For many years social work assessments have been the main focus for debate and questions within the media and social work practise. First we do the Initial assessment, then if we need more information we complete a more fuller core assessment. The time scales for these assessments were set in guidance regardless of the need or risk.
A good assessment will lead to good interventions and positive outcomes, with key decisions being made on the basis and quality of the assessment; but a bad assessment will lead to poor interventions and outcomes for the children. Historically, social work assessments have focused on what has worked well with families and have been rigid in the time scales for completion, with the needs and risks in individual situations being assessed in detail before judgements can be made about what interventions and services would be appropriate.
Therefore there has been some interest from children social workers with regard to how social work assessments in the new ‘Working Together document 2013′ would bring the changes that Munro had explored and described in her papers about child protection. In essence the new ‘Single Assessment’ as recommended by Munro has been developed and given the go ahead by the Government to be implemented by each Local Authority as they see fit, after being trialled and developed in eight local authorities. The single assessment combines and replaces the Initial Assessment and Core Assessment, and has the flexibility of the time scales to be set by the social work manager assessing the case. Bringing with it a new theory and practise, in order to manage and complete the essential social work assessment, whilst retaining the Assessment Framework Triangle and remaining child centred. The aim being that the plan is developed and identified right from the very first visit whilst along side this the social worker completes the assessment.
‘Assessment is the foundation for all effective intervention: as such it needs to be grounded in evidence from research and theories’ (Baldwin and Walker)
The single assessment brings with it a new way of social work practise, for social workers to be not only ‘Emotionally Intelligent’ but also have ‘Creative thinking’
‘A sense of being able to look at familiar situations in a new light. This is important way of avoiding getting bogged down in routine, standard ways of working that have limited effectiveness’ (Thompson and Thompson).
For me as a social worker I have seen that this has brought a positive change in social work practise, there is now a definitive sense that social work practise is looking at its knowledge base to evidence its work, training is being developed and focused on ensuring assessment skills and theories are relevant to the current pressures and demands being placed on social care departments at the moment. Quality in social work practise is being sort and demanded from social workers not for the image of social work, but for positive outcomes for families and children and because we are being starved of funding to support all but the most needy.
However, Community Care looked at what has changed two years on from the final Munro report? and whether social workers do feel that there has been any big change since Munro’s recommendations. We finally have the a slimmed down Working together document, but despite this the paperwork remains incredibly high and case loads remain high.
Despite this ‘Can there only be one?’ is the single assessment a better way forward removing delay between the assessment and the date from when the support can begin, requiring good management over sight to ensure that delay does not happen on the assessment. It allows the social worker to look at outcomes rather than assessment looking at the services the child may need. Furthermore it allows the social worker to develop a better understanding of what the risks are and what the strengths are within the families. Rather than looking at what has worked with other families it allows the social worker to be creative to develop an evolving plan and evolving assessment that changes with each new piece of information to reach the outcome established at the beginning of the assessment.
I think the answer is that there can never be one assessment, but a continuous assessment that allows an understanding that we can never look at a snap shot and that the plan should adapt with every new piece of information.
How many people people enjoy the space and sense of freedom they have within the home they live in? To have their personal possessions displayed and gathered around them. I know I do. The first picture drawn at school, the first school photo, or the clay model of a tree made at school. The holiday pictures, books, DVD’s or magazines that provide leisure and escape from the outside world. That when life is getting harder and you are feeling withdrawn, so much so that when you shut your front door and you see your first treasure, a smile can return to your face. I know that I really enjoy being able to do this and that I enjoy the space within my home to do this. But is this true for everyone? Once our doors are shut, do we continue to think about what is happening in the outside world? Is the news entertainment now a true reflection of how society is feeling and being provided with information.
As a children’s social worker, I am worried about and have always been concerned about children being able to be children. Having the space to be free to learn and grow. To feel the love of their parents and family and friends To be able to take risks that come with growing and learning. Moreover, I am concerned about the recent changes to housing benefit and the impact of the bedroom tax on the most vulnerable families. Being forced into smaller homes, forced to choose between space and struggling or smaller homes and struggling – not a fair choice really.
For many children and their parents the stability of the home is essential for their emotional well being, for a sense of belonging. It is not even a sense of owning a home but living without fear of losing that home.
But with the introduction of the new benefit changes and the impact that this will have for many of the families that we work with, what will be the real impact? How will social care departments be able to manage the increased demands and pressures upon vulnerable families struggling with poverty, domestic violence, behavioural problems, mental health, social stigma’s and anti social behaviours.
