Monthly Archives: January, 2011

Risky do Risky don’t

Have you ever wondered how some people make decisions.  This is what I have been wondering this week as other people’s decision making has been a prominent  issue for me.  I have been working with Young People for over ten years, and like myself and everyone else, when we were in our late teens.  This age is about self learning, understanding how to push boundaries and most importantly learning who we are.

For young people living in care this is not always as easy as it could be.  Mainly because of the fear that some workers have in understanding, managing and assessing risk.  In the case of the young person that I have been working with their is also a fear that the family will make a complaint and threat legal proceedings.  However, the GSCC codes of Practise (2002) 4.1 encourages the importance of Young People taking risks.

So imagine what I am thinking when I find out that a 16 year old girl has had her mobile phone removed from her.  All because she had been out with a friend, and had not checked in when she should have done.  As a result of this incident an inevitable argument leads on to the young person absconding back to her Mum’s home.  Who has ever since enjoyed screaming down the phone not only to me, but also anyone who answers the phone.

What worries and troubles me is that after every phone call, I can hear the frustration in the Mother’s voice that her daughter is still there.  I also know that her daughter will also be sitting there not wanting to be there; yet to scared to tell her Mum that she wants to leave.

What angers me even more is that the workers caring for this young person continue to fail to see the harm that they have caused.  Most importantly for this young person it is about the trust, and attachment issues and her own self confidence, which have been destroyed and betrayed because of the heavy handed approach, to her testing the boundaries around her or more simply put trying to find a boyfriend.  

There is a risk if this young person remains at home that she may not leave.  However, the difficulties lie with her age and the Fraser Guidelines and Gilleck Competence.  This means that if this, has to go to Court for a recovery order under section 50 of the Children Act 1989 there is a strong possibility that the young person could argue to stay with her family and the Judge may grant this.

Ironically by the misunderstanding of what the real risk has been here, by the workers.  The worst outcome has occurred.  There will come a point where the young person will be asked to leave the family home by her mother.  Further reinforcing the rejection she has already suffered throughout her whole life.  The impact of this will further affect her ability to form and maintain relationships.  In desperation that she might be still able to have a relationship with her Mum.    

I hope that when considering risk, that all possibilities are considered and balanced.  That it is important to include the young person in the planning and that they are listened to.  That Honesty is key to the concerns and trust in the plan; and having a good back up plan.  Afterwards, assess whether now is the right time to challenge the young person, or should they be allowed time to appropriately calm down.  More importantly if there has to be a sanction for a behaviour, that it is appropriate for the young person and effective and achievable for them.


College of Hope or College drop out?

Having been a Child Protection Social Worker I know what it is like to spend a whole day sitting in a cold court waiting to be seen by the Judge.  Furthermore, I know and feel completely frustrated every time my detailed and accurate assessments were ignored.  Often due to the very fact of the lack of having a Professional body, to back up my Professional title of Social Worker.  To listen to the Judge order a second assessment by a Psychologist, who every time will take my own assessment and reformat it into their own.  May I add at great expense.

So when I heard that there was going to be a Professional Organisation I was excited at the possibility that now there will be someone championing the work that Social Workers do.  I find it hard to understand why BASW and its resources have not been included in the talks with the College of Social Work  and what this tension will mean to the overall validity of either, for Social Workers.

I am sure in any other setting and business, competition would be good.  But with the current elected party looking to save money on the deficit, puts I feel both projects at risk.  It also leaves me confused as to which, I should be a member of.  And wondering whether I will have time to research both to make the right decision of which to join. 

However, I remain positive that the knowledge Social Workers hold; and if respected in the Legal arena could prevent delay in proceedings, reducing costs and also ensuring that more time can be spent identifying the right long term placement for the children.  Whether this be at home or Adoption.

Telephone call

Have you ever just sat there after a telephone call and never known what to think or say?  That is how I felt after hearing a call this week from a Residential Care Worker.  When I found out that a young person that I work with, received eight months in a Secure Training Centre.  

Hearing this call was particularly hard for me as I have been working with this young man for over five years; and had been the Social Worker, working with him to get the Care Order.  I have seen him grow from a neglected young boy into a troubled young man continuously fighting the demons and secrets he keeps tightly held onto.

With only 6 months left of statutory education, I was working with all professionals to ensure that he was able to leave school with a chance in succeeding in life post 18.  CAMH’s were working hard to engage him in therapy, Education were creating his own special creative package, YOS were working on his anger management and trying to reduce his criminal behaviour.  The young person had even asked for a Physcriatric assessment in his own desperation to understand his behaviour and ask for help.

There are only a few times when working with Teenagers that you can truely feel that you have made progress with them.  In this case with this young man, it was shortly before Christmas when he told me that “had he not been in care, he would have been dead if he was still living at home”. I felt that this had shown a lot of thought about his own circumstances and moreover a sign that he knew he was in the right place.

I know that there is a need to pay the consequences if you have committed a crime.  However, I can not help feel angry for this young man.  Angry that the magistrates did not take the time to listen to his story.  Angry because they reinforced everything I had been trying to prove wrong in his life.  I then stopped, and remembered that he was now sitting alone in a cell, I remembered that he would be searched and the anxiety that this would cause him for a male worker to search him.

