27th May 2015
Every so often I’m involved in developing some training that I just know, from the beginning, is going to make a difference. This is what happened when we first created and delivered our ‘working with families experiencing domestic abuse’ training for social workers.
The course looks at the dynamics of family violence and the impact of abuse on each member of the family. It also considers how we can engage the family in a way that is safe and benefits everyone. The training challenges learners to really rethink how they work with families in this situation and gets them to try new ways of approaching this complex area.
The course came out of a request from Oxfordshire County Council. Their children’s services team had already seconded one of their social workers to work for a year in the community with local Idvas. This had prompted the council to consider how to empower their staff to respond more effectively to domestic abuse. One of the answers was to commission SafeLives to write a training course that all their social workers would attend.
I am glad to say that we still return each year to Oxford to train new members of the team. Since then, we have trained social workers and other professionals working with families in Coventry, south Wales and Portsmouth on how to best respond to families living with abuse.
We have consistent feedback that the training changes practice - here are just a few of the comments from our evaluation:
“I found this training extremely useful and feel it should be mandatory for newly qualified social workers and/or part of the degree itself. I feel all professionals should receive this training.”
“I have really enjoyed this training. I have found it really thought provoking. I wish I had completed it earlier…”
“Excellent advanced course. Very practical skills I can take with me into practice.”
Sometimes there are lightbulb moments. In one block of training, a social worker shared their experience of how important it is to challenge your preconceptions when working with families. Their area had already started to ask victims during their first interaction how they felt about the social workers contacting their partner. To the team’s surprise, the answer was nearly always positive – because women welcomed someone challenging their partner. Of course, there are still safety implications to think about, but it just goes to show that taking a road less travelled sometimes brings surprising results.
This is why I am so delighted that we’ve been accredited by the College of Social Work to deliver continuing professional development (CPD) training to social workers. Social workers joining this course as well as others, including our one day ‘young people who harm’ course, will now get CPD recognition for it. I hope that while budgets are tight, this will make it easier to persuade managers that you can’t put a price on quality training.