For the social worker not only will theory and a firm knowledge of child development be an essential part of the social work training, time for systemic practise is paramount. This will enable good enough assessments, reflecting the holistic picture of the child needs, whilst developing a plan from the first visit with services that will be over subscribed and under pressure to meet the growing needs. But also the social worker will need a growing need to understand housing law and benefit changes. The growing risk of housing arrears and the shortage of affordable small homes means that many families will be forced to use all of their universal benefit to pay for their rent.
So no longer do we just have to worry about children being able to make and take risks, but also now careful consideration has to be given to their parents who will be taking risks as to whether they put food on the table or pay the rent. A gamble that is not often advised on television or the radio for sports fans, but one that is now expected of many families.
Despite the governments plan to try and save on public spending, to encourage more parents back into working, I fear that instead it places more children at risk, by removing space, freedom, escape and safety out of the reach of many children and their parents.
Its been three years since I have worked as a social worker in a child protection team, let alone a child protection team where change is the current theme. However, it worrys me that ‘Burn out’ or ‘Stress’ despite being well looked into in social work practise, still affects many social workers. It therefore seems appropriate that this week that in my email box this article appears from the Gaurdian ‘Social workers must look after themselves and recognise their limits’ For many social workers ‘Burn Out’ can come come from their own passion and desiree of wanting to make positive change and to do good for the families they work with; managing this from working long hours to try and keep up with the pressures and demands of the paper work and number of visits.
The pressure of ensuring all information is recorded and the pressure of ensuring visits are completed within timescales and the right assessments and plans are created, whilst ensuring training is completed and somewhere at the back of all of this the need for a personal life. Something many social workers give up to ensure that they can keep up with their case work.
Child Protection remains the key focus for all children’s social workers, working to safeguard children whether they are at home or in care. There has been many reviews of Child Protection to help inform and develop practise from the Laming Inquiry, the Munro review and Lord Carlise review of the Edlington case. All looking at specific issue of social work practise. Particaly the Munro Review, which looked to introduce a radical change in social work practise in order to reclaim social work and also cut the red tape that had created many pressures for social workers and prevented good social work interventions for both social workers and the vulnerable families they work with.
Significantly the new Working Together document is published this year, giving guidance to some of these changes or rather allowing changes to be made. However, for many families these changes may not bring hope or help for many of the hardships and difficulties that they face.
However, on the inside of social work practise the changes have brought closer working, greater reflective practise and a sharing of experience, knowledge and resources (of what is left).
Sadly however, cuts to mental health services, charity’s and now benefits are causing greater demands on dwindling resources and sending many families to social care for social work support.
So where case loads should be dropping to support these changes they continue to rise, and so does the pressures upon social workers to met their satutory requirements. Working long hours, and often dealing with distraught vulnerable and angry families out of hours resulting in more pressure from lone working.
Despite all changes in practise the best prevention of burning out remains good experience developed safely with good learning opportunites and practise development; managed with good supervision and ensuring that there is a break and rest from the work. Most importantly dont bottle the stresses up, share your concerns as soon as you feel the anxities developing and use other colleauges to help with reflecting on the work you have done and still need to do. Social Work is a stressful job and will always be stressful especially when you are still learning the different process and systems, so take advantage of training and your supervision to learn.
Today I was kindly reminded why social work is not a straight forward job, that it requires going above and beyond – maybe even more than creative with the acknowledged lack of a budget. That poor grammar mixed with the wrong use of a word brings shame upon social work (good job I get my work checked before it is sent to court then). But sadly I think the message I was given was lost upon the method of delivery, its punch line seeping in self importance and with the owner of the comment more concerned with their own power and attempt to be little me. It is these behaviours that bring power and meaning to those arguments to the people that do not support social work or social care.
It is easy to forget that everyone has their own life story, or their own challenges to overcome to qualify in social work. That the experience needed is not gained with the certificate on graduation; instead it does however give you an opportunity to practise working with vulnerable people.
So therefore when sitting in someones living room discussing challenging safeguarding concerns with someone who may or may not agree with the concerns and you are discussing with them how you are going to support them or safeguard the child’s needs. Stop, think and consider your approach use your knowledge and your learning, challenge and be direct, make your point and get it across but do not do it at the expense of the parents or of social work.
If you are a social work student reading this, do not get the wrong impression social work is a profession that can adapt and does adapt quickly. Social Workers do work hard and longer than they should, Social Workers do make an effort and there is no time for luxury. So yes I do agree that in social work, that social workers should have the right tools to complete their tasks, I do think that the right working environment is needed and essential, and I do believe that confidentially for the people we work with is essential.
So thank you for reminding me why the focus must remain on the vulnerable children we work with and why research being completed by University’s and other social work academics is so important to informing our practise.
Wow, what a week – it does make me chuckle as a social worker when making a change in my own life that I get anxious and nervous about it. When every day I speak with people and support them through making their own changes.
