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Dave Tapsell, Head of Systemic Practice at the London Borough of Havering, discusses the council’s ‘Face To Face’ approach in the latest issue of Sanctuary Social Work News magazine

Here’s what he has to say about the new dynamic model that places direct work with families, young people and children and the centre of social services: 

The Face To Face systemic approach turns traditional practice somewhat on its head. It ‘fits the system to the family rather than asking the family to fit to the system’, enabling them to experience interventions that work in collaboration with them, rather than being aimed at them. Change has to happen at all levels within our service and not just between service users and frontline practitioners. 

To achieve this, we have our sights firmly set on becoming a centre of excellence for social work practice, which addresses learning, development and support across the entire career path of our social work and support staff. 

We are working with The Institute of Family Therapy on a pathway that is right for our service; one that develops and supports newly qualified ASYE staff, frontline staff new to the profession, and experienced skilled social workers. 

Essentially, we are bringing the whole service on this journey as we develop our work through the systemic lens. Systemic practice is the main focus of our accredited family therapy training for all our frontline staff, and is integral to our management team leadership programme and senior staff supervision. 

This gives all of our staff the capacity and time to explore how meetings, conferences, reviews and panels can be as positive and useful as possible to the needs of the families they are working with.

Our newly established clinical family therapy team, whose practice I oversee, offers systemic interventions, case conversations, joint assessments and staff support. 

Already, practitioners are responding positively to having more opportunity to reflect on their work through case conversations. It is a useful reminder that process is important but it’s the practice in the room we do that enables change to happen and reduces risk.  As Kate Dempsey, our Principal Social worker said, “we are aiming to change practice and outcomes positively, one conversation at a time”.  

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