Training for future Social Workers

Positive Partnerships towards a Trauma-Informed Workforce

In autumn 2020, the Fulfilling Lives South East (FLSE) Area Lead, together with the Systems Change Officer reached out to Lucy Basterra, Senior Lecturer in Social Work at the University of Brighton, to offer training sessions around working with people experiencing multiple and complex needs (MCN) and experiences of repeat child protection processes. The idea was to influence social workers’ attitudes and behaviours before they start practising social work as their profession.

Issues faced

FLSE understands that Social Workers play a key role in providing support to people experiencing multiple disadvantages and MCN. Following our research and front line experience, we developed a Manifesto for Change, with emerging themes and commitments. One of which is about supporting women through repeat removals of children. Our commitment states: For women with MCN to not suffer stigmatising practice (e.g. from antenatal and post-natal healthcare providers, courts, police, GP and Social Services).

In our previous blogs on this theme, we have explored the gaps women with multiple and complex needs often fall through and the issues that arise when the working practices of social services don’t respond flexibly and creatively to these needs.

Women often feel disempowered throughout the process of working with social services, not understanding their rights or having a firm grasp of what is happening at each stage. Many women have also had negative experiences of social services in the past, often as children themselves, leading to a distrust and disengagement from services. Our clients have reported that they felt like passive recipients of a process that is making permanent decisions about their own lives and those of their children. 

Quote from our client

“I feel like everything is going to come crashing down around me.  I feel I haven’t been given enough time to turn my life around it’s just not fair. How can I be expected to just stop using and attend all these appointments without any period of lapse?  I’m not perfect.” 

What we did

Our partnership with the University of Brighton, has provided us with a platform to reach future social workers and provide an enhanced understanding of multiple disadvantage, encouraging the students to consider the intersecting issues faced by their future clients and to respond in ways that are adaptive to the complex needs and informed by experiences of trauma.

FLSE delivered two guest lectures on the subject of ‘Trauma Informed Practice (TIP) and working with people experiencing multiple and complex needs (MCN)’ in November 2020 and January 2021. These sessions were co-produced with front line staff, project consultants, volunteers, experts by experience, the learning and impact team as well as the systems change team. Following their success, FLSE were invited to deliver the lectures again to the next year’s cohort of students. In January and February 2022, two guest lectures were held, one online and one in-person, which again received overwhelmingly positive feedback, highlighting the importance of teaching students about trauma informed practices, and working with people experiencing MCN.

Student feedback on the training sessions

I found this session really useful and was really comfortable to engage with the facilitators. I found this session to be a safe place to ask questions, be curious and think outside my box”.

I found the information provided about MCN and trauma very useful and will definitely look more into this and take it into the future. Also information around women and repeated pregnancies interesting, as it was topic I was debating recently”.

I really enjoyed the session, especially the way that each breakout group had an assigned practitioner as it allowed for a detailed group discussion. I was also really impressed with the passion each of the workers showed”.

The practice examples were really interesting, and I learnt some important skills for building relationships with service users who have experienced trauma”.

The need for trauma informed practice and unconditional positive regard for the client. Be strength and person focused. Work as part of a team around the person and celebrate small wins for the client. The need for long term approach”.

“I have learnt about the importance of considering language used (terms such as label) and how this can impact on the clients we work with.  Thus, learnt to challenge the use of such terms”.

“Thank you for the training. I am working with a mum who has had 2 children removed and has a learning disability, ADHD and poor mental health. I have often had tense, difficult conversations with her, and I think I may have been dismissive at times. Your presentation has opened my eyes and made me realise what she has gone through.  I feel better able to support her and her children. Thank you”!

“In social work we focus on the children and keep them at the centre of our practice.  This has helped me consider the wider impact on the parents”.

Feedback from Lucy Basterra, Senior Lecturer in Social Work at the University of Brighton

“It has been a pleasure collaborating with the Fulfilling Lives team, and it is clear from the feedback that the team’s expertise and passion has made a positive impact on students’ learning.  From my perspective, as a lecturer in social work with a practice background in working with people experiencing multiple disadvantages, it is vital that we bring the voices of an often-marginalised group of people into the teaching and training of social workers.  Fulfilling Lives were able to do this by putting together a session which kept service users at the heart of the content, while also offering expert knowledge from a practitioner perspective.  Linking the themes that were covered with broader concepts of trauma-informed care means that the learning is applicable to any setting our students go on to practice in. The resources and case studies that Fulfilling Lives have shared will continue to be put to good use across our programmes where applicable and will add depth and insight into the experiences of people with complex needs as well as the practice tools and approaches best-placed to support practitioners in their work”.

Reflections from the facilitators

Participating as a facilitator in the training as a volunteer with FL has been an invaluable experience that I am proud I was part of. An important part of healing and growing is the ability to use past experiences, good and bad ones, in order to help and support others, but that’s not always easy. I thought taking part in this training would help me gain some confidence and trust in myself.  I’m really grateful I got to do that in a very professional and human environment, working alongside staff members while being supported step by step.

I think the training was a highlight for everybody involved, and it was great to read the feedback left by students, it made me realise what a great achievement to have been part of shaping, through our efforts, a next generation of a trauma-informed social workers”. – Linda, FL Volunteer

As a member of the Service User Involvement team with lived experience of MCN it has been extremely rewarding to play a role in the development and delivery of training for social work students. In addition, mentoring volunteers to develop new skills they are interested in, and working together on them achieving each step to get to where they want to be, is a part of my role I feel really privileged to be doing.

Linda has worked with Fulfilling Lives as a dedicated volunteer for a year and a half and seeing her get to the stage of presenting slides in training to a room of people is testament to how hard she has worked. People with lived experience can bring a unique and valuable insight to our work, but beyond that learn and bring skills that have really supported our project in achieving its own goals. I would like to thank the volunteer involved for being part of our team and congratulate her on her achievements.

This training has been a great example of co-production in action. Bringing together the expertise of frontline staff, diverse lived experience voices, and knowledge from our systems change work. It’s great to hear the feedback that the training was valuable to the students.” – Vikki, FL Engagement and Coproduction Worker


One of the main objectives of Fulfilling Lives nationally and locally is to work in partnership with organisations and institutions to nurture system change to help with the development of accessible, responsive, flexible and coordinated approaches for those with the most complex needs.

We are conscious that social workers and social work students are key to how social services are being delivered and perceived from a service user point of view. We are keen to help develop skills and approaches for future professionals.

The positive impact of the collaboration between FLSE and the University of Brighton has resulted in a commitment to continued use of Fulfilling Lives resources on MCN, Trauma and the repeat removal of children into care. Having these key resources being integrated into educating our future workforce is a legacy we are proud of and shows the importance of collaboration. 


Eve McCallam, Systems Change Officer

For further information about Fulfilling Lives work in this area, please contact:

Systems Change Officer

Rebecca Rieley, Systems Change Lead:  

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