Category Archives: Social Work

How social media can support #ConnectedCare

In these challenging times I believe we have a responsibility to show how the digital revolution which is impacting on all of our lives can bring people together to build and support more connected communities.

Care and support in the 21st century requires much more connected thinking across social services, health, housing, education, employment and the wider social sector. Technology and social media can facilitate this process. I am often puzzled when I see different sectors running events with similar themes on the same day and not making the connections which could avoid duplicating resources or reinventing wheels. It can so often seem that sectors are just talking to themselves rather than reaching out and creating new networks and collaborations.

Admittedly we have been slow creating a mindshift away from technology as a means to an end and thinking about how digital technology can help address the wicked challenges of our age. How does technology have a role in addressing social isolation, loneliness, supporting people living with dementia and their carers, developing the skills and talent of young people and creating communities we all want to live in? Is the missing link the absence of digital leadership in the social sector?

To promote new ways of thinking I have used and continue to use social media to highlight resources which I believe could benefit from a wider audience than the “usual suspects” In this spirit and because there are so many events taking place I am sharing my selection of  interesting and innovative events which you can follow on Twitter. The obvious (to me anyway) connection between all of these events is that we all live in communities which include children, young people, families, people living alone and carers. We all have something to share and we can learn from each other. 

Today MOMO are hosting  a national conference exploring digital social work challenges and good practice. @MindOfMyOwnApp have developed an app that gives children and young people the confidence & ability to express their needs. It is so important that looked after children have a voice and I am impressed by the impact of this app. Follow via


The inestimable @johnpopham is live streaming this event.

This week is #dyingmattersweek. Every year @DyingMatters host an Awareness Week, which gives us an unparalleled opportunity to place the importance of talking about dying, death and bereavement firmly on the national agenda. This year the theme is ‘The Big Conversation’ and you can share your thoughts via #BigConversation.

Neighbourhoods of the Future is being held on the 11th and 12th May.  This event will take a fresh look at age friendly homes and communities as a means of tackling the challenges of ageing better. Topics being explored include the emerging possibilities of smart homes and age friendly cities. With hundreds of organisations now involved in the #AgeingBetter industry it will be fascinating to see how many will be sharing their thoughts via #agileageingroadshow

The Festival of Behaviour Change starts today in Bangor 9th – 20th May 2016. Behaviour Change Science is a combination of psychology, social sciences, design thinking and practical application that could revolutionise the design and delivery of public services. It can help individuals to make better decisions by altering the way in which choices are presented to them. This is an important exploration because there are rightly ethical concerns about who determines what is the “right” behaviour.  I am particularly interested in the sessions on Behaviour Change and Service Delivery ModelsBehaviour Change in Health and the Future of Health Care and The use of Technology in the Pursuit of Behaviour Change. Follow the discussions via . I understand some of the sessions will be live streamed via Periscope.

Advance notice of Dementia Awareness Week taking place from the 15th – 21st May 2016. This is an important opportunity to increase understanding of dementia and find out what support is available for people living with dementia and their carers. There are a wide range of special events taking place across the country.

Follow #DAW2016 to contribute to the debates and share your thoughts about what works and what needs to change.

If there are other events which I think are interesting, informative and innovative I will add them to the list during the week!

On Being Social To help make your event more social I am sharing some top tips produced by @PaulBromford and I. (We are planning to update this in 2016!)








Guest Post: Creating a strong support network for social workers

Zoe Betts

Zoe Betts

In 2012 I created a support event called Confidence and Competence specifically for social work students and newly qualified social workers (NQSWs). It has run for 2 consecutive years and is now an annual support conference held in London, set to go ahead again in April 2014. I’ve devoted many hours over this year so far to it and have already confirmed names and speakers. It’s very much a work in progress though and being that it’s not until April, this unofficially gave me some time to expand the concept by taking a bit of a gamble and diversifying the idea.

