Monthly Archives: November, 2011

Child Protection

If you could point a finger at someone to blame for the cuts that we are starting to shoulder and feel the bite of who would you point it at.  I would imagine that it would be like a game of spin the bottle but no one wanting to get in the cupboard with Local Authority’s.  

Its hard to imagine that anyone would want to do that anyway? after all in some areas they are one of the biggest employer (or were).  But it is like being dragged to the hair dressers when you are a little child and you want to let your hair grow long.  “You will make the cuts” – “you will have your hair cut!” So 25% goes straight away from every service including Child Protection and the specialist services.  I mean its a Tory council so there can not be pot holes in the road.
But as a Children’s Social Worker should I be pleased to hear that finally a review of the cuts is being asked for  by the four Children’s Commissioners.  Although we already know the answers, and why the NSPCC argued that it is a false economy to implement general cuts to all services.
Could I be to harsh about the impact of the cuts, should I be looking at ways of supporting the community to help others within the street in child protection issues.  How to have those sensitive, difficult conversations with their neighbours about domestic abuse, substance misuse, physical, emotional, sexual abuse and neglect.  I have lived in a street where the neighbours have wanted to know all about everything that is happening in your life.  Where it is common for people to walk in and make the tea.  The trouble with this is if you can not get on with everyone the situation often becomes worse.
Its not all doom and gloom, there is opportunity for groups to come together to manage community centres and run breakfast clubs, after school clubs, support groups, parenting classes, keep fit classes, cooking classes.  Managed and promoted by the community for the community.  Providing support from people who are living in the community and understand the difficulties that are specific to that area.  Therefore the support being provided is relevant, necessary and needed.
Child protection is important at all levels and can not be cut in the community, or at the higher level.  Because the impact on Children does not last just until 18 years of age, learned behaviour is hard to change especially if there has been damage done.
So to the Children’s Commissioners speak to the young people, hear their complaints about their care, accommodation, access to education, contact with family and their future prospects.  Challenge the Government on the cuts, and ensure the right services are provided for all Children and Young People.
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Caring

Why did you become a social worker? it is a weird question and each of us have our own reasons as to why we trained, studied and qualified as a social worker.  The reason I am now wondering this is because I was asked or I suppose told that the reason why social workers do this is because they care! Now, this is right, but is it why we trained and worked hard to become social workers?

Being on twitter and reading the feed stream of tweets the answer to this is clear that caring does not get close to describing what social work is or should be doing.  Reading articles in Community Care (now online – Boo!) and in the daily news print highlights some of the issue that as social workers we have to deal with on a daily basis.

Poverty, Unemployment, lack of Education, Drugs, Domestic abuse, Services being cut, Budgets being cut.  This is also without Benefit changes, Mental Health, Physical health issues and other social issues.  As social workers there is a need to challenge these changes, challenge societies views of discrimination, racism, and abuse and neglect.  Sadly this is always going to be a difficult subject, as profit and greed are big motivator for all business, including banks and the current government.

And so to make the changes necessary to promote everyone’s improvement in poverty, housing, employment and their mental health this profit will need to be eaten into.  Something, that know one wants to do as they enjoy their own benefits of being in power and the profit that can be made during this time and afterwards.

Caring is not enough to describe the work that is undertaken, it may fuel the passion and fight.  For the long hours of reading, assessing and visiting to ensure positive outcomes for the clients that they are working with.  Often this work is unpaid, undervalued and not rewarded.  Caring may ensure the report is finished and done well for the person it is about, but it will not always get the service you want or where you want it.

Long week

Is it possible to keep positive in social work at present after the amount of cuts that have already been made and the level of cuts that have not yet come?  For me the answer has to be yes, why? in my second student social work placement in the youth service, I was taught that there is no money for projects so there was a clear message that was all about participation of young people.

Participation was providing a service that the young people wanted rather than what you thought they needed.  The result was more young people involved in the group work sessions.  The budget was zero, so resources had to be begged, borrowed or applied for cleverly from different charities and again required the participation of the young people to make the applications.

I think for me this helped me learn to have a more positive attitude and outlook to social work.  My thinking became three dimensional and enabled me to be a more holistic practitioner.

However, this week I have observed within the office that several workers did not share my own positive attitude.  Something that is becoming more obvious within the work place and one that is not welcome.

I guess the recent changes to their working environment, and increased pressures on budgets have changed their views and perceptions.  Social work is already hard enough, so to lose the passion and spirit needed to challenge the system is worrying.  Especially as we have a lot of students working and learning on the same floor.  Even returning newly qualified social workers need to be in a positive learning and environment so that their own practise can develop.

It is also important to stay positive in order to ensure that communication between worker and manager is done effectively.  Without this, a mistake could happen and as a result of this increased confrontation, which is not needed further creating a negative environment to work in.

