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Embedding evidence-informed practice in Swindon Borough Council

27 August 2019

Swindon Borough CouncilShannon Oak

As a Senior Practitioner Social Worker I’ve always been interested in workforce development and the way we interface research and practice.

I have had many roles in this field over the years and have learnt from experience that academic research and critical analysis can be a little overwhelming for newly qualified social workers, whilst balancing frontline social work. 

When I heard that Swindon Borough Council was joining Research in Practice for Adults I was very motivated to get involved as the resources are so accessible and I believe that evidence-informed practice is a very effective approach. 

Social workers are always keen to learn about the latest research but often don’t have time to read it. The evidence-informed model used is great as it gives you the opportunity to look through the research but then provides practical ways of applying it, which is invaluable to busy practitioners on the frontline. 

Learning and development 

As an organisation Swindon are very keen on the Webinars. They provide a great opportunity to start conversations amongst colleagues and afterwards we will talk about how we can implement the practice and research into our work. I think it is great to have those conversations and I am keen for everyone to learn and work together to provide the best outcomes to the people of Swindon. 

However, I find that one of the main challenges with being a Link Officer is ensuring that people remain engaged with the resources. Most are aware but struggle to find time to stop, read and reflect. That is why I think the Webinars and the Podcasts are very useful as they provide learning in a short space of time. 

My advice would be to have those conversations with colleagues, just to remind them that the resources are there. I often circulate emails to people that I know would benefit from the information and attend team meetings to help people log on to the site and to show them how the work of Research in Practice for Adults benefits their practice. 

Building relationships 

Since becoming a Link Officer, I have had two Account Managers and both have been very accessible and always there to support me. I think the main benefit is having that sole point of contact. If I have questions about a specific piece of research they have always gone away and looked for the information. They have always taken my ideas on board and listened to what is required when we have a request which helps me with my work. 

Our Principle Social Worker (PSW) is our Head of Social Work and we have regular calls together with our Account Manager that allow us to talk about what is working well and how we can improve. Our Strategic Champion is our Director who is very passionate about evidence-informed practice. 

A great benefit of Research in Practice for Adults is that the events and resources are targeted across different levels, from Strategic to Frontline, which supports each individual with their work. In our organisation our PSW has been able to attend some of the strategic workshops and has enjoyed learning and sharing practice with colleagues from other authorities. 

Improving engagement 

Getting people engaged with the resources and ensuring they have an online account can be a challenge. When Swindon joined we had a launch event which I thought was really helpful. At the event we registered most of our staff and informed them about the resources and how they can support them.

I would encourage any new Link Officers to schedule meetings for people to come together and talk about the resources. A great way of doing this is tailoring emails to colleagues and teams with topics that are relevant to them and then following that up with a face to face conversation. It’s all about ensuring people see and engage with the resources to support learning and development. 

I think most Link Officers have a busy schedule as it is part of a job role with lots of other responsibilities. For me when I start my day I will have a look at the site to see if there’s anything new and I can ensure that the people who might be interested in that information know about it. Afterwards I will go talk to them face to face, send them an email or I might set up a Webinar that I have heard people are interested in.

Overall I think that keeping Research in Practice for Adults in people’s minds is the key factor to success as a Link Officer, so talk about it in everything you do.


About the author

Shannon Oak is a Senior Practitioner Social Worker at Swindon Borough Council. She has been a Research in Practice for Adults Link Officer since 2016.


Celebrate the achievements of your Link Officer

Submit your nomination for our annual Link Officer Awards. Each year we celebrate those Link Officers who have made the extra effort to support learning and development, and champion evidence-informed practice. We are taking nominations from across the Research in Practice for Adults network and the winners will be showcased in our bulletins, blogs and on social media. Winners will be announced at our Link Officers’ Annual Meeting on 15 October.

Submit your nomination. (Deadline 30 September).


Related Research in Practice for Adults events

Supporting whole organisational approaches to strengths-based working: Link Officers’ Annual Meeting

15 October, Birmingham: view details

Join us for our Link Officers’ Annual Meeting (LOAM). This popular annual event is a unique opportunity for Partners across the national network to share best practice, discuss emerging sector issues and to learn from one another. The event will also offer the opportunity for Partners to share innovative work and good practice.

Designed for: Link Officers, Principal Social Workers and Principal Occupational Therapists from across the Research in Practice for Adults network.

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