Moving Social Work

A stylised graphic where four people, 1 performing SL, One doctor, one running with a prosthetic limb, and an elderly doctor are seen infront of a green background. The text reads: Moving Social Work.

We know that academic language is not always easy to understand. We didn’t want anyone to miss out on learning about the programme. If you’d like to have a plain English version, you can access that here.

A more academic summary can be found below.

What is the Moving Social Work programme?

Engaging in regular physical activity has substantial health benefits for Disabled people. However, Disabled people are much less likely to be active than non-disabled people, with activity levels decreasing sharply the more impairments an individual has (Sport England Active Lives, 2021). Disabled people also have poorer health and well-being compared to non-disabled people. Given this health inequality, the promotion of physical activity needs to become a priority.

Our research through the Get Yourself Active programme has continued to show that social workers are essential and trusted messengers to the people they support. The Social Worker guidelines that were developed from Get Yourself Active’s research began to make a positive impact on social worker practice. However, at present, no standardised education or training for social workers on how to promote physical activity exist.

Therefore, the Moving Social Work programme aims to create resources and co-produce strategies for the education of the social workers of today and tomorrow. We will make the first resources to educate people who are doing a social work degree and provide post qualified social workers with the tools to promote physical activity to and for Disabled people. Ultimately, the more social workers understand the importance of physical activity, the better placed they are to support a Disabled person to lead a more active and often fulfilling life.

The programme will impact three key areas positively. The first is awareness – this is the understanding of social workers of the importance of embedding physical activity promotion into the curriculum.  Then policy change – universities and colleges amend their curriculums to address the need to promote physical activity further. Finally, capacity building – universities and colleges build more capacity to promote physical activity because of the programme.

Having begun in November 2020, the project is currently moving through four stages (scoping, content production, effectiveness testing and final production). With the knowledge, we learn and with the resources tested, we will then aim for a national rollout. The entire project is being co-produced with a team comprised of practising social workers, social worker lecturers, social work students and Disabled people.

Co-production is a specific model of working and central to the project. In this working model, everybody works together on an equal basis to create a service or come to a decision that works for them all. At its centre is a shift in power dynamics to create an equal relationship between the people who use services and those who provide them.

In line with our co-production model, the project also involves working with diverse stakeholder organisations to co-produce throughout the project. These include Social Work England, Sport England, Disability Rights UK, Disability North, Public Health England, Active Partnerships, and Northumbria Healthcare. The universities taking part in this project include: Durham University, Cumbria University, Northumbria University, Teeside University, and Sunderland University.

Are you interested in finding out more about the programme? Please get in touch with the programme leader, Professor Brett Smith, PhD, Durham University, at

Meet the team

Three organisations lead the programme:

Durham University – As a programme leader, Durham is researching how to design an effective education programme.

Disability Rights UK (DRUK) – Another leader of the programme, DRUK supports the project and ensures that it is co-produced, which includes working alongside the co-production team.

Sport England – The third programme leader, Sport England are leading this programme of work to enable Social Workers to be equipped with the skills they need to support disabled people to be active.

They are represented by Brett Smith, Professor of Disability and Physical Activity at Durham University. Lydia Bone, Programme Manager at Get Yourself Active and Cecilia Kumar – Head of Disability at Sport England.

In total there are 18 members of the Moving Social Work advisory board. They’ve kindly shared biographies that you can find at the link below.

Impact Areas

The programme will impact three key areas positively. We have illustrated these below.