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Putting People at the heart of social work: Lessons from the Named Social Worker Programme

Published: SCIE and Innovation Unit, July 2018

Now that the Named Social Worker (NSW) programme has drawn to a close, we want to share the lessons that we have learnt along the way, so that they may benefit other social work teams and services across the country. We are doing so through two publications: this guide and a programme evaluation report. While the programme evaluation provides a narrative and evidence about impact and processes, this guide focuses more closely on practice and on the lessons emerging from implementation across the sites.

What this guide aims to achieve

We hope that this publication will help to:

  • make the case for ‘better social work practice’, drawing on the learning and emerging evidence from NSW programme sites;
  • identify common principles and enablers of ‘good social work’ and what this means for people with learning disabilities;
  • provide inspiration, tools and practical tips to other localities across the country that are committed to maximising the impact that social workers have as they help the people they support to lead the lives they want.

What is isn’t

This guide is not a blueprint for a new service model or a new school of social work practice. It also isn’t a comprehensive training package on how to implement a Named Social Worker approach, since applications varied across sites. It is instead a collection of lessons, reflections, examples and provocations intended to support others to change and improve social work practice and processes in their local areas.

Who it is for

This guide has been created with an audience of practice and strategy leaders in mind. We hope that it will provide directors of Adult and Children services, heads of service, service managers and team leaders with food for thought and an argument for developing, leading and nurturing person and asset-based services. It also aims to provide inspiration, reassurance and practical ideas to support social work teams to stretch and develop their practice.

We believe that Transforming Care leads will also find valuable transferable learning in these pages.

How to navigate it

There are four key sections in this guide and an additional Appendix.

Executive Summary

‘Putting ‘good social work’ into practice’ sets out the case for change and key principles and enablers underpinning the NSW models developed through the programme;

Chapter 1

‘Lessons from Practice’ includes a series of ‘spotlights’ on different aspects of the NSW approach. This aims to share key learning around the ‘pillars’ of the approach, namely: identifying who to work with; defining the skills, values and behaviours of a named social worker; nurturing skills and confidence in the social work team; key elements of practice for person-centred interactions; and partnership working with other agencies and taking a systemic view;

Chapter 2

‘Measuring the difference we make’ offers some pointers on developing an evaluation approach that captures the qualitative and quantitative impact of different ways of working;

Chapter 3

‘The way ahead’ closes this guide by offering some reflections and provocations for social work practice, inspired by the learning emerging from the programme;


The Appendix includes useful tools, case studies and artefacts from pilot sites.

Putting People at the heart of social work: Lessons from the Named Social Worker Programme