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Asking the right questions

How we gather and share reliable and insightful intelligence about the sector to drive improving standards of professional practice.

Asking the right questions

9/4/2020 11:50:14 AM

As a social worker, research has been fundamental to my training, continued professional development and the support that I’ve provided to people. Engaging with research and theory is an integral aspect of what it means to be a social worker and we know that reflecting on research in the scope of our own practice is one of the ways we can be the best social workers for the people we work with. Research plays a similarly important role in our work at Social Work England.

As the regulator we have a specific and important role within the wider social work ecosystem in England. We also recognise, through our specialist remit, that we will in time be able to provide a unique view of social work in England that reflects the breadth of social work in all settings. We want to ask the right questions to better inform our specialist regulation, to offer up reliable and insightful intelligence about the sector and ultimately to drive improving standards of professional practice to enable positive change. Staying true to the values of social work, we commit to revealing the human stories behind data and statistics.

This commitment extends back to our earliest work. Before we launched as the new specialist regulator, we commissioned our very first research projects looking into the behaviours and attitudes of social workers and public perceptions of the profession. Our early advisors were involved in this first commission and our evaluation panel included representatives of social work and people with lived experience. Following our procurement process, YouGov and Cragg Ross Dawson emerged as the successful bidders.

I’m thrilled to be able to share with you the final reports of these first research projects. Their findings cut across the themes of our work, including initial insight into what learning social workers are undertaking, what professional regulation means to social workers and personal accounts of what it means for people to have social work in their lives. They also touch on topical and enduring areas of concern for the profession, including wellbeing, mental health and the sustainability of a social work career.

These research reports give us a unique insight into the evolution of our regulation right at the very start of our journey. The findings are not for us alone to solve or act on, but for the social work profession to own and address as one workforce with a shared goal to improve people’s lives. Social Work England remain committed to facilitating that discussion, working with all our partners to influence change by acknowledging the challenges that a traditionally fragmented system has created. Through research, evidence and personal experiences we aim to hold a mirror up and show the reality of social work practice in order to improve it.

For the findings that are directly relevant to our work, this research will continue to inform how we carry out our work as the specialist regulator. They immediately throw up questions for us around learning and how we can further build and refine our approach to continuing professional development (CPD) over our first three years, for example. We also have greater insight as to how we engage with social workers and the public and the role of the media in reinforcing or challenging perceptions.

We have an important role: to regulate the profession and uphold the public’s confidence in social work. We also understand the expectation social workers have of us to reflect the reality of their professional experience at a national level and to use our influence to simplify and develop the social work system that surrounds them. The research we undertake will ensure we do this effectively.


View and download our research reports.