Having got myself all excited about our Local Authority signing up for the ASWP (Advanced Social Work Professional) status I have been bitterly disappointed this week. The scheme run and organised by the children’s workforce development council is brilliant. It is an excellent way of keeping excellent and skilled social workers working with children, that may not want to develop upwards to become managers.
The ASWP status aims to make a difference to the lives of children and families by:
- Encouraging excellent social workers to remain on the front line.
- Promoting standards which other social workers can aspire to.
- Strengthening professional leadership by combining experience with the latest thinking.
- Enabling employers to identify staff capable of greater autonomy.
The last week of school term is never a good week to try and find yourself some time to do anything for yourself. So far there has been a leavers BBQ and leavers assembly. Swimming lessons x2 football training x2 Cubs BBQ and then the Cub holiday meeting that for some reason I volunteered to help out with by driving the mini bus, and also sleeping out rough with some of the cubs who want to try this. Every evening I come back feeling drained! and making this week feel like it has been the longest ever at work. Of course it is the same as every other week.
However, I have still been inspired by something this week! I have been asked by the team that looks after education for looked after children, to address and speak with the head teachers in our local authority about the role of social workers and are day to day work. Why do I feel that this is important? embarrassing to say it as obvious and as simple as the amount of time young people spend in school with their teachers every day. Teachers can inspire, Teachers can detect early on with the right training and knowledge signs of abuse including neglect.
As a social worker this is very important when working with children and young people to achieve positive outcomes. But it also essential that in times where there is huge economic strain and schools have been given control of LAC children’s personal education budget. That teachers and headteachers in particular understand the difficulties that looked after children can potential have.
It is also a time when some local authorities are trying to save money or be clever with joined up resources and knowledge by replacing the director for Children and the director for Adult services with just one director as described in the Community Care article called “is reunification of social services departments right for families” The answer for families is probably no! However, working in a team where some children need a smooth transition. I can see the obvious advantage that this would provide, rather than what now exists is a scrap and argument and finger pointing argument if the referral is not made in time to complete a smooth transfer process. And lets be honest there never is a smooth transition even when the needs are obvious and clear that the young person will need continuing support for the rest of their life.
To make this week worse I cancelled my annual leave for next week in order to save it for childcare later in the year. To find everyone in the office now talking about their own holidays they have booked for next week has made everyday a challenge.
This week I was asked whether it is easy for a social workers to become complacent in the work we do? I would like to argue that for me, that I would not let this happen in my own practise. However, I know I am not the only social worker practising in this country.
Today has been an important day for me, my two sons went to their new class today. And for my oldest this meant an exciting day at a new school. As I sat and listened to my wife as she shares the joy with me after she has left our son and the information session. I receive a call from my manager. I find that I have been invited to meet the director at the managers meeting. Which I soon learn is actually the Cabinet member responsible for fighting on behalf of all Children Services.
As an experienced practitioner I will always say that there is nothing that can shock me! But Politics and logic still make me cough with surprise. The meeting starts well as I sit with the other managers in the looked after side of our service. Tell me about your job? tell me about the excuses you have in why you can not do this? BANG!!! excuse me? EXCUSES??? “Oh yes that is not a good word to use!” Reasons then!
A good start from the cabinet member responsible for arguing on the behalf of all of Children Services. Someone who can champion at a national level and local level for the improvement, and increased funding for all Children in our Local Authority. Please, show some understanding of the difficulties that as practitioners and service providers that we have. Please do not rely on news coverage of Baby Peter as a base line for all work being done with Children.
Tell me about all of the good work that you do with the young people? …..Well there is……Okay enough of that tell me about adoption? Sorry, did you not just ask about the good work we do? Yes well, I want to know about adoption.
Its like sitting having a conversation with someone who is visiting from a different planet or maybe different time.
To make it worse my favourite comment of the meeting was “isn’t is great that middle class families rescue working class children for fostering and adoption?” Wow, this is a real problem where we are. The majority population in our Authority are affluent people who are very successful. They may not even see the hardships and daily challenges that the rest of the population deal with. Their only understanding of Social Care issues is what they read in the news papers. Therefore we are only able to recruit very few foster carers to meet the need. So I am not really surprised by this comment, but I am angry! The value judgement that only the middle class can parent, that abuse and neglect only happens with working class people! No this is not true.
Her agenda to take back to the cabinet was yes everyone is doing a good job, we need more business support to help out – Yes, but more Social Workers is more important. So do I feel confident about the future of Children Services – No. And if this is a reflection of a Tory government do I feel confident – No. The final parting words “I can not go back and bang on about Baby Peter as the cabinet switch off” really? are we still not learning from baby Peter and the mistakes made… maybe not
I guess all I can say is if you represent Children or any Vulnerable group, please please believe in it. Challenge the status quo, make improvements but not cuts. All Children will grow up; and will if we do our job properly pay back all that has been invested in to them through working.
Have you ever felt out of control, had the feeling of not being able to control what you might do next? of course we all have moments when we feel like this. However, somewhere inside our body and or mind kicks into overdrive and it passes. Maybe with the help of someone else or maybe because we have removed ourselves from the situation.
For many young people who live in care do not always find this possible. Many will not come into care until they are already experienced severe neglect or harmful behaviours. The effect of which means that the young person could experience placement breakdowns, poor school attendance and attainment. The young person may struggle with making positive new attachments. What does this mean? It means that the carer will have to work hard to develop trust, and a positive relationship that can begin to address the basic parenting needed to provide the skills and resilience to help the young person.
It is very important to remember that this is not true of all children in care for those that have experienced a positive start their chances are more positive.
I believe that this is why our early years is so important, it does not prevent harm as the young person grows up, it does not make us invincible. But what it does do is help with settling into a new placement, it does increase your chances of continuing in education, it does help with being able to talk with adults and make friends all important to help with good outcomes.
The series Kids behind bars has shown the challenges that some of these young people have experienced and what may happen. It shows how young people with chaotic lifestyles arrive at secure and struggle initially with the strict boundaries and then with the intense personalised programme thrive when care is provided rigidly but also adapted for the right level.
This week I have worked hard with one young person helping them understand how their behaviour is leading them to a secure placement. It has been hard for me knowing that this is not always a positive outcome. Every time the young person goes to a secure unit that the chances that the good work that happened before may not always be repeated increasing the risk of a dependence on this life style. The danger is a reliance and dependence on this life style that promotes repeat offending into adulthood.
Having watched the programme, worked in residential and my own experiences of working with young people that have been in secure there is good work being done with young people in secure homes. However, this work needs to be followed through afterwards by the social worker, and youth offending worker if there is one. Where this is not being done and the right procedures not followed the Howard league provides support and advice for people that have been in Prison or secure unit.