Our Social Work Practice

Our guiding principles

Children, young people and their families are at the heart of what we do. The focus of social worker learning and development must be on impact and outcomes for the child or young person in their journey through our early intervention, prevention, social work and safeguarding systems.

We are building social work practice informed by Restorative and Relational Practice principles, which will be increasingly situated within a systemic framework. This includes a desire for social work practice to examine, understand and capture best practice.

This means that all our activity is done 'with' staff, rather than 'to' or 'for', in ways that build relationships and are characterised by respecting each other’s perspectives, high expectations, high support and high challenge, to enable us to learn, improve and change.

These principles are also integral to how we approach and explain our work with children and their families – all our social work activity at all levels of intervention is informed by attention to fair process, an understanding of how relationships and interactions inform decisions and behaviours and how we effectively use our skills in communication, assessment, analysis and planning to involve and include children and families in the decisions that affect them.


  • The voice of children and young people is heard and acted on
  • The needs of children and families are understood
  • Children and families benefit from every visit and meeting
  • We understand and improve the impact of our work.
  • Outcomes for children and young people are consistently positive

Measuring impact is key 

What difference are Gloucestershire Children’s Services and their partners making to the lives of children and young people? It is this reason that outcomes for children is at the heart of the framework.

The Quality Assurance Framework includes capturing data via audits to ensure standards are met procedures are followed and actions from audits are completed and identify learning and development opportunities for our workforce.

There are five training priority areas to drive forward our improvement plan and all have restorative approaches at the centre:

  • The impact of our social work on the child and their lived experience
  • Improving assessment and analysis to evidence positive impact for the child.
  • Achieving permanence, within or outside the family
  • Legal knowledge and skills
  • Supervision

These priorities are reflected in the Learning and Development Programme, which directly links to the Knowledge and Skills Statements and Practice Standards and will connect to career pathway and expectations, including expected case loads for ASYE, Social Workers, Senior Social Workers, and Advanced Practitioner.

The developing curriculum of the Social Work Academy will incorporate clearer connections between registration requirements for social work practice, (via HCPC / Social Work England criteria) and the Knowledge and Skills Statements. All career pathways will be supported and built on attention to basic principles of effective and purposeful social work practice - using the Anchor Principles for Assessment and planning  to ensure our work, and the learning  and development opportunities to support this via the Academy, can be seen to create positive change for children.  

Practice Standards are an essential part of ensuring that people we work with receive consistent support and care. They are the rules that describe the (minimum) service or practice that can be expected by the children and families we support. They are either legally set through government guidance and legislation, or based on evidence-based research.

We have 7 Practice Standards which all children’s social care staff should be meeting.

  1. Children are spoken to alone and worked with by professionals who have the tools to directly engage with them.
  2. All children have an assessment of their needs, reflecting how their experiences, wishes, feelings and needs are known and understood.
  3. All children have an assessment reflecting the wishes, feelings, needs and capacity of parents and carers; enabling them to fulfil their responsibilities.
  4. All children have a plan which explains what needs to happen; by when; by whom; what outcomes we are seeking together; how risk is managed; and what the contingency plan is.
  5. All case records are analytical, well written and timely, so everyone can understand significant events that have happened; what the plan is; the purpose of actions and contacts; and what difference has been made so far for the child.
  6. Every child is supported by timely management oversight of the professionals’ working with them. Including reflective supervision; checking that work has been done to agreed standards; seeing what difference it is making; and what needs to happen next.
  7. Use restorative approaches to resolving issues and improving children’s lives.

Read the full Practice Standards guide here.

The Professional Capabilities Framework (PCF) is the profession-owned backbone of social work education and professional development in England. First devised in 2012, the PCF has been reviewed and refreshed through a process of extensive consultation during 2017 and 2018. This has been led by British Association of Social Workers in conjunction with Research in Practice.

The PCF is a framework for the nine levels of social work in England. Identify which level you are, define your professional capabilities and develop your career.

Find out more about the PCF.