In 2009 I didn’t know one social worker. I started my masters and I didn’t have a social care background, which didn’t put me in good stead to build links. It’s part of the reason I created these events in the first place, because I learnt that I had a responsibility to strengthen my new professional career. Today, many of my good friends are social workers – and to credit them – the valuable and informal support I derive from them has meant my confidence and practice has strengthened as a result. By meeting people who really understand what this role entails, it’s easier to debrief – and above all – they just ‘get it’ in ways that my dear family and friends can’t, because most people still do not know what a social worker actually does.

I know social workers who have a wealth more experience than me. We meet regularly and unquestionably, they better my practice. We debrief, talk about practice, policy and about intricacies of cases and caseloads. I’m in awe of their legislative knowledge and personal management, which their years of experience have brought them and can now be shared with me. I am able to talk about things I find difficult, ways I can improve and we can identify, informally and together ways of developing and bettering all areas of practice; including time management, being assertive and  communication. It’s incredibly valuable and it’s also very enjoyable.

The idea to diversify the Confidence and Competence events evolved from one of these meet ups. Acknowledging the benefit a mutual debrief provides, not just for students and those in the early induction years of practice I thought this would be valuable for all qualified professionals. Each year my inbox was busy with emails from people 10 years+ qualified asking to come to the Confidence and Competence event. I’d had to explain that the benefit wouldn’t be there because the event is so tailored for students and NQSWs but I was beginning to realise support is needed, regardless of experience.

I put the wheels in motion to build the foundations of iamsocialwork: London: October 1st, 2013. Date agreed, venue secured – now why not aim big?! Let’s go inter-borough, every borough, but let’s go beyond that – lets go out to the counties. Let’s reach Kent and Herts….and Essex and the SW and SE and the voluntary sector and social workers who work outside of a statutory setting. Let’s be as inclusive as possible. I hope the event will grow beyond London because our support links are often weak and need improving regardless of location.

We know professional support is there. There can often be overwhelming amounts of support – that we do not know where to go to, but I feel there’s a special requirement and a void for us to link with each other. And having felt the benefit of this I will happily devote an evening to it. Every time I connect with social workers from other teams or depts. I leave feeling more confident about my practice, reassured and slightly less alone out there. That is a fact and my motivation for running this event. I know the value and now I want to spread that and inject a level of energy, inspiration and just something different to the day job.

I am under no illusion that it does not need to be big or successful to the outside community. The reality is that if myself and two others turn up – we will benefit from that time together and leave motivated, inspired and having had a great time (albeit awkwardly in a very large and beautiful room). The aim is not success of the event in whole, its success of the event based on the benefit gained per person – and my feedback form will tell me this.

So aside from owning iamsocialwork, I work full time in adult social care, which yes, is a complex role. In fact it’s extraordinary and it can exhaust me. The workload is heavy, the pressure is high and two years qualified I learn every day. But I laugh every day. I have a great team. I take hours to write an assessment and I sometimes wake up at 4am thinking of a resolution to a situation. I wake up at 4.38am going through my case load alphabetically (yes, really). But it’s a journey and a constant learning curve. I’m being so open because I want to highlight that I run these events because I’m very much on this journey with you. I’m not standing back having perfected this role watching you struggle; I feel every step of this struggle with you. I know most of you reading this are sighing in agreement with me, if we weren’t bound by confidentiality the remit of our workload would astound most people. But what we can do is to share experiences together to ease the strain and – more importantly celebrate the success we do achieve and remember why we do it.

I often meet my friends, who have great jobs in industries such as travel and fashion, they manage accounts and teams – their perks are holidays to far off exotic places and enormous discounts on very beautiful clothes (a ‘perk’ is not something we naturally associate with our role…) upon an often dishevelled, apologetic and late (*cough) arrival I submit a synopsis of reasoning to them with an overview account of my day in generic terms. They’re enthralled and shocked and intrigued. As a result I have become their baseline of reasoning when it comes to their bad days. Their jobs are far from pressure free, but as they learn a little of the tasks and complexities of the unknown world of social work – their rationale is shifting and they remind themselves that it’s “just jeans and t-shirts” or “just a missed connecting flight”. No one has died, or tried to. No one’s health is suffering beyond medical repair and no one is experiencing poverty in 2013, no one is at significant risk or in immediate danger. Switching off from the emotional tolls of social work is not so easy. I’m no saviour and lots of you know because you do it too. But we need to reflect on the practice and remember why we do it and importantly – protect ourselves along the way, which ever field you happen to be in. We need to step away and remember what we face on a daily basis can be  extraordinary, difficult and not the normal 9-5pm because it is human behaviour and that is never straight forward.

