Strengths-based practice - You can leave your superhero pants at home

It’s okay to not know the answer. You’re a Social Care Practitioner, and that’s special enough, you don’t need to be a Superhero too!

The biggest challenge we witnessed here at London Borough of Barnet is a sense that our workforce believed that they must ‘put their pants over their trousers’, as it were - and dash out into the community resolving all issues and risks presented to them in order to make the adult safe. The solution would often come before understanding the problem; sometimes at the cost of hearing the adult’s voice.

It’s different now though. The dynamic has shifted. Through strengths-based conversations and pushing the boundaries of the ‘norm’ and ‘tradition’, our practitioners are embracing the adult as their own expert with their own solutions, and working with the adult to protect the individual’s wellbeing, independence, resilience and ability to make choices. Supporting the person’s strengths can help address needs (whether or not they are eligible) for support in a way that allows the person to lead, and be in control of an ordinary and independent day to day life where possible. Working in this way may also help delay the development of further needs.

“I have been very lucky with Karen, my social worker. I really appreciated that she understood exactly where I was coming from.”

Not luck – just the way we intend to do things in the London Borough of Barnet.

Practitioner satisfaction now comes from seeing and promoting the skills, abilities and knowledge of the person with care and support needs, and their carers.  Using an assessment as a meaningful intervention - that if required - enables people to put together their own bespoke packages of care, support and learning, meaning practitioners can leave their superhero pants at home! Their strengths shine through without them anyway.

The way to really understand other people is to sit down with them; share their experiences; facilitate their thinking and be open to their ideas. Would you agree?


Posted on by Old Site User

Brilliantly put and let's hope practitioners take up the advice. The frustration is that user controlled organisations of disabled people have this as their permanent philosophy and personal budgets with direct payments are the method which backs up a strengths based approach in training. Not sure how much the trainers of social workers are on board! When I was a practice teacher two years ago my students looked confused when I mentioned the strengths based model as an underpinning method for their work.

Posted on by Jane Lewis

We are a social enterprise training social care practitioners in many areas, in a strengths-based problem solving approach that needs minimal resources. Strengths-based working does seem to be different to the Superhero conditioning. However, the new, "adult to adult" relationships and unexpected capacity that emerge, help professionals to "act their way into a new way of thinking" and reinforce the changed approach. Community members really enjoy it. Jane Lewis, Hidden Insights (

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