Skip to main content

Heads Together

A research collaboration funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence

Heads Together is a National Institute for Health and Care Excellence funded research collaboration across universities in the UK, exploring brain injury social work education.

The project is a collaboration led by Professor Andrew Bateman (University of Essex), and includes Dr Mark Holloway Consultant/Expert Witness, HeadFirst; Dr Alyson Norman, (Plymouth University); Dr Mike Clark, (London School of Economics) and Dr Mark Linden, (Queens University, Belfast), Caroline Bald (University of Essex) and Akudo Amadiegwu (University of Essex).

Head Injury affects thousands of people in the UK. Each year 1.4 million people attend emergency departments in England and Wales with a recent head injury.

Heads Together aims to identify the knowledge and understanding social workers have of brain injury; ascertain the training currently available and develop a central resource point for social work practice around brain injury.

Heads Together

Brain Injury is the leading cause of death & disability in the UK,

for people aged 0-40 & diagnosed in 70% of head injuries

The research team has now published a systematic scoping review of the knowledge base produced by social workers on acquired brain injury.

The dataset for “Social workers and acquired brain injury: A systematic review of the current evidence-base” has now been published in PLOS ONE.

It contains details of 17 papers included in a manuscript titled “Social workers and acquired brain injury: A systematic review of the current evidence-base”

Dr Mark Linden of Queen’s University, Belfast who led this part of the project said, ‘Our paper brought together diverse literature on how the social work profession has examined its interactions with survivors of brain injury. We summarised our findings as relating to the need for advocacy in social work, the need for training and multidisciplinary team working, the importance of including wider social networks and the acknowledgement of societal barriers in accessing services. The paper calls for all social workers to possess some level of training in ABI.’

The review systematically explored the evidence base to examine how social workers have been prepared to work with their clients with brain injury. Employing six electronic databases (Social Policy & Practice, Web of Science, Scopus, PubMed, PsycINFO, CINAHL Plus) 1071 papers were reviewed. After applying eligibility criteria 17 papers were included in this review. Standardised data extraction and quality appraisal tools were utilised to assess all included papers. Following appraisal, 9 papers were judged as possessing high methodological quality whilst 8 were judged as medium.

Employing narrative synthesis, four themes were identified which captured the key findings of these papers. Themes were named as (i) advocacy and social work (ii) training and multidisciplinary team working (iii) inclusion of social networks and (iv) societal barriers.

The paper concluded that in order to meet their statutory responsibilities to practice safely, social workers must receive training in how to identify ABI and develop understanding of its consequences and subsequent need for provision. Social workers are also in a unique position to advocate for their clients and should make every effort to ensure their needs are met.

The full paper can be found here:

With the assistance of the Project Advisory Group the Research Team has developed a UK survey for Social Work Course Leads and Directors on course content regarding acquired brain injury at undergraduate and postgraduate levels.

This initial investigation will recruit from around 80 Social Work departments across the UK to provide information about the structure and content of current qualifying and post qualifying courses.

This work is being led by Akudo Amadiegwu and Caroline Bald.

To achieve a detailed understanding of knowledge-practice gaps, we will complete semi-structured interviews with specialist acquired brain injury social workers.

These interviews will provide a better understanding of the training specialist social workers have undergone to improve their ABI practice. Topics may include effective changes in their professional environments and ways of working to support clients with ABI, knowledge and skills development and training needs.

This work is being led by Dr Mark Holloway.

A key aspect of this project is the perspectives of people affected by brain injury

This includes people with brain injury, their family members and carers, and the professionals who support them.

This group will inform the research which aims to improve social worker knowledge of brain injury and outcomes for people affected by this condition. Dr Alyson Norman and Caroline Bald run the Experts by Experience group  – the group has met online and also in person to allow the voices of those with brain injuries, their families, but also social workers with personal experiences of brain injuries to be included in the research.

If you are interested in joining the group, please contact Caroline Bald or Dr Alyson Norman


Discover the latest events from Heads Together

Take a look

Questions about Heads Together?

Join 'Experts by Experience'  Find out more information

[tagembed widgetid 104196]

The Brain Injury Social Work Group


Brain Injury Social Work Group Ltd  |  Registered Charity Number 1135891 Registered in England and Wales as a company Number 7095017 Registered office: DB Accountants, The Gables, Yonder Meadow, Stoke Gabriel, Totnes, TQ9 6QE.