Our Practice in Manchester

Our Principles

Relationship Focused, Strength Based Practice

The importance of human relationships, which we rely on to survive and thrive, is nicely summarised here, and the need for healthy nurturing relationships for children is clearly evidenced. 

“Over the past several decades, early childhood policies and programs for young children experiencing significant adversity have been influenced by converging theoretical models and extensive empirical research. The most influential of these developmental frameworks highlight the critical importance of nurturing relationships and mutually responsive interactions between adults and young children…”1

Therefore, our practice starts with a focus on relationships. The quality of relationship between children and their parent or carer. The quality of our relationships with children and families. The quality of relationships with our colleagues and partner agencies. Our practice demonstrates efforts to develop constructive working relationships between professionals and family members, and, between professionals themselves, laying the basis for effective practice

Compassionate relationships, working ‘with’ not ‘doing to’ is the foundation of human change and growth. Our work with parents and carers to ensure that children and young people have nurturing relationships in place. With the aim that permanence is achieved for children at the earliest opportunity. Manchester’s Practice Standards have been developed with an importance upon relationships. From how we engage through to how we evidence the impact of significant relationships and what this will mean for a child or young person.

With children, our focus on relationship is reflected on our direct work, our assessments and their plans. Where children’s and young person’s views are clearly reflected, considered and we show how we are acting upon them. 

As with families, relationships in the workplace characterised by cooperation, trust, and fairness, encourages like future interactions with everyone believing the best in each other and inspiring each other in our work.

Individual practitioners are not solely responsible for the development and health of relationships with children, parents or carers and families. Those that support frontline practitioners, whether management or administrative, must also play a full part in creating the conditions in which positive relationships can flourish. To this end, Manchester’s practice is organised around a framework founded in strength based, solution focused theory: Signs of Safety

Strength-based practice concerns itself principally with the quality of the relationship that develops between those providing and being supported, and, what the person seeking or in need of support brings to the process.2 A strength based approach also requires us to understand the problems others face, identifying harm (potential or realised) while calling out the strengths and abilities, and, educating in the service of change.

Solution-focused practice is built on the work of Steve de Shazer and Insoo Kim Berg. Developed within a therapeutic context, Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT) holds a central notion of ‘exceptions’: however serious, fixed or chronic the problem there are always exceptions and these exceptions contain the building blocks of the client's own solution. Steve de Shazer and Berg were also interested in determining the goals of therapy so that they and their clients would know when it was time to end. They found that the clearer a client was about his or her goals the more likely it was that they were achieved. Finding ways to elicit and describe future goals has since become a pillar of solution-focused brief therapy. 

Signs of Safety is the practice framework that organises how we develop constructive relationships to arrive at solutions that are informed by the involvement of children and young people, and coproduced with parents and carers, families, and colleagues. 


1. Shonkoff, J. P., & Fisher, P. A. (2013). Rethinking evidence-based practice and two-generation programs to create the future of early childhood policy. Development and psychopathology, 25(4 Pt 2), 1635–1653. doi:10.1017/S0954579413000813

2. Duncan, Barry & Miller, Scott. (2000). The Client's Theory of Change: Consulting the Client in the Integrative Process. Journal of Psychotherapy Integration. 10. 10.1023/A:1009448200244. 

3. Bertolino, B., & Youth in Need, Inc. (2010). Strengths-based engagement and practice: Creating effective helping relationships. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Developed by: Stephen Brock, M.S.W., Social Work Consultant. s.brock@manchester.gov.uk © 2020