However, positive change is needed for social work to inspirer workers who are losing their passion, worrying about their jobs and worrying about the service that is being provided.  Votes are easy to get on a promise, lives are hard to influence without positive workers to do it.

The bite is getting tighter!

Could you save money when working with children? Would you be able to decide who can have a therapeutic placement or who would have to leave a foster placement to live alone or in a shared house?

It’s not easy, is it? The impact of this decision could have a lasting impact on a young persons life. It could mean the difference of managing adulthood in work and being happy or living a life in chaos and always needing a service.

For young people in care, I worry that the social work assessments are slowly being replaced by the need to keep budgets balanced. Team Managers are being trained to manage their own budgets, so that the blame for over spends can be placed at individual teams rather than the service.

Pressure is being placed on recording almost day to day why young people are still in their foster placements! Why are they still placed out of county in Residential? With the same information being requested in different formats.

The reason for the information is that the budget only seven months after restarting, is going to be over spent!

If you are in agreement with the budget cuts are you happy knowing that your profit and luxury is at the expense of a young person needing quality therapeutic intervention. Knowing that this young person will grow up struggling needing more support.

Big Society is not going to be able to support the pressure of placements and nor will encouraging more private business because there is still no money to pay for the placements. Social Enterprise will also struggle to find the money to pay for services, placements.

For the young people more uncertainty and confusion and worry will impact upon their integration and development into their adult world and society!

No new Mail!

One useful tool Social Workers have, is knowledge and information. Being able to access information to aid assessments quickly helps to develop and maintain relationships. Whilst also making these assessment more accurate and essential to the families it involves.  


The note book and pen is a useful tool, it allows thoughts to be noted and reflected upon.  Its a tool that can be given to a child to help them express what they want to say.  It does have its weakness that in our changing world of social work that with office space shrinking and storage space non existing.  Keeping notes and finding them again is becoming difficult, with pressure mounting for them to be added to our computer systems, quickly.


I had been quite lucky with a 3G laptop and being able to access our systems where ever I might be.  It enabled me to be able to retain knowledge that with everything else would have been to to much to manage.  It meant that instead of delay I was able to get information and send information without having to go back into the office first.  It not only helped me but the agencies that I was working with, and promoted working relationships.  


This may not sound like modern technology, but for me and my practise this was a useful tool in getting information quicker.  It enabled me to be a more mobile working social worker and saved me time especially if I had to go out of county for a visit or if I had to sit in court all day waiting for an hours direction hearing.  As we waited for this to be trialled within the service, the spirit of the trial was lost.  Instead mobile working became flexible working from home and now the contract has finished so has my mobile working.


Being able to access your e-mails and respond to them is an important part of a social workers job.  But being able to access the child’s electronic file is also important, and would help practitioners to double check information and make decisions and risk assessments faster.  


Computer programmes has been previously developed to enable young people to share their views for Looked After Children’s Reviews.  An idea that recently seems to have disappeared where I am.  However, with smartphones and apps there is a chance for further development in this area of engagement.  Not just with Social Work, buts Schools and maybe CAMHS to.


I have had no information as to why this was stopped or whether any thought had been given to this.  Instead I found one e-mail saying we maybe be allocated Blackberries! this may mean I am losing my hot desk or it may mean I have to learn a new password.  I also hope that Social Work loses its fear of technology and learns how to communicate through this medium to safeguard the vulnerable people we work with.

Smile on my face

There is not many times in my life where I have felt extremely happy or that I feel I have achieved something extra special.  Social Worker is a battle either to keep families together or to get funding to provide the right service to the young people you work with.  More frustrating than not this is often left by senior managers to the last minute.  However, for me this week I have been given a smile on my face as my faith in Social Work is temporarily restored.  I have found out that my wife who has been studying Social Work for the past three years has a job in her service area.


Over the past two and a bit years I have met many Social Work students of varying degrees of competence.  For those that are really good the battle is the same for those who will get there.  Finding work! The Social Work course rightly so, is not easy and it try’s to make you think long and hard about decisions you make.  It does not however make you employable so here is the risk that many student face wanting to take those first steps into statutory Social Work.  So with every assignment completed and every placement completed the worry is there – will there be a job at the end of the course? And for every student reading this I can understand this worry.  For going into Social Work is not just about wanting to work with people, it is more than this.  It is a passion about working and supporting vulnerable people.  Despite the negative press Social Workers are always doing more and more than what is practical and manageable to ensure the people they are working with get a service.

So although this is a small thing thing for me, for my wife and many other student social workers passing the degree in Social Work is not a small thing.  There have been many sacrifices, late nights and tears and finally on the home run despite all the work that is still left.  There is light at the end of the tunnel!