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Strengths-Based Practice in Adult Social Care During COVID-19: Insights From Practice Reviews in the West Midlands

Sharanya Mahesh, Research Fellow University of Birmingham

The COVID-19 pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on adult social care services. With the enforced closure of services, such as day centres in the community, and the emergence of new priorities due to the pandemic, local authorities have been required to introduce and adapt to new ways of working so that they continued to support people meaningfully.

Working with the West Midlands Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (WM ADASS), the Social Care theme of ARC WM have produced a report examining the impact of the pandemic on strengths-based practice. Document analysis on nine practice reviews undertaken between October 2020 and September 2021 form the basis of the report. Since their introduction, practice reviews have become an integral part of the peer challenge programmes led by the WM ADASS. Analysis of the reviews highlighted some positive and negative impacts on strengths-based working, and also brought to light the impact of the pandemic on staff who were at the forefront of demonstrating strengths-based practice.

Summary of the main findings

The reviews highlighted that the pandemic accelerated the implementation of systemic and practice-related plans of local authorities. Some authorities reported that their IT plans were implemented at a much faster pace than they would have usually been, as they were both integral in supporting remote working, and also enabled practitioners to provide continuous support to people. While some of the changes implemented were already in the planning pipeline of local authorities, other changes may have been forced upon them to keep up with the demands of the pandemic. Local authorities reported that practitioners had to identify and work with a range of different community organisations due to the closure of regular day services. The benefit of this new engagement was that local authorities were able to continue to signpost people meaningfully, while also recognising that ‘regular day services’ that were offered prior to the pandemic were not always the best fit for all people.

During the pandemic there was little to no face-to-face contact with people other than in emergency situations, which may have restricted the extent to which practitioners were able to demonstrate strengths-based practice. The reliance on technology and other family members to gather information was challenging, but equally seemed to shift the focus on risk assessments or safeguarding rather than considering the strengths, aspirations and desires of people. The pandemic has posed many challenges for practitioners, mainly due to remote working but also due to the changes with how they engage with people. Practitioners reported that they felt anxious and isolated, but managers and senior leaders seem to have been instrumental in providing continuous support to practitioners. However, the reviews consistently highlighted the resilience demonstrated by staff and more notably their skills to find creative solutions and adapt to changes.

The full article is available at: opens in a new window.

Tue 19 Apr 2022, 00:27 | Tags: COVID-19, Social Care