Please go into work tomorrow remembering that we are great as individual practitioners, but we’re a lot stronger connected together. I could write for hours and cover every aspect of my thought process on social work and the ways we work  but it’d be much more fun for you to come and hang out on October 1st. I’ll give you 30,000% of my time and we’ll talk till you drag yourself away. I know that together, in serious numbers, we are stronger.

Book now for the iamsocialwork inter-borough networking evening

London 1st October 18.00 – 21.30

Contact me

Connect with me on Twitter @iamsocialwork

Can Twitter make our care and social work organisations more “social”?

twitter“Social media is a fundamental shift in the way we communicate. All the time online conversations are happening about you, your brand and your organisation. It’s not a choice whether you DO social media, the choice is how well you do it” Erik Qualman author of socialnomics.

Social networking has the potential to put the “social” back into social work and social care. So it is sad to note how few care organisations are actually engaged and using social media to communicate and debate with an increasingly diverse group of stakeholders. Children and adult care is on the edge and urgently needs public support to show politicians that there is widespread support for properly funding the services which  millions of people rely on daily. How could we be using social media to counter the negative media perceptions  and reporting about social work and care services?

Twitter is a rich source of instantly updated information and it is how I stay updated on an incredibly wide variety of topics. What makes a care tweeter valuable? Generously sharing knowledge, passions and links to useful resources and blogs. Listening, challenging, informing and making a difference.

If you are an organisation funded to engage with the public you need a strategy for responding to questions and comments online. This should include contact details for senior staff which is available on your website.

What is a turn off? Broadcasting, constantly selling and promoting yourself, not listening or interested in conversations which may be critical of your organisation. Having a Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn profile  and rarely updating shows a real lack of interest in being social. I will leave you to judge how social our care tweeters are!

This should be a simple request but…. it does require an understanding of the complicated and fragmented social work and social care sectors. Care services are provided by a diverse range of providers including local authorities, health, housing, charities, social enterprises and the private sector. This list focuses on organisations and individuals who have a specific social work or social care brief.

Who is currently using Twitter?

Association of Directors of Adult Social Services @ADASSdclode

Eddie Clarke Director Adult Social Services Worcestershire @eddiec10 

Sarah Pickup President ADASS and Director Hertfordshire @adassspickup

Sherry Malik Director of Children & Adults, LB Hounslow @sherry_malik 

Lorna Payne Group Director Adults and Health LB Havering @Lorna_Payne

Barnet Council’s Adult Social Care and Health Service @lbbadults 

Sean McLaughlin Director of Housing and Adult Social Services @SeanMcLaughlin

Simon Birch Director of Social Services in Monmouthshire @MCCSimonBurch

The Association of Directors of Children’s Services are not using Twitter  

Dave Hill Director of Children’s Services Essex County Council @DCSEssex 

Social Care Service Managers 

James Lampert Social care Commisioner Kent County Council  @uk_james

Guy Stenson  Service manager (planning & partnerships), Children, Adults and  Health South Gloucestershire Council @guystenson

British Association of Social Workers @BASW_UK

Awaiting confirmation of whether the Chair and CEO are using Twitter

Care Quality Commission @CareQualityComm

Chair David Prior and CEO David Behan are not using Twitter

Care Providers

Bill Mumford CEO Macintyre, Chair of VODG and on @TLAP1 Board  @billatmacintyre 

Centre for Workforce Intelligence  @C4WI 

Peter Sharp CEO @CfWICEO

Rhidian Hughes Head of Social Care @rhidianhughes

Children’s Commissioner for England

Maggie Atkinson @ChildrensComm

College of Social Work @CollegeofSW 

Awaiting confirmation of whether the Co-Chairs and Interim CEO are using Twitter

Disabled People’s User Led Organisations (DPULOs) 

Rich Watts National Lead for Disabled People’s User Led Organisations (DPULOs) @rich_w 

Kings Fund @RichardatKF  Senior Fellow

National Skills Academy for Social Care @NSASocialCare

Awaiting confirmation of whether the Chair and CEO are using Twitter

Skills for Care @skillsforcare

A disappointing response especially when there is a lack of clarity about the role of Skills for Care and the planned amalgamation with the National Skills Academy for Social Care.

