Creative & Innovative Social Work Practice


Yasmin Ishaq

ORGANISATION: Kent County Council

AWARD(S): Creative & Innovative Social Work Practice


In a quarter-century social work career, Yasmin has been no stranger to developing and delivering new services.


Over the past year, her focus has turned to implementing peer-supported open dialogue – based on a mental health treatment model originating in Finland – in Kent. It involves maintaining a consistent relationship with a service user’s family and social network, by the same practitioners throughout their care, with all decisions being co-created by the client, their support system and professionals.


Crisis interventions within 24 hours are designed to keep people from hospital admissions wherever possible, and by drawing on family and community resources the aim is to reduce reliance on traditional services and medication.


Judges praised the work as “genuinely innovative”, pointing out that Yasmin is the only social worker in the country who’s leading in this area – more commonly the territory of medical professionals. A family member of one service user who’s been involved in the project simply describes her as “epitomising the word ‘hope’”.


To date almost 40 professionals from various backgrounds have been trained within the peer-supported open dialogue model. A standalone team is set to be formed by the end of 2016, with Yasmin continuing to support the service’s development.


Yasmin is leading innovation in social care in mental health and is the only person in the country involved in the Open Dialogue research and roll out project who is a social worker. This could be really big.

Ruth Allen, Chief Executive, BASW:

This is genuinely innovative, focusing on relationship-based social work in a multidisciplinary sector where social work is not often in the lead. It's not just family-led practice but practice-led practice at a time when so much practice is management-led.

Anthony Douglas CBE, Chief Executive, Cafcass

Yasmin was instrumental in drawing the organisation’s awareness to this innovative treatment in mental health and has showed the tenacity required to bring about something new in an organisation when financial pressures loom heavy over the quality agenda.”

Dr James Osborne, Lead Psychologist for East Kent Secondary Care and Open Dialogue:

Yasmin has been an exceptionally crucial part of my brother’s success, a pioneer, a driving force that has given us a means to continue. Her offer of open dialogue meant we could take a new path, an innovative step to recovery as a family, my brother as a whole person as opposed to 'the problem'.

Relative of a service user


Diane Hunter, NSPCC

Multi Agency Screening Team, North Yorkshire County Council

Peer to Peer Support Team, Adoption UK


Preparing for Adulthood Team, Birmingham City Council

Strengths-Based Practice Team, Barnet Council

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