Talking Mats and Social Work

Many people using social work services have a communication disability. Finding out about clients’ views and really involving them in care planning can be a challenge. Talking Mats has been shown to be a useful picture tool for effective communication in social work to help people be involved, contribute and give their views.

The research that underpins Talking Mats has involved people with a wide range of communication disabilities, for example,

  • Stroke
  • Dementia
  • Learning disability
  • Children and young people with additional support needs

Ways to use Talking Mats for Effective Communication in Social Work

  • Getting to know someone – their likes or dislikes or what they are managing not managing
  • Ensuring the individual’s views are at the centre of the planning process
  • Care planning and management, ensuring that the client is involved and that staff and listen to their views
  • Planning and supporting an individual to use and express their views on self-directed support and personal budgets
  • Comparing people’s views – this can be particularly useful when assessing risk
  • Investigating issues of vulnerability and potential harm

Talking Mats Resources for Social Workers

Talking Mats resources that are particularly helpful to support social workers to understand and gain the views of their clients through effective communication  are:

  • Health and Wellbeing  This resource includes 13 topics and enables people to understand, think about and then express their views about these different components of their Wellbeing. It supports them to become more involved in making decisions and support required.
  • Consulting Children and Young People is designed to help staff listen and respond to the views of children and young people. It provides a picture communication tool that is easy to use and engages children from as young as 3 years of age.
  • Social Care This resource contains 3 topics which provide a holistic overview, particularly for people in residential care

All these resources are available as traditional mat-based Talking Mats Original packages or as Digital Talking Mats

To read more about how Talking Mats can be used in social work the following blogs may be helpful

What our customers are saying…

“I have worked with a client for three years and have normally only got a yes or no or if lucky a few sentences. I have used Talking Mats with her and through that found out a wealth of knowledge and she is now living a more fulfilled life doing things that she likes to do and we are working with on bigger life goals.” Social worker

“I have not found a better tool particularly for the under 5 to get their views.”
Child Protection Development Officer

“Talking mats is a useful tool when working with children within early years to share their views about the experiences in their nursery and influence both planning and provision. As young children are very black and white in their thinking, it’s helpful to consider the top scale and for most children under the age of four they may only be able to grasp the positive and negative and not the middle ground. Young children tend to express opinion in feelings and so the use of faces has been helpful in supporting them to express whether they have liked, or not liked an experience.  Children aged three and above have been making good use of Talking Mats to share their views about their lives and be part of decision making in Child Protection forums such as Child Protection Case Conferences and Children’s Hearings through their mats.”
Social worker working in a family centre


Talking Mats is a powerful communication framework for helping social workers and their clients organise their thoughts and express their views about particular issues. It provides a visual record for reflection and practice notes. Social workers will get most benefit from the Talking Mats framework if they have attended a recognised Talking Mats training course.