Looking back though day 1 was the hardest I was truly the new boy on the block. I did enjoy the tricks and the jokes of my new team with ‘the last manager brought us coffee and cakes every day!’ mmm really?
However, you quickly learn that despite a new building, problems with parking and different computer systems that it is the same job. The same dilemmas and same issues popping up, and soon I found myself easing in and offering my thoughts, when I should have just been observing.
Despite all of this I have been made to feel welcome my first three weeks planned out to the hour. An induction to help me hit the ground running and learning everything from legal to placements and everything in between.
And despite the social work haters out there, the discussion is about safeguarding not removing – unless a child needs to be removed to safeguard them. It was good to see and hear of the services working together to keep children within their own families.
I am glad I have made the changes and it looks like I will have a challenge in my new role and I am looking forward to that
So the end has come, my last day in the looked after children’s team has past by. I have said good bye to the team and my other colleagues that I have worked with for the past six years. It has come at a good time in my social work career for me to move on.
Just as it is important to ensure endings are positive for young people, ensuring your own endings are good is also equally important. I have learnt very much over the past six years that a good working relationship within the service helps you achieve better outcomes for the young people you work with.
I have a better understanding of health, education, youth offending and CAMHS from ensuring I worked closely with them, attending team meetings, completing joint visits and that all important social work skill of making a good cup of coffee!
My last day was filled with sadness and joy, and most of it was spent in a daze as everyone else remained focused on their daily routines I seemed to float around the office ensuring i had completed everything I could. There is always a drama in the office and on my last day as an observer it was good to see that everyone pulls together to ensure that the person having a difficult time is helped and supported.
I also had a choice of having my leaving lunch in the office or going out; and knowing my team if there was lunch in the office they would not stop working. So we took a rare break and ate out a good opportunity for me to say goodbye and for the team to say hello to our new worker!
I have been very lucky in my time working for my LA, but now I have said goodbye and had a positive ending I am looking forward to moving on and learning something new and helping others to learn in their practise.
Its getting closer, the day that I start my new role – and this is where it does get strange because although it is a new role and a new local authority its not a new job or even a major job change!
Still I will be the new boy on the block, the unknown social worker and as such (hopefully) will be getting an ‘induction’! Looking back at when i started my current post and even my previous post this has always been a non starter; on both occasions the manager was not in to great me and worse still know one was prepared for me to start. Which for my current post was considerably harder as the team looked to me to be their manager from 9am the morning I started. I can remember feeling very anxious about this as I knew one other worker had gone for the post I was in and she was still within the team! a popular staff member who was very experienced and very awkward for a while.
However, social work is not easy, and having to learn the role by doing is a painful experience but one you never forget – I am not advocating that this is the right approach and can remember on both occasions questioning why I had made the move!
Suddenly though I receive an e-mail Dear SimplySW prior to you commencing your role please can you complete two compulsory e-learning course! we have booked you on a meet the Chief Exc morning! and once you start we expect you to complete the rest of the e-learning course. Hang on a minute! this can not be right? this almost sounds prepared and thought about, logical and welcoming even maybe supportive!
Well I will soon find out, and already looking forward to making this change.
Its that time of the year when everyone is talking about change and after all it is the New Year the time when most people try to make a positive change whether it to be diet, drink less or give up smoking! However, this time for me its my job after five years working in one local authority I am looking to make a change and continue to broaden my skills and knowledge.
I have to confess though that this is a very scary time for me – where I currently work I know the services, I know all of the people and have good multi agency relationships that help me achieve good outcomes for the young people I work with. I have a good team of social workers who make hard days good days, I have seen and encouraged them to develop in their practise and take on their own new challenges.
Sometimes I do wonder why if it is so good would I want to change? the answer is simple and despite the fear of any change, I enjoy social work. Meeting new people and learning never taking any situation for granted. I know that there will be those that disagree with social work and will probably be banging their drums about Social Services being the new ‘SS’ just wanting to remove children because of the power that we hold.
But for me change brings a new challenge, fresh practise and new people to meet and a chance for me to bring my own practise to them, whilst learning a new approach. It also means that I can be challenged by my peers and the people I work with without the bias of everyone knowing me and allowing my practise to be questioned without any possible bias. Whilst I always practise openly there is nothing like the fear of not having a job that keeps you working hard.
So this year is going to be a big year for me in Social Work and I am really looking forward to the opportunities it is going to bring to me. I am also looking forward to what I can bring to social work this year, as always I can see that there will be many changes in the practise and legislation. I also hope that social work will be recognised this year both in the media and by other professionals to be supported in the fight against child cruelty and neglect and helping vulnerable families bring about change without the need of protection plans and high end heavy intervention by social workers.
What do you want to achieve this year in your social work practise?
