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This textbook offers students and practitioners an accessible introduction to strengths-based approaches in Social Work and Social Care practice. Covering the theory and research in support of these approaches, and packed full of case studies, the book will allow readers to develop a critical understanding of how strengths-based approaches work, and how they can be successfully applied in order to improve outcomes for people with lived experience.

Covering the five main models of strengths-based practice, the text presents international research and evidence on the efficacy of each approach, enabling students and practitioners to apply the benefits in their own social work practice. The guide features the perspectives of people with lived experience throughout and includes the following key learning features:

  • case studies of best practice;

  • points for practice: succinct tips for practitioners and students on practice placement;

  • further reading list and resources;

  • glossary.

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This chapter reminds the reader of the different models of strengths-based practice discussed in the text. It emphasises that there may be some gaps in practice, but this is in areas where strength-based practice is under-utilised and -researched. It reminds readers of Saleebey’s (1992) 3-CPR model, which argues that strengths-based approaches should focus on the following:

C – competence, capacities, courage

P – promise, positive expectations

R – resilience, reserves, resources

The importance of Chapter 10, which focuses on the voices of those with lived experience of strengths-based approaches, is emphasised, as these are the people that practitioners are accountable to and should build positive relationships with. The importance of relationship-based practice is also emphasised here.

The chapter goes on to remind readers of some of the barriers to implementing strengths-based approaches in practice and the danger of the approaches becoming a core mechanism of a neo-liberal, individualised framework to social work. The chapter ends with a discussion of the importance of having a well-trained social work workforce and well-resourced social work services, both of which are key to the effective implementation of strengths-based approaches.

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This chapter considers the roots, philosophy, main tenets and practice of Family Group Conferences (FGCs). It begins with an overview of the history of the approach and its introduction into the UK in the early 1990s. It goes on to consider the philosophy of and provides a theoretical exploration of FGCs. The chapter explores how practice has developed both internationally and in the UK in both a children and families social work context and the burgeoning practice in adult social care. It provides a critical discussion on the relevant literature and research, providing a review of the international evidence base on the efficacy of FGCs in social work practice. The chapter ends with a case study of how FGCs have been used in practice and concludes with suggestions for further reading.

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This chapter provides an overview of strengths-based approaches to social work practice. It begins with a comprehensive definition of what is meant by the strengths-based perspective and how it is applied in both a children-and-families and an adult social work context. It refers to underpinning legislation, guidance and policy and considers the principles and values of the approach and how these apply to the professional capabilities framework used in social work assessment and practice. The chapter takes a critical approach and discusses the potential for strengths-based approaches to be misused within a neo-liberal practice context, for example, as a way for local authorities to save money and locate the root of service users’ issues within the individual rather than the environmental context. Finally, it gives an overview of some of the research findings in strengths-based practice and their application to practice.

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This book is aimed at social work students and social work practitioners. It brings together the key strengths-based approaches used in social work practice, providing individual introductory chapters on each of the main approaches applied in social work practice, drawing upon research and evidence from practice.

The book begins with an introduction to strengths-based approaches, their origins and current application in practice. It moves on to explore the theoretical underpinning and core principles, before locating strengths-based approaches in sociological, psychological and social work theory. It then explores the following areas of practice: solution-focused practice, Family Group Conferences, Signs of Safety and strengths-based approaches in adult social care and adult mental health. It also provides a chapter exploring the voices of those with lived experience. Each of the practice-based chapters provides a case study from practice and suggestions for further reading.

The book presents a critical approach to strengths-based approaches and, while emphasising the benefits and efficacy of each individual approach, acknowledges throughout the difficulty of applying strengths-based approaches in a neo-liberal society and a risk-averse and bureaucratic social work system.

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This chapter explores the origins of the narrative approach and its theoretical basis. It explores the application of the approach to social work practice, as an alternative to professional-led and task-focused conversations with service users. The chapter goes on to explore the research and evidence base on the efficacy of the approach in supporting services users to affect positive change.

The chapter explores the key principles of the narrative approach and uses a case example to demonstrate how these principles apply in practice. It concludes with suggestions for further reading.

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People with Lived Experience

This chapter focuses on the voices of those who have experienced strengths-based approaches to social work practice and provides individual accounts of those experiences. Family members have been supported to share their experiences with the authors, having been identified and supported by practitioners. The chapter starts with a discussion on the importance of hearing the voices of people with lived experience and how doing so differs from traditional approaches to social work practice, before moving on to presenting the voices of those with lived experience of different strengths-based models. Accounts and identifying features have been anonymised, and permission has been sought from people with lived experience to share their experiences.

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This chapter considers the roots, philosophy and main tenets of the Signs of Safety model of social work practice. It begins with an exploration of the Signs of Safety model developed by Turnell and Edwards (1999). It explores the philosophical and research base of the development of the model as well as its applicability to practice. The chapter considers the practice in the child protection context in local authorities in the UK. Local authority practice and experience are explored along with recent research into the efficacy of Signs of Safety in the UK in a child protection context. It concludes with a case example from practice and suggestions for further reading.

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This chapter provides an introduction to solution- based practice. It considers a definition of solution-focused practice and presents a theoretical exploration of the approach, including reference to relevant literature and research. The chapter explores how solution-focused practice is utilised in both children and adult social work services both in the UK and internationally. It includes a case study of how solution-focused practice has been applied and provides a list of further reading on the approach.

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This chapter examines the application of strengths-based approaches in adult social care. It begins with a discussion of the historical development of applying these approaches within adult settings and locates the approach within the context of relevant legislation and policy. It presents the different models applied in practice and provides a critical discussion of the use of the approach in adult social care. It provides a case study from practice and concludes with a list of further reading.

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