Social Care Institute for Excellence @SCIE_socialcare

Current Chair not on Twitter

CEO Andrea Sutcliffe @Crouchendtiger7

Think Local Act Personal Partnership @TLAP1

Programme Director Sam Bennett @samhbenn 

Scotland (links thanks to @jonbolton )


Care Council for Wales @CareCouncil 

No doubt I will be adding to the list. Do let me know if I have missed any  social care tweeters you feel I should add to the list.

Reflections on Digital Health Conference and Hack 2012


I spent a couple of days last week in Leeds, attending the Digital Health Conference and Hack.  I wanted to fill in some initial reflections today and write more about some of the sessions I attended over the coming week.

The Conference

The first day – the ‘conference’ part – was put together with thought and care towards the participants with an excellent balance of speakers, workshops and opportunities to talk to one another (or ‘network’).  Having been to many conferences which have overdone the ‘being spoken to’ elements – particularly in a day – I was genuinely delighted by the opportunity to feedback.

For me, the most interesting aspect of the day was the other participants and attendees. There were people from across the health and social care sector, including users of services provided (although as was pointed out, we are all users to a degree), voluntary sector organisations, technology based companies, commercial organisations and people from national and local government.

One of the themes that jumped out at me most spectacularly was how much was gained by putting us all in a room together where otherwise we might have no opportunities to meet, to create a positive energy (tinged with scepticism of reality to a degree) about what is actually possible to ‘make things better’.

Whether it was a discussion about the Department of Health Information Strategy for Health and Social Care (which will be the subject of it’s own post later in the week!) or a closer look at the Department of Health ‘Maps and Apps’ project or a discussion with clinicians about the way they use social media or a look at the ‘Patient Opinion’ model for providing useful communication and feedback between users and services.

Both ‘Maps and Apps’ and ‘Patient Opinion’ will be moving into the Social Care space directly and for me, it was a useful chance to discuss and think more deeply about the ‘social care’ angle on these processes and how they might directly relate to the work I do clinically on a day to day basis.

The second part of the day revolved around planning, discussions and moving forward but it’s hard for me to get away from the realisation that the most important thing that I took away from the day was inspiration and connections.

I met some truly inspirational people (primarily Claire Jones, the organiser of this event) and had some intensely interesting conversations. I connected with people across the traditional hierarchical structures that we are sometimes constrained by as well as some of the traditional ‘silos’ of interest groups that can be seen to exist within health and social care more broadly.

The Hack

The Hack Day on Saturday was a chance to discuss in more detail some practical ideas and uses for technology at work. The group I worked in provided me with an enjoyable, engaging and thought-provoking discussions. We came from very different angles to look at the problems we faced in working/using/dealing with NHS and Social Care systems and how not only technology but better communication and relationships could solve them.

The projects that were presented at the end of the Hack Day were genuinely useful and provided a chance to see change in action. It isn’t just talk although it’s impossible to underestimate the possibilities of talk.

The Conclusions

My main lessons from the event:-

1) Moving away from top/down and bottom/up models of communication as the sole way of transmitting information and ideas. The real change comes from horizontal as well as vertical chains of discussion. Look at other sectors as well as those at all levels of our own.  How is agriculture managing this? What is education doing? We can get lost in our own world and of course, we need to look across health and social care. It’s a VERY big place. Many people who use and need our services to operate well can tell us best where we need to improve. Skills and knowledge is not a top down transfer.

