Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Closing Gaps

Peter Beresford in yesterday’s Guardian draws attention to what appears to me to be one of the most exciting and creative approaches to social work education to have emerged in recent years.

The new approach, apparently pioneered at Lund University in Sweden (which incidentally is also the home of a well-known department of risk management and societal safety - ) involves educating trainee children’s social workers and care leavers together.

Referred to as ‘gap-mending’, the idea is to focus on how divisions between service users and social work students can be bridged, with an emphasis on understanding user perspectives and requirements.

I loved one of the quotations in Beresford’s piece. A care leaver is quoted as saying: “my bad experiences of homelessness are now valued as an asset in the education of future social workers”. Another spoke of helping to avoid “the same mistakes” in future. I love that expression ‘asset’ in this context. One of the best tricks is to turn liabilities (things not right) into assets (things of value).

This is exactly the approach we should be taking to learning in social work and child protection generally. We should listen carefully to those on the receiving end of services. We should look for service shortfalls and opportunities for improvement. We should work together to make lasting improvements.