Outcomes conversations

Audio: Interviews

You can listen to these audio files of outcomes conversations and use them to reflect on what makes a good outcomes conversation.

Download audio file
(.MP3 format, size: 27MB)

Audio: Reviewing conversations
Download audio file
(.MP3 format, size: 6.5MB)

There are more practice tools on each page of this section of the website.

This section is aimed at practitioners, and it is designed to help you identify good practice in working in an outcomes-focused way.  We hope it will support you to reflect on how outcomes-focused your current practice is, and to build on it.

The Intervention and Skills Domain of the PCF requires, at all levels of competence, that:

“Social workers engage with individuals, families, groups and communities, working alongside people to assess and intervene. They enable effective relationships and are effective communicators, using appropriate skills. Using their professional judgement, they employ a range of interventions: promoting independence, providing support and protection, taking preventative action and ensuring safety whilst balancing rights and risks. They understand and take account of differentials in power, and are able to use authority appropriately. They evaluate their own practice and the outcomes for those they work with.”  (College of Social Work, 2015).

Working with outcomes involves helping people to identify what impact they require and where, when and how it can happen – supporting the aspirations, goals and priorities that they have identified as important.

In terms of working with outcomes it is vital that practitioners have the skills to support them.  More information and useful downloads on some of these core skills can be found as part of our Outcomes Triangle.

This section of the website is divided into five sections, which reflect the different elements of having conversations about outcomes, these are:

Each page includes an overview of why outcomes are important from a policy and practice context, case studies and  a variety of practice tools to support conversations about outcomes.

Another useful approach to each stage would be to use the critical reflection tool.

Outcomes are, by definition, personalised where they relate to the priorities and aspirations of an individual person. An outcomes-focused approach must place the person at the centre of discussions from the outset, finding ways to engage and empower them so that they are able to explain their needs, concerns, problems and circumstances. Only then can the whole person, their current situation and history be understood so they can discuss and negotiate with those supporting them, what their desired outcomes are and how they might be achieved.

Personalisation places the focus firmly on outcomes with much less emphasis on inputs and outputs such as: the assessment process; how resources are allocated; whether time-scales are met; how many weeks or hours of care and support are put in place. However, good assessment is still pivotal to the process of identifying need and desired outcomes. Practitioners will spend increasingly more time on support, brokerage, advocacy, prevention, early intervention, safeguarding and promoting social inclusion The SCIE Guide (2010) highlights five areas of social work practice central to personalisation:

  • building relationships
  • working through conflict
  • knowing and applying legislation
  • accessing practical support and services
  • working with other professionals to achieve best outcomes.

Understanding outcomes, and the associated barriers and enablers to working with them, is critical to good social work.

The Care Act 2014 stresses that assessments must involve the person themselves and, where appropriate, their carer or other nominated person. Ensuring that when assessing a person’s needs, and understanding how these impact on their wellbeing, it is their personal outcomes which are defined. (DH, 2014a).

Useful definitions:

Throughout this site we refer to outcomes, outputs, needs etc.  Often, in practice these terms can be confused or used interchangeably.  To help avoid this we have provided some definitions of what we mean in each case.

We first need to define what we mean by outcomes:

  • Outcomes refer to the impacts or end results of services on a person’s life.
  • Outcomes-focused services therefore aim to achieve the aspirations, goals, and priorities identified by people.
  • Outcomes are by definition individualised, as they depend on the priorities and aspirations of individual people.

Glendinning, et al (2006)


Download the tool as a PDF fileDefining Outcomes (PDF file 158KB).    This tool defines outcomes and provides opportunities to explore what makes an outcome.


References and further reading:

Boud D, Keogh R and Walker D (eds.) (1985) Turning Experience into Learning. London: Kogan Page.

College of Social Work (2015) The Professional Capabilities Framework. London: The College of Social Work (Now hosted by British Associate of Social Workers).  Available online: https://www.basw.co.uk/pcf/

Cook A and Miller E (2012) Talking Points Personal Outcomes Approach: Practical Guide. Edinburgh: Joint Improvement Team.

Department of Health (2016) Care and Support Statutory Guidance (Updated). London: Department of Health. Available online:https://www.gov.uk/guidance/care-and-support-statutory-guidance/person-centred-care-and-support-planning

University of Minnesota (Undated) Appreciative Inquiry Asking Powerful Questions. Minnesota: University of Minnesota College of Design.

Kimsey-House H, Kimsey-House K, Sandhal P, and Whitworth  L (2012) Changing Business Transforming Lives – 3rd Ed. London: Nicholas Brealey Publishing.

Nosowska G (2014) Good Assessment: Practitioner’s Handbook. Dartington: Research in Practice for Adults.

O’Rourke L (2010) Recording in social work: not just an administrative task. Bristol: Policy Press.

Skills You Need (2016) Active Listening Webpage. Lampeter: Skills You Need. Available online http://www.skillsyouneed.com/ips/active-listening.html

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