2) Social Care is in genuine danger of being squeezed out in the ‘Health and Social Care’ debate and discussion. I was gently reminding some of the health people that we existed but I’d love to see more input from the sector and perhaps input more myself.

3) Social Media opens opportunities. I would never have come across this event without it. But sometimes, face to face meetings can reinforce ideas and relationships too.

4) Sometimes just sitting a few people together and talking about ‘making things better’ from completely different ‘starting points’ can be both inspirational and revolutionary. Let’s do more.

5)Leeds is an exciting and beautiful place. I want to move Winking smile

I hope to write more specifically over the week about the ‘Maps and Apps’ project and the Information Strategy for Health and Social Care but all in all, I can’t think of a more satisfying and reinvigorating weekend I’ve spent in a long, long time so can only thank Claire for doing rather than talking about doing.

These are the people who will change the world. Rather than talk about changing the world. Thank you, Claire. Thank you, Leeds. I’ll be back and in the meantime, I’ll be plotting, planning but most importantly, talking.

photo by Leah Makin Photography at Flickr

A sad loss for social work as a respected MSc Mental Health programme closes

It was with considerable shock that I learnt that the MSc in Mental Health Social Work programme at the Institute of Psychiatry will close in September 2013 and will not be accepting any new students from September 2012. This decision was taken without any reference to members of the Programme Committee, to partner Agencies or to the General Social Care Council.

I have been involved with the programme since 1996 working with the then course director Alan Rushton to accredit the programme within the Post Qualifying (PQ) framework. I was subsequently invited to join the Programme Committee. It was always evident that the course team recognised the importance of ensuring that they were able to demonstrate to students and employers that the skills and knowledge gained would benefit service users, the social work profession and the mental health community.

I find it difficult to believe how a decision of such magnitude (the end of social work education at the Institute of Psychiatry after over thirty years) could have been made without informed consultation or accountability to, internal and external stakeholders. I wonder if this system of educational governance is common within all universities.

It appears that a decision was made that a new MSc Global Mental Health would be a better use of the HEFCE places which currently support the social work programme. As a member of the Programme Committee I have not been provided with a rationale as to why the course is closing and there has been no explanation of the absence of a proper consultation process. When the importance of inter professional collaboration is being emphasised by government policy it is difficult to understand why the Institute of Psychiatry considers that social work education is no longer a priority.

The MSc Mental Health Social Work programme has, over many years, developed a well deserved reputation for its academic and practice excellence and attracts students from across the UK. The need for such a programme at this time remains critical, given all the legislative changes surrounding the practice of social work, in adult, children’s and adolescent mental health.

The former external examiner Professor Eileen Munro consistently praised the high standards of the programme and its method of developing advanced practitioners in social work. There are strong parallels between her recommendations for advanced practitioners and how the programme develops experienced practitioners informed by research and theory. The emphasis on developing quantitative research skills is important in promoting the evidence base for social work.

The programme has a real commitment to the meaningful involvement of service users and carers which has been cited by the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) and recognised by the General Social Care Council (GSCC) as good practice

The MSc in Mental Health Social Work uses an innovative form of assessment of advanced practice which provides case consultation followed bya  practice viva panel incorporating users and carers which has now been adopted by other universities.

How will mental health care improve without confident, well trained and  research minded social work practitioners?   A sad day for social work when the Institute of Psychiatry, an internationally renowned centre of excellence for mental health research, no longer wishes to support the education and learning of advanced social work practitioners.

If you wish to express your concern about the closure of the MSc Mental Health Social Work programme please write to:

Professor Graham Thornicroft

Head of Health Service and Population Research Department

Institute of Psychiatry,

De Crespigny Park,


London SE5 8AF


Should social work be more social? a simple answer yes! #12thMW

On 13th March 2012 I am contributing to the 12th Maudsley workshop at the Institute of Psychiatry which is bringing together social work academics, practitioners and social media thought leaders to discuss the benefits and pitfalls of using social media as a means of continuing professional development in social work in social work.

A helpful statement from the College of Social Work @CollegeofSW about using social media to engage practitioners in discussions about their work.

