1. The overall aim of this project will be to develop new skills, competencies, training products & methodologies to enable social workers and other professionals to innovate and adopt more effective interventions in working with families experiencing multiple and complex difficulties. It supports EU education policy objectives; the Bruges Communique on enhanced European cooperation in VET for 2011-20 identified the need for "Creativity and Innovation in VET as well as the use of innovative learning methods" and called for multi disciplinary partnerships to promote "new developments and competence needs and to develop professional excellence and innovation". The Paris declaration of education ministers of 17th March 2015 called for action to reinforce the role of education in promoting citizenship and strengthening social cohesion. The project will support both horizontal and VET specific priorities of the Erasmus+ Programme by seeking to develop key transversal competencies in the VET curriculum and by enhancing access to these through the use of CVET and ECVET.
2. The need & rationale for the project was initially identified through the work of a major research study undertaken by the Municipality of Linkoping R&D Centre Care and Social Work in Sweden in collaboration with the NTNU, Trondheim, Child Welfare Research and Innovation Centre in Norway (Families & Social Services, R&D rep 68:2012 www.linkoping.se/fou and The new child welfare, NF report 6/2015 www.nordlandsforskning.no) which focussed on more than 900 vulnerable families (150 with complex needs) using child welfare services, in both countries. The study found that despite a considerable investment of resources, there had been relatively little change in the situation of these families over time. Professionals from a wide range of services (eg social work/child welfare, mental health, social security, education etc) often intervened simultaneously addressing individual problems through their different specialism but there was a need for a more holistic approach capable of prioritizing issues and effecting real changes both in the family structure and service delivery. The families themselves often felt disempowered and not effectively consulted over their difficulties or how they thought they should be addressed. The key issue identified by the research was the lack of innovation skills at practice level, which would enable the professionals concerned to get to grips with the complex challenges posed by the most vulnerable families. These skills include the ability to negotiate, interpret problems, organise & plan change, work in multi disciplinary team settings, use research findings and reflect on practice, within an overall flexible and adaptable approach. The University of Ljubljana worked closely with the NTNU, Trondheim on an earlier major research project which reached similar conclusions.
The research and experience of the Portuguese and Italian partners in the project has identified similar skills gaps, in the context of lower levels of investment and a decline in traditional social support structures.
3. The project will build on this research and experience by establishing operational partnerships/stakeholder forums within each partner region/country consisting of researchers, educators & professional practitioners. The design of the project will be interactive, linking families to these groups. The objectives of the project will be to; (i) To further explore the existing experience of the partners, & elsewhere in the EU , to 'map' the common vocational competencies required by social workers & related professionals to innovation in working with vulnerable families and develop a Competency Framework (ii) To develop a 'Knowledge Triangle' learning model which will use abductive learning to strengthen links between researchers, educators/trainers and social workers and related professionals working with vulnerable families (iii) To develop a transferable innovation skills development programme together with a 'toolkit' of supporting learning materials & analytical/assessment frameworks. (iv) To test these products through a pilot programme involving professionals from each partner region who will each work with a small number of families during the course of the programme. (v) To review the results of the pilots, including impact on work with the families & to amend the products. (vi) To produce a project innovation report and organise national & transnational dissemination and mainstreaming, including through the use of ECVET.
4. The impact will be to support the development of new & improved practice, in particular through the use of innovation skills, in working with vulnerable families, & in addressing the difficulties and disadvantage faced by the families, enhancing their social inclusion. The common skills gaps identified within the partner countries reinforces the need for a European dimension.