Geraldine Nosowska (BASW UK)

(United Kingdom)

Topic: “It would be lovely if you had your own social worker”: Why social work matters to older people.

Dr Denise Tanner, University of Birmingham; Dr Paul Willis, University of Bristol.

Thematic area: Professionalisation of Social Work

Language: English 


We will share learning from our research project on the difference social work makes to older people. This area is under-researched, undervalued and often invisible. Our research brings social work practice with older people to life and enables focus on this essential area.

The project shadowed social workers in hospital and community settings in two contrasting areas of England over a six-month period. Data was gathered from Autumn 2022 to Spring 2023, during a time of acute pressure on health and social services. Researchers interviewed the social workers, older people, carers, managers and allied professionals. Social work records were analysed to identify decisions points in the social work intervention.

Framework analysis was used to establish:
• what professional capabilities social workers used;
• what impact social workers had on older people’s wellbeing; and,
• how the context of practice impacted.

Analysis is currently in progress, but the conference presentation will report on the project findings in relation to the three key questions above.

Initial findings point to the importance of social work expertise in transforming stuck situations. Using advocacy and know-how, social workers can navigate through complex, constrained situations to change older people’s experiences.
Older people, carers, families and social workers show perseverance and strength to overcome difficulties and sustain control. Time to be together, talk and reflect is essential to enabling change.

The research will make recommendations on how best to deploy, support and work with social workers so they are able to make the greatest impact in older people’s services. This includes through opportunities for micro-interventions, such as a timely conversation with a family member, as well as major actions. It will also identify ideas for developing gerontological social work as a specialism.

Social Work with Older People Research – Exploring the contribution of social workers to older people’s well-being (