Strategies for fostering a strengths-based approach within adult social work: systematic review of effectiveness and implementation studies

Strategies for fostering a strengths-based approach within adult social work: systematic review of effectiveness and implementation studies

Status: Complete

Briefing Paper: We have produced a 4-page Briefing Paper which summarises the project and the main findings

In January 2020, the Exeter HS&DR Evidence Synthesis Centre were asked to review the evidence on effectiveness and implementation of strengths-based approaches used in the area of adult social care in the UK to inform the work of the Chief Social Worker for Adults in the Department of Health and Social Care.

This page provides some information about the background of this project and how the team carried out the research.

A ‘strengths-based approach’ to doing social work focusses on peoples’ goals rather than their problems, and builds on their existing skills, resources and relationships. The basic tenets of strengths-based working have been advocated and adopted by social workers for decades. However, the Care Act of 2014 has given formal, legal impetus to the implementation of strengths-based approaches. While many social work professionals and organisations have effectively adopted more person-centric and strengths-based care management and have responded to calls to practice in a ‘strengths based way’, they have also highlighted the challenges of doing this within organisational and resource constraints. The difficulty of incorporating the features of strengths-based approaches into a single integrated model, or an easily defined strengths based intervention, contributes to the challenges in implementing these approaches.

Aims of our project

Our aim was to summarise research evidence on the effectiveness and the implementation of different strengths-based approaches within adult social work in the UK.

Research questions
What is the effectiveness of different strengths-based approaches used within adult social work within the UK?

What factors enable or inhibit the implementation of different strengths-based approaches in adult social work within the UK?

What we did
We carried out a systematic review of the evidence. This is a transparent and unbiased process, bringing together the findings of all the available relevant studies to find out what is already known about strengths based approaches to adult social work within the UK.

How we did it
We searched seven bibliographic databases. We also searched the references of included sources, relevant reviews and websites, which enabled the identification of relevant grey literature or evaluations. To assess effectiveness research we aimed to include all comparative evaluation study designs (e.g., randomised and non-randomised controlled trials). Effectiveness was defined as improvements in the lives and wellbeing of those adults, families or communities being supported by social workers. To assess factors influencing implementation, we sought qualitative evaluative studies that included a focus on the process of implementation of the strengths-based approaches. This enabled the potential inclusion of the perspectives of service users, carers, family members, social work professionals, policy makers and legal professionals. Study selection, data extraction and assessment of study quality were completed independently by two reviewers. For more detailed information about how we did this, please see our project protocol.

Sharing our results
We shared our results with the Chief Social Worker for Adults in the UK so that they could use it to inform their work. We also wrote a blog post that talks about the results of our review. There is space for you to comment on the work we’ve done. We would welcome your views. We presented a slide presentation at a NIHR Policy Research Units and Social Care event in September 2020, and shared a poster of our findings at the Society for Social Medicine and Population Health virtual conference in September 2021.

Alternatively, you may like to read the Full Report

If you have any feedback or comments about this review, please email: Rob Anderson