Monthly Archives: April, 2011


Have you ever had a day where you have tried to get into the office early to get a head start on the work you have to do.  Even if it is ten minutes to read through the mountains of e-mails that seem to be sent from the time you leave the office until the following morning when you get back in.  The pressure and expectations placed on us as Social Workers is for perfect work to be completed all of the time.  I understand why, because if the plan is not perfect, you will have to redo the work over again.  And in a day where every minute is precious, every visit a report and every telephone call creating two new jobs.  This causes delay in completing actions for the Young People Social Workers are working with.
Some mornings like this morning, even those ten minutes of catch up time don’t happen.  As soon as the computer has loaded up (and with the added security this is not a fast process), the first call came in, our local Missing Persons Officer who has been on leave wanted to ensure I was aware of the high risk case who had self harmed and “What was I going to do about it?”
It was a clue as to how the day was going to follow; I was pleased to find out that this was old information.  I was even more pleased to find out that the worst thing that had happened this weekend had been a bad case of sun burn I could live with this.  However, I was quickly finding out that both the Community Mental Health team and another Community Team for Adult Services were unable to attend a Management meeting to look at the transfer of this case from Children Services to Adult Services.  A smooth transfer would be preferable to ensure the continued well being of this Young Person, but instead with three weeks until her 18th birthday I fear this is going to be a fight for a service right up until her birthday.
There is an advantage with getting as many professionals around a table to formulate the plan.  Looking at what needs to be achieved and what the Young Persons wants to achieve from their life with the people who are able to help and support this plan is essential.
I was pleased however, that I was not the only one.  My Manager Slips in that on top of the ever growing number of placement break downs, Young People who have been missing (and considering the unusual hot weather, could have been higher).  That again there has been a new challenge one for an age assessment.
In a time where Public Service cuts, and pressures on Social Work teams to ensure savings made do not impact too much on the front line services our argument for another Social Worker continues.  Days like this can leave me feeling frazzled and the pressure to absorb cases from other frontline teams means that other Social Workers also feeling frazzled.  Every spare minute quickly becomes precious and fewer and far between and often at the sacrifice of something else.

Carer Cuts

Can you remember your carer’s advice before Connexions was created? For me it is so long ago my own memory of it is very vague.  At most it was a one hour lesson and answering some questions on a computer programme.  I am still delighted that my chosen carer was on that list.  Looking back now, that was the total amount of my carer’s advice.  The rest was down to me and luck and a lot of pressure – I mean support from my family.
Having worked closely with Connexions for the past year, I can see an immense benefit for this service.  For some Young People they will know instantly what they will do in the future.  Some Young People will they will be lucky enough to go down an interest that may lead them into a carer.  However, there is a whole host of Young People from all parts of Society that do not fall into these categories.  They have no support from family, no positive role models and may not have been looked after by the Local Authority.  Their education quickly becoming low on their agenda as the need to survive in a hard-hitting Society increases.
There continues to be a rise in the numbers of Young People who are unemployed.  Leaving School and not finding work, or having College course qualifications that don’t support their job applications.  And at this point I do worry about my own children, and where they will find work when they are older.  It seems with the loss of Woolworths that there seems to be a loss of high street jobs, with a trend moving towards online shopping continues to spread.  This may be easier however, if you do live in a bigger town or city.
Therefore Connexions is not just about carer’s advice.  It is a safe place to visit, where staff are friendly, and have experience to support Young People with Teenage Pregnancy, Counselling, Substance Misuse.  They work with lots of different teams to provide support to all Young People.  Connexions run short courses with employers that could lead to employment; they advertise jobs appropriate for Young People.  Connexions are also in Colleges and support Young People to apply for College and find the right College course for them helping Young People to return to education.
So it saddens me as a Professional and as a Father knowing that this service is going to be phased out and replaced with a more generic service.  Where carer’s advice will return to School’s for the Young People.  Some Connexions have already gone from the town centre making it harder for Young People to gain help and support.
In today’s Society we are being encouraged to look and talk about “Big Society” it appears where people are no longer able to expect to get ‘face to face’ support.  Instead you will need to have the confidence and ability and determination to find out the information for yourself using the internet (if you have access).  Or maybe joining the many at your local job centre and argue and fight the bureaucracy there for information and support.
Connexions is a positive service for all Young People and one that promotes the five Key Outcomes and also supports Young People in our communities.