Its hard sometimes to remember childhood, I look back and there are still some things that I remember well and others when I hear about them I laugh because I have no recollection of them. However, for children and children in care the issue is not about remembering but living their childhood.
More importantly that as adults we can make life changing decisions for ourselves and our children, often without thinking about them. As a parent it is hard when faced with making a decision that is important whilst considering the impact upon your child. Significantly for some people being able to understand the impact of your decision making upon your child is impaired due to your own childhood experiences or substance misuse or violent relationships. But perhaps more commonly now is the impact of the austerity cuts where low income families are forced to make decisions that increasingly leave their children at risk.
It has often be presented that social workers have forgotten these challenges and this can easily be understood as the tick box culture has been developed to prevent errors and mistakes. Instead the talking part of social work has been lost, the time that families need to unpick their understanding of the situation they are in. Furthermore simple but effective services are cut and removed from these vulnerable families forcing them to either sink or swim.
Lets not forget though that for Children’s services it is the children that are important, and for that any small change for children can have a massive impact upon their development. A change in school could mean a loss of a friend or supportive teacher, a change of home frequently could cause many difficulty’s relating to attachments and feeling settled and having a sense of belonging. Lets not forget as social workers or parents that Children need to understand the events that are happening in their life in order to make sense of it.
Mixed messages from parents and or professionals can leave the child in turmoil, feeling confused and unsure often causing these anxieties to be acted out through behaviour. Behaviour which then can lead to the child or young person being excluded from their school, friends, family and then increasing their risk of vulnerability.
Its easy to forget as adults that it is our responsibility to be responsible for this, not to draw the attention to our needs rather than the needs of the children that are in our care. To raise awareness of the impact of the serious nature of the cuts made by the government that looks to early intervention to reduce the long term care needs and budget demands on the Local Authority’s.
Instead I fear that the impact will be far worse that where you can see this sign
and continue to see this sign then there will always be a danger that without a serious investment in to social care and the voluntary agency’s that support vulnerable families and children that this will continue to be a major concern.
“Article 3 (Best interests of the child): The best interests of children must be the primary concern in making decisions that may affect them. All adults should do what is best for children. When adults make decisions, they should think about how their decisions will affect children. This particularly applies to budget, policy and law makers. “
So Mr Gove in the government that does not focus on the rights of the Child, perhaps it is time that this is the change that is enforced. Stop looking else where for the blame, start to implement the concepts of basic rights for children in legislation and policy and lets prevent children from experience loss.
Ask the real people I am told? there is another side to the story and innocent people have been waiting a long time for someone to stand up to the despicable actions of those (few) but nasty social workers that remove children.
Who are these real people and are social workers not real people? perhaps this might be why there is a problem with social work training! For a different view of child abuse, how about one where people strongly believe that those who commit child abuse should be castrated (not my view) but one that is certainly held in The Republic of Moldova . Of course this is an extreme view and may be the polar opposite of those that think children should remain with their parents, even if they are being neglected! But for me this is why social work is so important, because it does not sit in any camp and for many people this is scary and a threat. After all how can each family be treated differently and no same outcome achieved twice?
I blogged about this on ‘Is there anyway to improve?’ and how there are many different perceptions of one snap shot of life. There is also multiple ways that each scenario could end up, and with out everyone wanting to end child neglect it does not really matter which camp you support the outcome will be the same! Children will suffer.
As a social worker, working with children it does make me sad and angry that many adults who argue that they have the best interests of the child at heart; are still only arguing for their own personal gain and feelings. When something goes wrong or a mistake is made the children are used for the reason to make a change rather than being the focus. It is however the adult issue, which remains the subject of the media interest. The media that can not even give respect to the children it believes that it is campaigning for including the Sun in this piece that could not even name Peter Connerly and instead referred to him as ‘Baby P’. The shame of this article makes me sick because it focuses more on the adult writer rather than the tragic story of neglect suffered by Peter Connerly. Or even worse the story of the Rotherham foster carers who want an apology for the children removed from them! After all lets not focus on giving the children a chance to have their future determined through their family proceedings with out any other factors influencing the final outcome.
The real issue of this story is poor communication and the right to privacy for these young Children. Not very exciting and one that you would not often see in the media, however move the victim from the children to the foster carers, add a local election, race and we have a far more interesting story in which to beat the local council and the reputation of all social workers with.
Who are the real people? If you ask me it does not matter who the real people are – It is the children that matter to me, breaking the cycle of neglect and poor parenting YES poor parenting not poor people but poor parenting. Which is why I am interested in early intervention and understanding how each family works and what support is needed to keep children safe. Because I know that being in care is not always the best options but sadly sometimes it is the only option.
Perhaps Mr Gove rather than making wild statements instead you should invest in Social Care and education rather than criticising the service you are pulling apart!