The Refreshed Professional Capabilities Framework.

Guidance on using the Professional Capabilities Framework.


How the Professional Capabilities Framework links to Knowledge and Skills Statements

Both the Professional Capabilities Framework (PCF) and the Knowledge and Skills Statements (KSS) have been developed by the profession through extensive engagement with social workers at all levels, representative bodies and the public. Together, the PCF and KSS provide the foundation for social work education and practice in England at qualifying and post-qualifying levels and are used to inform recruitment, workforce development, performance appraisal and career progression.

The PCF guides the development of social workers’ capabilities and confidence in managing risk, ambiguity and complexity at nine levels of practice across all specialisms. In the 2018 PCF refresh, while much of the framework is unchanged, the nine domains have been clustered into three key themes:

  • The purpose of social work; its values, ethics and commitment to equalities, diversity, rights and social justice
  • The practice of social work with individuals, families and communities: its distinctive knowledge base, its application of reflection and critical analysis and the development of specific interventions and skills; and
  • The wider impact of social work through leadership, professionalism and influence at organisational and other contextual levels.

The KSS set out what a social worker should know, and be able to do, in specific practice settings, in specific roles and at different levels of seniority. The KSS map onto the Practice domains of the PCF (Knowledge, Critical Reflection and Analysis, Interventions and Skills) and should help guide everyday practice. The Children and Social Work Act 2017 gives the Secretary of State the ability to set post-qualification standards. There has already been a Government consultation on child and family frontline practitioners and practice supervisors so that these KSS can be used as post-qualification standards and for the rollout of national accreditation.

Child and family practitioners.

Child and family practice supervisors.

Practice leaders.

The focus of our audits is our practice in the last six months. Practice that happened prior to this is considered only in terms of its impact on the child, young person, and/or family and that current practice is responding to this previous life experience as needed.

To be admissible, the audit is done with the worker and manager in a restorative, learning fashion. Wherever possible it is also done with the child, young person and family. Differences should be aired in these conversations and worked through. Apart from later moderator contributions, the audit actions should be agreed out of these conversations. 

Audits are graded in line with Ofsted criteria as:

Inadequate: the child or young person is at immediate risk of significant harm. 

There are widespread or serious failures meaning that the child or young person is at immediate risk of significant harm and needs an urgent (same day) response from the Team Manager and Head of Service. The auditor therefore needs to facilitate this immediately and notify the Practice Learning Team via the Quality Assurance inbox. 

Requires improvement: the child or young person’s needs/risks are not being met as expected.

There are widespread or serious failures meaning that the service offer/risk assessment for a particular child or young person is not appropriate to their needs and this requires urgent review from the Team Manager and Head of Service.

Good: there are no widespread or serious failures that create or leave children being harmed or at risk of harm. However, we are not yet consistently delivering 'Good' help, protection and/or care for the child or young person.

Outstanding: for the definitions of ‘Good’ and ‘Outstanding’ please follow the link to the ILACS guidance.

Where practice in an area is rated as 'Requires Improvement' or ‘Inadequate’ the following apply:

the overall evaluation is automatically rated at this level and the ratings for ‘Management Oversight and Supervision’, and ‘CP/IRO’ are automatically rated at this level unless there is evident and exceptional ‘grip’ of the key issues. 

The Team Manager records receipt of the finalised audit on the system and notes any management directions. It is then discussed in supervision for ongoing learning and tracking of the actions and a decision is made about sharing it for wider learning with the team. When the audit actions are completed these are signed off by the manager on the recording system.

Gloucestershire Children's Services' Ofsted reports

Post-qualifying assessment and accreditation criteria for social workers supporting vulnerable children and families can be found here 

Post-qualifying knowledge and skills statement for child and family
practice supervisors can be found here

Knowledge and skills statement for practice leaders can be found here


Building the best

We have a clear vision of what we want to achieve and how we want to do this. We want to stand out as a children’s service that others aspire to and we have the foundations in place to succeed. What we want to achieve is demonstrated here:


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