A critical time for all young people is in their late teens, understanding who you are is often a complicated task on its own. For some not knowing where you have come from or if you are a separated child from another country this process becomes even harder. Over many years of practise that there is no easy or quick fix to help young people work out this process. Indeed for some the early years neglect and abuse establishes a chaotic behaviour that is misunderstood and occasionally poorly managed.
It is understandable then why the Government would want Local Authorities to focus on early years intervention. Despite the major floor in its plan in cutting budgets to all services, which inevitably will reduce the referrals and early identification when essentially they are needed. Furthermore, many parents may have already experienced disorganised parenting themselves and fail to identify the need to change their own parenting style.
The damage to the young person is often devastating and will impact on their ability to form new relationships and attachments. For me this is key in my role supporting social workers writing assessments of need and pathway plans. With the current pressures on budgets to move young people out of often expensive out of county residential placements into semi supported living, it is essential to get this right.
This step down is needed and for many young people turning 18 years of age it is a shock to know that suddenly to find it removed. And for many years young people who have been angry that they have been in care and have been told by their families that they can return suddenly find out that their family is not there for them.
What many young people need is for their social workers to be able to spend more quality time unpicking these key issues. Social work is not about ticking boxes and assessing need without following through with the assessment made. For many local authorities they will want to reduce placement costs and one way to positively due this is by allowing positive social work to happen. Either through creative thinking or longer term projects addressing need. Running support groups and challenging myths.
This week I heard that a young person had taken their own life because of their placement. I disagree that it was the placement that resulted in the young person sadly taking their life. Instead, it was likely the early childhood trauma that had not been able to be addressed in order for the young person to feel safe and develop a resilience in their life.
And for young people in care that sense of feeling alone in the Universe is something that I will never experience, so need to be mindful of and ensure my social workers understand. For many others who are fortunate enough to be able to enter into care at an early stage they will be able to develop the resilience needed to help them through their adolescents and into adulthood.
I guess the message is that Social Work is essential in supporting young people and reducing staff will increase placement costs as placements breakdown. Increasing staffing budgets will reduce placement costs as placements are maintained and better outcomes are achieved by the young people.