We are supporting the workforce to develop their capacity to embed personal outcomes approaches in their day-to-day practice and deliver better outcomes for people using services.

Find out about the work and the range of learning and development resources for you Personal outcomes – Scottish Social Services Council

Please note that these links will take you to external sources out of the SSSC NQSW website.

Find out more about this area of work and the resources that can support your learning and development Palliative and end of life care – Scottish Social Services Council

Developing your knowledge and skills for working with people who live with dementia

Do you work with people who live with dementia? SSSC have an online resource to help social workers and other professionals implement the Promoting Excellence learning framework and the Standards of Care for Dementia in Scotland within their practice.

This is a detailed and focused learning resource which is ideal if you want to develop more knowledge and skills for working with people who live with dementia.

You will find the link to the Enhanced dementia practice for social workers resource below.

Shared by NQSWs

  • NQSWs told us they liked to use Alzheimer Scotland resources
  • These cover many aspects of daily living for individuals and carers

References and links

Please remember that if you click on these links they will take you to information and resourcs that are external to the SSSC NQSW website.

This is a specific learning resource for social workers which you can access from SSSC Enhanced dementia practice for social workers

The resource is currently being updated so you can let us know if you find any broken links.

For general introductory information about dementia, you can find links to guides and strategy from Public Health Scotland Public health Scotland Dementia Information

We’d also recommend the Psychology of Dementia team at NES and the resource Promoting Psychological Wellbeing people with dementia

Our new online guide for Dementia Ambassadors and other supporting people living with dementia can be found here Information and advice for Dementia Ambassadors

Developing professional knowledge

Supervision is an important component of shaping professional knowledge and development as an NQSW’s practice develops. Professional knowledge is drawn from theories, research findings and practice experience (Drury and Hudson, 1997); those forms of knowledge include: theoretical knowledge, personal knowledge, practice wisdom, procedural knowledge and empirical knowledge.

The SSSC guidance for professional learning is included on the NQSW requirements page. This reinforces the message that professional learning takes many different forms.

Feedback from the pilot work was that NQSWs wanted to move away from what feels like academic training and learning. Setting up and running a peer group (see the peer reflective practice section) with other frontline workers creates reflective and action learning. The SSSC refreshed approach to CPL is about recognising and recording when learning has taken place and logging this accordingly.  

IRISS, argues that practice wisdom integrates a wide range of knowledge. This will include theories and relevant research to our thoughts and feelings in response to casework. Study participants reported that evidence was relevant information from case histories, notes, observations and reports from other professionals but less from theoretical or research sources.

After qualifying, we can still benefit from support to maintain your awareness of research knowledge and to become more skilled at making connections between casework activities and the human factors that inform our decision making.

Supervision is not the only way for workers to develop their professional knowledge and other methods are often used to complement staff development. Tsui et al (2017), argues that a ‘future path of supervision will be a form of organisational learning, where social workers rely not only on supervision, but also mentorship, consultation and coaching’.

The SSSC approach to continuous professional learning (CPL) is about recognising and recording when learning has taken place and logging this.

Developing your knowledge may include visiting and creating learning accounts at resources such as Social Service Knowledge Scotland (SSKS). A specific guide for NQSWs is also provided by SSKS.


Useful ideas

  • We recommend the SSSC MyLearning app which puts your learning at the centre.
  • This is a smartphone-based service available to anyone.
  • The app helps you record your learning whenever and wherever it happens.
  • You can get reminders to reflect on your learning activities.
Network of social workers

Shared by NQSWs

Head icon with gears to indicate rflective thinking

Reflective questions

  • Reflect on how you record your learning from practice
  • When does learning happen for you?
  • What different ways of developing your knowledge and skills can you think of?
  • How could you evidence that in your learning logs?
  • How can you continue to access knowledge to support you to improve work with people who use services and contribute to your organisation’s learning?

Go to NQSW supervision resource 7 – NQSW wellbeing and resilience needs

Learning from reviews across practice settings

In the aftermath of Victoria Climbié’s death a serious case review was conducted by Lord Laming (2009) who focused on social worker wellbeing and emotional costs of the work as well as supervision practices:

‘There is concern that the tradition of deliberate, reflective social work practice is being put in danger because of an overemphasis on process and targets, resulting in a loss of confidence amongst social workers.’

Laming (2009)

The Care Inspectorate (2019) regularly consider aggregated learning from case reviews. This highlights that sufficient support for workers is needed to be confident and competent. This includes “robust and regular supervision that enables constructive challenge and time to reflect on practice and develop skills.”

The most comprehensive reviews occur when there have been extremely serious harms to vulnerable children or adults. In the case of social work these have often identified a break down in procedures (including appropriate supervision), meaning opportunities for intervention to prevent serious harms were missed.

In the overview for supervisors, we highlight enquiries that had significant findings for supervision in social work settings. Scottish case reviews have also had findings around supervision adequacy.

The National Child Protection Leadership Group now provide strategic oversight and mechanisms for improvement regarding child protection across Scotland and have addressed reoccurring issues. These include organisational support and compliance with good quality supervision and support that addresses the scope of professional discretion and identifies training and development needs of practitioners. 

Information and links

Learning and looking after yourself

We introduce a reflective learning activity below. We encourage you to take care of yourself as you work through learning in relation to serious case reviews. It is essential to acknowledge the intense emotional responses we will have as social workers in the course of our work and learning.

Reflective questions

  • Explore the reports that have been published on learning/case reviews in Scotland.
  • Identify your own examples, where good supervision has supported positive outcomes for a client and where opportunities for improvement were not fully explored.
  • Consider which supervision behaviours impacted these differing outcomes.