My First Six Months as a PSW

My name is Darren Shaw and in July 2017 I took on the role of Principal Social Worker and Lead for Professional Practice for Dudley MBC. It has been over six months now since being in post and I have to say I have fully enjoyed the journey so far.

Each day has had its challenges but each week I can reflect on all of the positives and changes we are starting to make.

When taking on the role I was tasked with bringing together the learning and development service and the quality assurance service to provide a more effective platform for changing and developing practice in Dudley.

So where do you start when you launch a new way of working?

The Centre for Professional Practice or CPP as it has become known across the workforce is the brand. The CPP is comprised of myself, a Lead Auditor, 5 Advanced Social Work Practitioners, 1 Business Development Officer and 1 Business Support Worker.

Its purpose in essence is to provide a central point within the department for good practice. The vision and ethos for the Centre for Professional Practice is to impact positively on social care interventions and outcomes for children, young people and their families in Dudley.

The CPP aims to achieve this by improving practice through auditing, coaching, system development and training to inspire positive change and achieve quality outcomes.



We decided to look beyond the normal process of auditing and implemented what we call the 3 R’s approach

We designed an interactive case file audit tool in line with Ofsted’s criteria. The audit tool helps capture the experiences of children and young people at each key stage of the child’s journey. The evidence our auditors look at enables them to identify the quality of different parts of the service and their impact on individual children as well as ensuring children’s outcomes improve and the right decisions are being made.

We implemented an audit strategy that would follow the child’s journey through Early Help, Assessment, Care Management, Children’s Disability Team, Children in Care and Fostering and Adoption

In order to do this the Centre for Professional Practice initially convenes a planning meeting with the relevant service and selects the theme and plans the audit cycle. Audit activity will then take place and the CPP will re-engage with the relevant Head of Service and Service Manager at key stages of the audit cycle. Completion of the audit cycle will be demonstrated by a summary report and action plan.

The implementation of audit findings will be the primary responsibility of the service and the role of the Centre for Professional Practice is to support, scrutinise and evaluate the service’s responses to and progression of audit findings through the action plan. Once each audit cycle is completed a Centre for Professional Practice Advanced Practitioner becomes the link to that service to support the development of the service action plan.

The Advanced Practitioners provide direct feedback to social care practitioners and offer support through coaching and mentoring in response to specific learning arising from the audit activity. Where needed, the Advanced Practitioners will help redesign templates or procedures, deliver bespoke training for individual practitioners, teams and service areas via workshops, staff briefings and team and management meetings.

After six months of hard work we are just coming to the end of the first cycle and by the end of January we will have reviewed all of the services through the new process.

It has been a difficult journey and we have needed to continue to adapt and change, and moving forward the plan to evolve will continue with the introduction of audit linked direct observations and more joint auditing with managers and practitioners to give us a more holistic view of performance and practice.



What we did was make our practice standards simple and catchy but more importantly in adherence with what we are looking for when auditing.

Each practice standard correlates with the sections we review as part of the audit programme thus creating a golden thread of learning.

And to continue the golden thread we are about to launch our new training programme which also links in with our standards and auditing findings thus ensuring a continued loop of learning.



We listened to Dudley’s Workforce and identified that there was a real problem in accessing information and finding information quickly.

Therefore we developed a staff website that is practitioner led and is designed to make the job easier.

The website is a ‘one stop shop’ for our workforce to access information regarding procedures, resources, tools, induction, links, research in practice, news, recruitment, standards and training.



The role of Principal Social Worker has been a continued learning experience for me but at the same time it has been extremely enjoyable and has allowed me and my team the scope and opportunity to be creative and implement changes to improve practice and make life easier for practitioners working for Dudley MBC.

My team and the wider workforce have worked incredibly hard over the past six months and we are now starting to see positive change in practice and seeing better outcomes for the children and families in Dudley, such as:

  • Audit findings are helping to develop practice delivery
  • The voice of the child is becoming more evident in case file audits
  • Permanency planning is more effective and timely
  • Systems and processes are being changed to help social workers deliver practicemore effectively.
    We are only at the start of the journey but it is an exciting journey to be on.



For those about to start out on the journey I would recommend the following 5 key tips:

  • Think big and be creative
  • Recruit the right people to make the changes
  • Be adaptable and continue to review
  • Be visible and engage with the workforce
  • Keep going and don’t give up


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