Scented Candles

Have you ever wondered why so many teenage foster placements break down? last week I wondered this’ as I spent the whole week supporting different young people and their carers to prevent this from happening.  One in particular I was not able to prevent from breaking down.  The Young Person asked to leave her placement for lighting candles to mask cigarette smoke.  The final straw for the carer.  

Although I suspect in this case the carer was all to pleased to be rid of this Young Person.  Because her needs were slightly more than the average teenager.  This is the trouble that I am finding more often than not when looking for placements.  “low risk” for anything other than residential, who are all to happy to work with Young People with slightly more challenging needs and additional support needed.

The problem is does this work? No…… does not!

A new company in our area providing semi supported living advertised their two vacancy’s “Only low risk Young People should be considered!” What worries me is that even low risk young people need support, they need guidance and someone to listen.  They have friends and family and anyone of these could be used by someone to break the placement down.

For many Young People foster care may never work, as considered in research good practice when working with refugee and asylum seeking children. This is also the same for many young people not just Asylum seekers; but this should not discouraged as a route for others.

It seems that the system wants you to move on at 18 years of age whether you are ready or not.  But if you are not ready your options are no better.  Often the only options are Foyers, or YMCA’s.  Not that I would criticise these placements, just that there is not enough of them or enough funding for support within them.

Also I worry that for some young people the only way they are going to know how to live on their own; is by living in an environment where there is no staff change overs or handover meetings.  Where the main carer can offer support and develop skills to encourage independent living.  However, this will not always be easy and the carer will need to consider that the young person may be suffering from emotional difficulties and maybe even Post traumatic stress disorder, from either being placed into care or a traumatic event in their life.  

This can often mean that the behaviour is looked at first rather than the real support that is needed.  Of course this is just not support from the foster carer but from everyone working with the young person. The outcome, greater chance of independent living or some of the skills required to make it work.

But please consider that when fostering Adolescents that every notice and placement move may reinforce their own self belief and self worth.  Making it harder for the next placement to work.

Diary of a Social Worker

A quick look at a typical week for me.


Monday’s always start with a rush and my Children asking for me to take them to school.  Thankfully, they accept me collecting them later for their swimming lessons.  I never worry whether I will find a desk or not as in our open plan office this can be an issue.  I stopped being precious about that a long time ago.  My first appointment is with my Manager and a Council Member who has been chosen as contact lead for our team.  A productive meeting, and great to meet someone from the Council interested in Children in Care.  As usual my next meeting is straight after; and is my Student’s mid way review.  I arrive a few minutes late, and offer my apologise as we review the placement, and my Students progress.  I have time for a quick working lunch, and finally check my e-mails.  Sitting with the team means I am also able to respond quicker to their queries and offer informal supervision and case guidance.  Monday’s I also leave early to take my Children to their swimming lessons, but today I left my work phone on and receive a call at 5.30pm as a Young Person has gone missing from their placement, and asking what she needed to do!


Even before I sit down today I know its going to be busy.  The missing young person is still missing, and another young person living in London has been involved in some gang incident and has to move placement quickly for fear of retaliation.  On top of this the allocated Social Workers for these two cases are both on training, essential for their practise.  So as the Case Manager I am left to find a solution for these two young people.  This quickly becomes the only thing that I am doing.  I have also got a Young Person turning 18 that would benefit from a Adult service, however I quickly realise after checking the intranet and speaking with Adult services that this will not be happening.  After some good work, my Duty Social Worker goes to visit the Young Person who had been missing and return them to their placement. I almost chuckle as I shortly receive a telephone call from the Duty worker “they have not turned up!, that never happens to me!” after giving some advice down the phone, the day has finished and I have to negotiate with the Police, EDT and the foster carer what will happen out of hours. This makes me late leaving the office, and means I am running late to collect my Children from their after school club.  Thankfully both the staff and my Boy’s were happy.


Awful Wednesday or Black Wednesday as dubbed my Labour and the press.  I started the morning by doing     Peer Supervision, talking about writing Pathway plans and the significance for these.  Sadly I was met with a lot of complaints from some of the workers that are under a lot of pressure.  I can understand this, but explain the process again and supported by the team as they begin to understand the reasoning behind it.  I spend the afternoon reading through paperwork, and making a referral to a residential unit for another placement move. The Sun is out today and this has also lifted the mood within the office.