My biggest fear that is now he has been introduced to another type of institutional care that he does not become used to it.  That when he comes out that he will still be willing to engage and want to break free of the cycle of self abuse.

What a week!

Have you ever had a week where you are glad that it has ended.  A week where all your plans, meetings, supervisions and visits have to be cancelled to concentrate on an emerging crisis.  That is how my week started and finished.  Working with adolescents can mean that you have to work long hours, in order to provide the support that they require.  

I knew it was going to be a long week the instant I had found out that one of the young unaccompanied asylum seekers I work with had been arrested for rape.  

The reason this was going to be a long week was that his current placement is a semi independent flat.  Above his flat was two young girls sharing.  Making his risk assessment to high for him to remain in the placement, a view shared by the police.

As this young man has yet to be charged there is still a chance that he could be innocent.  So my week starts with him sitting in a reception room, tears flooding down his face and snot hanging from his nose.  I listen carefully as he tells me his story (or his version of it), and explore what he is telling to me to ensure I understand as his English is not his first language.   He asks my advice and looks at me as if I can make this whole mess go away (I wish I could).  The only advice I could give was to hold on to the thought that if he is innocent the truth will come out.

By the next day (Tuesday) I had moved him into temporary accommodation (not easy as all temporary accommodation had been booked in bulk!).  In exploring his housing options I had to consider the other support needed for this young person.  His counselling was in the town, his education, friends.  I also had to consider the safety of other young women, the young girl that he had allegedly raped and also protect him from attacks from angry family members.

I had been asked/requested to speak with his criminal solicitor acting on his behalf.  This conversation did not go in the direction I thought it would.  Afterwards, the risks became real as his story had changed from not having sex to now they had consensual sex.

I found myself struggling with what I was going to do with this young man.  The evidence of the Post traumatic stress disorder he suffers from was becoming clearer.  He was having more frequent episodes of tears,  he was not eating or sleeping.  I try hard to get him extra support from the CAMHS team, but his worker is not around.

Wednesday came and it was time for the young man to answer bail.  I collected him from his accommodation, and he appeared in good spirits.  later at the Police station I was informed I would not be able to stay as he was 17 he did  not need an appropriate adult.  I was relieved as I knew this could go on all night.  So I made my way back to the office to up date my files.

At 5pm the call came – the call that meant what ever personal plans that I had, I would need to cancel.  The Police were worried about his health and had called their doctor to examine the young man.  They quickly found him well for the interview but felt he needed an appropriate adult to look after his emotional well being.  

As the interview began the young person followed his legal advice to the letter.  “No Comment” for five hours as the Police carefully question and try to unpick the gaps in all of their evidence.  As I hear his story again I notice it has changed again, then as I hear the evidence from the victim and another witness I find myself concerned that there is a strong possibility that he has done this.  However, my role for the interview is to ensure the interview can continue and that the questions that are asked do not lead the young person to answer something he does not understand.

After the interview he is bailed for six weeks and is free to leave.  With no other way of getting home.  I find myself taking the young person home at 11pm to his new placement.  I had only been too once.  My Sat Nav (a miracle for social work) is playing up leaving me to find the placement in the dark and I wonder if I will be able to do this.

Thursday and I could really do with it being Friday.  I am pleased to have the morning in a workshop with other ATM’s.  I still have to find another temporary placement for my young man, who I have been told has disappeared making it impossible to get in touch with him.

 I also meet with the Director on a separate matter and she talks to me about staffing and the need for extra staff.  Music to my ears in a time where all vacancy posts have been frozen.  The conversation starts with one post, but by the end we are talking about two posts and myself not case holding.  I find that all of a sudden I am not tired and have a small smile on my face.

Again at 5pm the young unaccompanied asylum seeker arrives at the offices, with know one else around and no money for any other options.  I start to take him to his new placement in rush hour traffic.  When I reach the placement with him, I ensure he is settled in, that he knows where everything is and the local bus routes.  Another late night as I get back home at 7.30pm just in time to see my own children who ask who I am?

Friday at last! so I think as I find out that one of my Social Workers has met an over zealous advocate who tries to single handily from one visit change the age of a another unaccompanied asylum seeker and prevent a planned placement move to a long term placement.  Leaving the worker slightly shaken and unwell and having to go home.  I spend more time than I had speaking with her and reassuring her that she has done nothing wrong and pointing out the errors in the advocates arguments.  I then spoke with the placement to ensure that the plans continued and reinforced our position and that our age assessments was Merton compliant.

Through all of this I had a Student Social Worker starting and I was concious that I still provided her with the support she needed, and ensured that she was making her visits as part of her induction. So by 5pm and the first time in the week I was home on time.

This has been a dilemma of a week with this young man who himself is very vulnerable and barely at this point supporting his own basic needs.  At the same time I am aware of the victim and her own story and the full evidence from the police and the risk that this young man poses to young women.  I fear however that this last week will continue until resolved either way by the Police.

Outcomes for Teenagers

Have you ever wondered what you could achieve with no money, no support, no back up plan, no stable home, no good attachments and a poor peer support network with little education? – You probably have not and why would or should you? This is however the average case for most looked after children and so I was not surprised by reading this article three in four teenagers in care will have criminal conviction by age 22 

Of course for many young people who are in care will be placed in stable long term foster placements and will achieve well or achieve the average.  

However, for a few young people in care multiple placements will happen.  Leaving them placed away from their own support networks, families and being asked to invest in a placement that could be ended quicker than what it took to move them to it.  

The real Social Work is the skill and experience of the worker to engage with these young people.  To recognise the attachment difficulties, to have the confidence to stay focused through the non compliance and the willingness to try a different approach to engender the trust in the young person.  Also more importantly to engage in services that may already be under pressure to cut back, or find voluntary service to meet the gap in needs.  The biggest argument will be with your own management and funding issues.  The constant review of Out of County funding can often prevent these important searches from taking place.

For one of my young people I feel I have succeeded in all of the above in a small way.  The young person had multiple placement moves, failure to engage with previous Social Workers, and attach to carers.  Regularly absconded, self harmed and often had suicidal ideation’s that on two occasions he nearly succeeded in these thoughts.  And was a regular drug user who was on the verge of a custodial sentence. 

This young person is now in a stable placement close to home. Who no longer is self harming, absconding, or having thoughts of suicide.  I have been able to support him to engage with education, therapy.  And still working with the Youth Offending Team to prevent the custodial sentence and looking at a more effective community order.  Yes a secure order was considered for him, and Yes he meet the criteria.  And there was a lot of pressure for this to happen.  But having seen the effect on his older sister who for the past four years has remained in secure.  I could not and did not want this young person to quickly follow in her footsteps.  I do feel rewarded that by not choosing a secure order that in my eyes his outcomes have improved.  The Five Key Outcomes are what we are asked to use to measure this success by, but can these small improvements be measured by these five key outcomes? I would like to think that they are.  The young person is alive and happy, but what about the long term and what happens when he turns 18 years of age.  When he will no longer be eligible for any statutory support other than After Care and two visits a year minimum until he is 21.

Lets hope that by the age of 22 this young person will not be the three in four with a custodial sentence.

Assessments! Assessments! Assessments!

Have you ever been sitting in your office and it is nearing the end of the week. When all you are hoping is to escape early.  When just as you start to pack up, you hear your name being called.  This was my pleasure this week as I ventured over to my manager, operations manager and another manager.  My bonus for doing this I found was an extra assessment, that was supposed to have been completed by a colleague two months ago.  

I can still here the workers comments now “Yeah! no problem you can rely on me!” then to add insult “When I say I am going to get the job done I will!”  Now, on top of my seemingly ever increasing case load I am reassessing the young persons leaving care needs!   Guidance on Transitions for Young People in Care

 I started by reading what has already been completed, and could quickly see why I had been asked to revisit the assessment.  By far my favourite part so far has been in the Accommodation Section under – other options: “is the young person aware of other options? answer: The young person is aware of other options – Future Needs: The young person will access other options if needed”.  Should the young person want to access other options I hope he knows what they are because I could not even guess what he might think they are.

“The main purpose of the Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000 is to improve the life chances of young people living in and leaving local authority care. Its main aims are: to delay young people‚Äôs discharge from care until they are prepared and ready to leave; to improve the assessment, preparation and planning for leaving care; to provide better personal support for young people after leaving care; and to improve the financial arrangements for care leavers.” Leaving Care Act Guidance and regulations

When completing any assessment it is best to be completed in conjunction with the young person and all of the people that the young person see’s as important.  The assessment framework triangle  encourages the assessment to look at all of the domains interlinking and always with the child at the centre.  

2011 Happy New Year?

Welcome to my first blog on “How not to do Social Work”, it seems fitting that it is also the first one of a new year.  I saw the New Year in with my wife, and I was surprised when she informed me after I wished her a Happy New Year “What was there to be happy about?”  I should not have been surprised as for the past two years we have not had the best of years.   Despite my wife being sponsored by her employer to complete her own Social Work training, and my own promotion to Assistant Team Manager.

I however, try to be more positive in looking forward to what this year may bring both at work and at home.  And despite David Cameron’s, New Year Speech saying 2011 is going to be a difficult year, as we take hard but necessary steps to sort things out.” I look forward to what challenges the next twelve months brings.

The first challenge for me will be my Student Social Worker starting in two weeks.  A young and bright Masters Student, who is very keen and eager to work with teenagers with mental health issues.  I am reliably informed that she is looking forward to working within our team and learning all she can from myself (oh dear).  

The other challenge I have to deal with is a pending threat of Judicial review from one of my unaccompanied Asylum seekers, who despite all of the support being offered to him still wants the impossible and is trying to use a massive hole in the Section 20 Wishes and Feelings to try and get it.

I will also at some point during this year look at my own development, and complete further training to develop my own carer and consider what direction I want to go in.  This will I guess become clearer as the year goes on, and the scale of the cut backs becomes known.

So I will look forward to writing here how this progresses and also how I feel during it all.