A ten minutes presentation is not very long to provide an overview about social media and as an experiment I am sharing my thoughts in advance online and welcome feedback and thoughts. You can engage with the live discussions on Twitter tomorrow through #12thMW

Social media has revolutionised the way in which people communicate and share information – at local, national and international levels. Social media can help individuals and organisations to better understand, engage with and respond to people on the social web.

The public sector is under pressure to make savings, whilst maintaining vital frontline services. Social networking is a fast moving and constantly evolving environment which presents both opportunities and challenges for social work.

I am often asked how I use social media and the value for me is about   networking with a wide range of people in different disciplines and across the world, disseminating information, discussions and debate,  learning and support.

Why social media is important for social work

The best and most cost-effective outcomes for people who use services are achieved when professionals work and learn together, develop a common language and understanding and share knowledge and wisdom. The use of social technology and social networking enables people to collaborate, build relationships and share information and resources.

Professional Issues

How to make sure your online presence is professionally appropriate, while remaining alive to the potential benefits of social media for service users. Social media is a new way to applying the communication skills which are an essential skill for all social workers.

The Scottish Social Services Council have provided guidance on using social media for social service workers and employers.

  • To friend or not to friend?
  • No comment
  • Is private really that private?
  • Google your digital footprint – we all have one!

What is social media?

The terms “social media” and “social networking” are often used interchangeably to refer to web-based tools and technologies that support online communication and information sharing. They turn communication into interactive dialogue (Wikipedia). The term social media encompasses various tools and services, including:

  • blogs
  • microblogs (e.g. Twitter)
  • wikis
  • podcasts and audioboos
  • content sharing services (e.g. flickr, Youtube, Vimeo),
  • social networking sites (e.g. Facebook, LinkedIn, Ning)
  • social bookmarking (e.g. Delicious)
  • location based services (e.g Foursquare)

“Young people don’t see the risk of social media but older people don’t see the power” shared by @nickkeane speaking at #cepolsmap the European Conference on Social Media and Policing Lisbon

“it is not a question now about whether you should be involved in social media but how well you do it” @equalman Erik Qualman author of Socialnomics

Social Web statistics

  • 37.4 million UK adults use Facebook regularly
  • Twitter has 100 million active users worldwide and an estimated 15.5 million in the UK
  •  There are 7.9 million UK adults on LinkedIn
  • 6.7 million UK adults use Flickr
  • YouTube is the second biggest search engine on the internet. 32.1 million UK adults use YouTube regularly

61% of online adults use social networking sites

71% of online adults now use video-sharing sites such as YouTube and Vimeo

The Pew Internet & American Life Project

Digital engagement

Twitter chats are booming for social care (and I need to update this to include #dpulo and #SWChat)

Social work and Social Care LinkedIn Groups:

  • Advanced Social Work Practice Network
  • Network for professionals working with vulnerable children and adults
  • The Personalisation Group to integrate Social Care, Health and Housing
  • BASW
  • Community Care

Good examples of how the public sector is using social media

Monmouthshire County Council @monmouthshirecc  engages with residents, community groups and partners using blogs, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr and LinkedIn to get involved in local conversations. All staff have access to, and are encouraged, to use social media.  

@PaulMatthews67 Chief Executive and @MCCSimonBurch Director of Social Services are both on Twitter.

Rewind story: fostering communication using Yammer.

Opening up social media access for all staff @helreynolds

Why the police have embraced the digital world

 ‘The future for personalisation? service users, carers & digital engagement’ @irissorg

Interesting Research but a continuing debate about how we define “older people”

Ageing and the use of the Internet – excellent report from the Nominet Trust which explores how the internet can be used to support the challenges faced by the older population.

Older People and Digital Inclusion – A report from AgeUK which shows that internet access continues to grow, with 55% of people aged 64 to 74 and 26% of those aged 75 plus having home internet access. The main barriers for older people are a lack of understanding and confidence.

And finally some wise words from Gordon Scobbie UK Police lead for Social Media: @DCCTayside “Be a role model, leader, give permission, forgive honest mistakes, provide clear guidance and support. Your people will do the rest.”