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.

One response

  1. I know what you mean about advocates. A good one can do a tremendous amount of good but an ill-informed one can cause chaos.

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