WillisPalmer provides an array of consultancy and advice services for individuals and organisations.
Service Improvement is vital for any organisation - local authorities, residential homes, schools and private organisations - and WillisPalmer has the expertise at our finger tips to help support any organisation.
Our expert social workers and psychologists, all of whom have a wealth of experience and are highly skilled and trained, are on hand to provide a variety of services.
WillisPalmer can provide audits of case recording which can judge the quality of assessments in a local authority. We can also carry out pre-Ofsted audits in a bid to help authorities understand their areas of strengths and weaknesses prior to an Ofsted inspection.
We can provide consultancy advice to organisations or individuals and authorities can sign up to our services and benefit from advice from expert social workers on a range of issues such as domestic abuse, Child Sexual Exploitation or county lines drugs offences or specific complex cases whereby a social worker would benefit from the expertise of an Independent Social Worker with a wealth of experience in the field.
WillisPalmer also offers a specific mentoring project to organisations or individuals.
WillisPalmer launched its Mentoring and Service Improvement Programme aimed at frontline social workers working in children and family services in 2012. The mentoring project aims to support anddevelop social workers in the delivery of safe, effective services to children and families, and by doing so helps to enhance the overall performance of the local authority. This scheme allows the local authority to benefit from highly experienced social work staff without the need to recruit or employ them on a long-term basis.
Our mentors are all highly skilled childcare social workers with proven track records in children’s services. Most of the expert social workers have been qualified for 20 years plus and many will have had experience in management. Mentors work alongside a group of pre-selected social work staff advising, guiding, and teaching, providing role modelling. Space is created for practice reflection and where appropriate, group learning sessions, based around six core modules. Mentoring programmes will typically run for 26 weeks, however, they can continue for longer if required, as mentors can transfer across different teams and services depending on need.
Each mentor works with four social workers each. The broad aims of the project are:
Outcomes can be measured against further agreed criteria dependent upon the specific requirements of each local authority. For example, a local authority might be specifically concerned about partnership or multi-agency working, or perhaps case related issues such as domestic violence or neglect. We can tailor outcomes to these and other requirements.
WillisPalmer mentors work as a team of experienced social work professionals with a diversity of specialist skills and experiences. This allows them to introduce a range of theories and perspectives on issues relating to working with children and their families e.g. attachment theory, systemic family therapy, behaviour analysis and cognitive behavioural therapy, case formulation and risk analysis, models of mental health and disability, all leading to improved professional judgement and decision making. The approach is informed by sound sociological and psychological theory, social work theory and practice. The learning process is informed by Kolb’s Learning Cycle, one of the most influential theories in experiential learning.
The primary aim of the mentors is to promote an environment for action learning -a process whereby people learn together and reflect upon their actions. The approach enables mentees to undertake a range of taskswith the mentor present;reflect on and review the action they have taken and the learning pointsarising -this then guides future action and improves performance. In this sense learning is achieved ‘out in the field’ and is supported by formalised opportunities for reflection and analysis.
The approach of the mentors is to work closely with mentees sharing practice experience, demonstrating skilled interventions and providing support and guidance in a variety of settings, for example, joint home visits, attending meetings or court, direct observations of practice and so forth. This allows mentees to learn from experience, from observation and from their own practice.
The approach is tailored to the individual needs of each mentee within an experiential learning framework -in this sense it is ‘student-led’ learning. The desired outcome is for mentees to increase in confidence, skills and knowledge and to be able to reflect critically upon professional social work issues and therefore behave in an authoritative way with service users and professional colleagues alike. The process of experiential learning is supported by the Practice Reflection sessions in either a 1:1 or group work setting -which build upon direct observations of practice. In this way the mentor promotes opportunities for the mentee to relate theory to practice in an integrated way. In addition, Team Managers can be included in three way meetings to clarify roles and responsibilities.
Practice Reflection sessions focus primarily upon the following:
Typically the key theoretical issues addressed in the sessions are as follows:
Evaluation from previous projects indicate a range of strongly positive outcomes which are reflected in the views of middle and senior managers, the mentees themselves and from the mentors. Most significantly, line managers have reported observable improvements in practice skills from social work staff including, but not exclusively, in direct work with children, risk assessment and analysis, report writing skills, planning and workload management. Moreover, it is reported that the project has had tangible benefits for other team members not selected as mentees. There appear to be clear advantages for individual social workers of having a number of experienced and skilled social work practitioners working alongside them on a regular basis.
The benefits to local authority children’s services of commissioning a mentoring programme, with the overall aim of maintaining and developing authoritative practitioners over the longer term, can be seen in the list below. Many of these service gains also translate into potential cost savings for the local authority:
The project has worked with a broad mix of mentees ranging from NQSWs to more experienced social workers looking to develop their skills.
Mentees reported the following outcomes:
All mentors have reported observable practice improvements in those they are working with.
Mentors reported outcomes for mentees were: