff and people using the service. The type of evidence should be comparable with the types of evidence to be collected during the project.

Next in this section: Why use collaborative methodology?