I start the morning with a discussion with my Senior Managers, who were asking whether my student was okay from last Friday’s serious case management oversight meeting.  I explained that she was okay, and wanted to join our team.  (We are desperate for an extra post to be created) and I again stress the pressures of the team.  I am given a glimmer of hope as this is acknowledged by the Senior Managers and confirm they have until October to create an extra post for the student! Thursday Afternoon I am out of the office and driving to a local Young Offenders training facility to attend an early release meeting.  I have to admit I was impressed with the work they had done with this Young Person and could see how much the Young Person had needed and enjoyed the structure and education!  I also made a good contact within CAMHS (Child Adolescent Mental Health Service) to look at an alternative therapy for LAC children who can not engage with group work sessions.


After dropping my Children off to school I rush to my first meeting at a Children’s home to attend a professionals meeting to review the risk surrounded one of their Young People moving on.  After the meeting, a change in perception was created from the Children’s home so I requested an update to their assessment report, and a detailed chronology to understand the Young Person’s behaviour.  The Social Worker, stays on to explain this to the Young Person and the plan created.  Who does not accept this and packs his bags to leave.  I spend the afternoon with my manager, discussing cases, case allocations and development and implementation of the New Regulations. 

The week ends with some small steps forward for the Young People and for some, Monday will mean we will start again to help them reach their outcomes.

Care Home Worker

Sometimes I am unable to watch programmes that may be interesting, and in the case of Neil Morrissey Care Home Kid this was true.  However, thanks to the BBC iplayer I was able to watch the two programmes back to back.  And I am glad I did.

Working in Children’s Social Care and having worked in several Children Homes I was touched by his story, and the story of the Young People he spoke with during the show.  I could not help but think back about the work I have done, and the impact that this will have had on the Young People I worked with during this time.  

I started working with Children in the summer of 1999 post the Children Act 1989 and the start of the LAC process and a more active recording, and more accurately of the Child’s journey through the care system.  It was also after the Warner report and the implementation of a safer recruitment process for staff working with vulnerable children (at least a start towards achieving this).

I am aware that no matter how good the staff team, that residential care will ever replace the family, for some Young People.  Or even always be a positive experience.  But, it should be safe.  The staff should be positive about working with Young People, and show this in their commitment to them.

When I started working with vulnerable children my experience was very limited.  I could sense from the interview with the Manager, and Head of Care that there was this positive commitment from them.  And nearly 12 years on I still speak with NT and TP, who now run their own Children’s homes, and are looking to support Young People with their Independence and leaving care.  Their inspiration helped me stay focused and complete my own Social Work training.

I remember my first shift being a Waking Night Shift.  My co-worker was an agency member of staff (an Educational Social Worker if I can remember correctly!) The Young People had all settled on time.  And as an Adult I was left thinking did I want to do this? I was quickly mindful that I had a choice and for the Young People living there, did not!  It was not until the first night where I experienced challenging behaviour, that I found my own passion with working with Young People.

Listening to Young People and allowing them to understand why they were in Care seemed to enable me to develop good relationships with the Young People I worked with.  As my experienced gained so did my understanding of living in care with it.

Even with a good understanding, I know this would never make every experience a positive experience for each Young Person.  But what I have learned has helped me as a practising Social Worker.  It helps in looking at the finer details in the care planning of the Young People I now work with.  It helps me with my assessments and exploring deeper than just the behaviour.  It also helps me when visiting placements to understand whether it will be the right placement for that Young Person.

It has also made me frustrated that with everything that has been learnt from institutional care, that some homes continue to run in this manner.  On a daily basis I receive daily recordings about how the Young People have misbehaved.  Reading the reports I wonder do they realise that by engaging the Young People and talking with them, that these behaviours could be reduced.

I guess what is important is to listen to the young person, and by listening I mean actively listen to both the verbal and non verbal communication.  And inspire, and promote the Young Persons aspirations and if not possible explain why, and help towards a more achievable goal.

Neil Morrissey’s documentary gave an honest and frank image of being in Care, it took Neil on a brave journey.  But the lessons from his Journey are still important today.

Most importantly at 18 the Case is not closed!