Strengths-based Social Work with Older People: A UK Perspective

Holly Nelson-Becker*, Liz Lloyd, Alisoun Milne, Emma Perry, Mo Ray, Sally Richards, Mary Pat Sullivan, Denise Tanner, Paul B Willis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter in a book


Social work in the UK and US had similar origins with a historical focus on both community-based work, similar to Jane Addams’ settlement house, and individual casework/care management aligned with Mary Richmond’s approach to care (Gollins et al., 2016). The visit by Jane Addams in the 1880s to Toynbee Hall, a settlement house founded in London in 1884 to assist the poor through providing opportunities that would lead to social reform, is often cited as a key inspiration for the inception of social work in the US (Addams, 1910). In Addam’s description, there was an early recognition of a need to balance focus on youth and older people and to create intergenerational capacity in strengths. That interest remains present today and, with burgeoning numbers of people growing older globally (WHO, 2018), countries have responded in varying ways to this challenge to prepare for the future. Often this is driven by a need to reconcile competing agendas. The move to personalisation and personal budgets under recent UK Governments was an attempt to shift control of care to individual choices, a strengths view, but at the same time, those budgets were being reduced in line with Government austerity measures. This polcy and practice environment has shaped the conceptualisation of and approaches to strength-based practice for older people in the UK in ways that are different from the US.
This chapter will provide background on the UK policy and practice context for strengths-based approaches and on the work of G-8—a group of gerontological social work academics who advocate for strengthening practice, education and research in work with older people. It looks specifically at a strengths approach to assessment and care planning and at older people’s perspectives on strengths. It concludes with examples of strengths-based practice from research into innovative services employing this approach with older people.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRooted in Strengths: celebrating the strengths perspective in social work
Place of PublicationKansas
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2020

Structured keywords

  • SPS Centre for Research in Health and Social Care


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