The “Expert by Experience” programme is designed to help practitioners reconnect with the families they work with and reignite their passion for relationship-based, restorative social care. Delivered by Annie, a well-known and well-respected ‘voice’ in our sector, this programme will help your workforce to stop, take a breath, reflect and learn new ways to better assess, engage and support the families who need our services.

Our common belief at Strengthening Practice is that restorative and respectful partnership working with families is the bedrock of any relationship-based social work practice. However, we also understand and appreciate how easy it is to become process-driven in a system which places a high emphasis on outcomes. How do you hold that tension, as a practitioner?

How do you ensure your service works ‘with’ families?

Enter ‘Annie’, our resident Expert by Experience, founder of Surviving Safeguarding, former Parent and Relatives Representative on the Family Justice Council, qualified family advocate, consultant and social care trainer.

Annie developed our Expert by Experience Programme to support anyone working with children, young people and their families in our social care system.

Workshop 1: Surviving Safeguarding: A parent’s perspective on the child protection process


This flagship Workshop takes the attendee through ‘Annie’s Story’ as a live Case Study with a range of activities to embed the learning.

This workshop covers:

  • Building restorative relationships and the importance of human kindness.
  • Recognising the impact of early trauma.
  • Seeing the family alongside the process and holding space for the “human” in the decision making.
  • Considering intervention or support and what informs our decision-making.
  • Exploring compliance and disguised compliance.
  • This Workshop is suitable for all social care practitioners, but may be of particular interest to social workers on their ASYE year, and service managers looking to embed a more family-focused approach.
Workshop 2: Empowering families

This Workshop aims to develop practitioner’s skills in working in partnership with families involved with children’s social care, helping to empower them to advocate for themselves and ensure their voices are heard.

This workshop covers:

  • Working in partnership with families: research, evidence and experience.
  • ‘Done to’ rather than ‘worked with’: the power of restorative practice.
  • Understanding shame as a barrier to participation.
  • The importance of language.
  • First steps in involving families in service design and delivery.

This Workshop is suitable for all social care practitioners but may be of particular interest to social workers on their ASYE year, and service managers starting to think about the role of parent representation, as recommended in the recent Care Review (2022).

Workshop 3: Improving Assessment: A parent’s perspective

This Workshop aims to develop practitioners’ skills in undertaking assessments and improving the quality of the information gathered during assessment by building authentic humane relationships.

This workshop covers:

  • Considering the process of assessment, SMART & POWER planning.
  • Models of assessment – who does it benefit?
  • Engaging with families
  • Barriers to participation (and how to overcome them)
  • Decision-making and information sharing.
Workshop 4: Exploring Thresholds

This Workshop aims to develop practitioners necessary skills and requirements to make safe and appropriate decisions. This Workshop includes online exercises to embed learning and downloadable tools and resources to support practitioners.

This workshop covers:

  • What are THow do we identify and respond to risk, particularly in relation to longstanding concerns of chronic neglect and wider exploitation?
  • hresholds and why do they matter?
  • Improving the quality and screening of referrals so that history is well understood, and appropriate information is sought to inform decision making.
  • Common errors in reasoning, and common shortcuts in decision making.
  • Better working with partner agencies to share threshold decisions for social work support.

This Workshop is suitable for all social care practitioners, but may be of particular interest to first-contact assessment teams, practitioners working in a MASH team, and social workers on their ASYE year.

Workshop 5: Reducing court backlogs and diverting from court: developing a Best Practice Blueprint

This series of two consecutive sessions considers the Public Law Working Group Recommendations as well as the Independent Care Review and seeks to help delegates develop their own Best Practice Blueprint.

This workshop covers:

  • Setting the Scene – what we are doing and why
  • Engaging with children, young people and their families
  • Child protection conferences
  • The process of pre-proceedings
  • Language that cares

Our introduction helps us to think about why we are undertaking these sessions and what we hope to achieve from them. We’ll think about how we engage with children, young people and their families, what the barriers are (and how to overcome them!). We’ll then move on to think about different models of child protection conferences, taking some learning from research and sharing ideas. We will look at the process of the pre-proceedings work and what we can do to improve this – be forewarned – this session has homework! Finally, we’ll share some thoughts on the language that we use and the impact it may have on those we work with.

Session Two covers:

  • The five Ps of Planning
  • The role of the Guardian
  • You’re in court – now what?
  • Developing your Best Practice Blueprint
  • Your Pledge to children, young people and their families

In Session Two, we begin we Planning – SMART planning and POWER planning, specifically. What role do they have in social care and how can we maximise the process of planning to divert from court? We then look at the Guardian’s role and how each partner works with the other for the best outcome for the families. What happens when a family goes to court is next; how does it feel, and how can we support our families through this traumatic process. We’ll then take some time to do some learning from each other; this is a great opportunity to showcase what’s happening in your authority and where you can learn from other’s approach.

Finally, we end with a Pledge, to your children, young people and their families. What will you do differently after these sessions? I’m excited to hear your thoughts!

This workshop is suitable for all social care practitioners. A ‘Strategic Leaders’ version is also available for senior management, Cafcass and the Judiciary.

“I do think that Annie’s personal experience and her views assisted us to look at it from a different perspective which will help those on the front line amend their ways of practice to try to build better relationships with the parents and hopefully to create better outcomes for children”

Reducing Court Backlog Attendee June 2022

“Today’s training was really good. Annie is an amazing facilitator, using her own experiences in an honest and touching way. Excellent training.”

Telford Practitioner

“I will never forget the lessons Annie left me with and will hold these in mind when working with children and families.”

Liverpool AYSE

Get in touch

For further enquiries regarding this course please contact Phil Rigotti on 01900 822 458
or email