Monthly Archives: April, 2012

Gathering the data

Time is really running short now with just under four weeks left to gather my data and analysis what I have found in a meaningful way to write up in just 8000 words!

I have not been sitting in a blind panic since I last wrote about my research, and the danger of this project is that it is in addition to my day to day work.  The result is as can be expected that with the end of one financial year that I have had to complete the performance appraisals with the social workers that I supervise.  I have had to manage long term absence and balance the needs of the young people.  Which meant putting more pressure on the social workers who were in the office, and in turn give more support to ensure that they did not have their own meltdown’s and go off sick.

All in all a difficult time of the year with the social workers I supervise walking around in a mild panic about how I will review their year.  And along in my own head, I have all the thoughts about my own research that I jot down and stash away.

However, when planning my data gathering I was allowed to be convinced that recording the interview will allow me to capture more information and be more focused and approachable during the interview.  Great! that is exactly what I want more participation and therefore more honest answers to the questions I was going to ask.

What was I doing? this is a small piece of research for my post qualifying award in social work. Some people will know that when I sat down on saturday to type up the recordings that this was a painfully slow process.  What was one hour recording took up the better part of the whole day to stop – start play, pause and record.  Never mind the fear that I had that I might hit the delete button and lose the lot! Do not get me wrong it was so tempting and the delete button was the biggest button on my rather useful iPhone that I used to record the interview with.

Also the child in me was so tempted just to hit the big red button! 

And after six hours I was very tempted!

However, some sound advice was given to me – and the logic was like waking up fresh.  What was I looking for and what was the purpose? The recordings did not just give me an accurate understanding of the interview but a real chance to listen to what was being said.  Something, that I might have missed if I had just been reading the words.

Although verbal communication is a small part of how we communicate, the way the answer were delivered gave an added extra meaning that could have been lost if I had written it down.

So what was I looking for? what were the patterns and themes that were being discussed and shared with me.  After playing the interviews through several times these started to jump out of the sounds and in to defined groups.

So with my recordings made easier, I was given the next bit of advice, remember to keep a few sentences for quotes to be used in the research project.  Simple advice that may appear obvious, unless you have just spent a long time breaking your back painfully making accurate transcripts of your interview.  I would recommend if you choose to do this to ensure you have plenty of coffee and a comfortable chair.

I still have one interview to gain and then I will be able to start meaningfully writing up my research project.  What I have learnt so far has been incredible about the amount of preparation needed and why your methodology is so important.

I will continue and hope that others will want to do this.  Do not be put off and the learning from exploring a subject you enjoy enhances your social work practise and also provides a better service for the people you are working with.

Children are the future!

One of the great joys of Social Work is that you can never be right, well at least that’s how it appears or portrayed by the media.  And in a blog post by Abe Laurens in the ‘not so big society’ titled ‘Shine a light’ illustrates rather well how the media portrays one image whilst the research points in a different direction.

However, children are the future of our world so it is therefore important to safeguard their well-being; and prevent harm that will affect them for the rest of their lives.  And by harm we are talking about significant harm.

But what did catch my eye this week was a Blog posted on the Community Care Children’s service blog post about neglect! and what is good enough parenting? A term so heavily used in Care Proceedings and Child Protection.  Action for Children in their recent report found on the blog or here that:

  • ” Two-thirds (67%) feel that the law on parenting is confusing.
  • Nearly three-quarters (72%) agree that there is no common understanding of what ‘good enough’ parenting is.
  • Only 16% agree that the law should not intervene in how people choose to raise their children.
  • Most parents (59%) believe that the state has a duty to intervene.
  • When asked what would help parents to meet their responsibilities, two-thirds (66%) call for a clear law which can be understood by all.
  • Support services were identified as the key way to help parents if things go wrong (73%). Action for Children 2012″

The main reason for this is because

“In April next year the law on neglect will be 80 years old – Action for Children does not want to see that anniversary come and go without government commitment that it will be changed so that more children are protected.”

For those of you who are a parent, or planning to be a parent there is always a worry about whether you are making the right decisions for your children.  The worry and guilt if you say ‘No’ and whether your children will forgive you for saying ‘No’.  Of course they do! and from this develops their trust and love in you, but at three in the morning when they are crying because they are unwell or missed school due to a lot of sickness you can start to question your own decisions.

However, do I need a law to tell me this? No I probably wouldn’t although I have the luxury of 15 years of training, reading and direct childcare experience and two great children that test me and reward me with their love (I hope).

More to the point does the law need to change? Do parents know what is expected of them? and do parents understand what neglect is? Of course we do and rather than have a new law we do require an understanding of neglect through positive media images of the work that social workers, teachers, health professionals, and volunteers do on a daily basis to prevent families breaking down.

Child development theories have been clear about the stages that babies, toddlers Children and young people move through.  This is regularly measured and monitored by health professionals starting with the Midwife, then the Health Visitor and then School Nurse and General Practitioner.  Inevitably with the cut backs in Public services the observations made by these professionals will affect the number of families that can be identified at an early stage.

Furthermore the law is clear about Children’s attendance at school and also there is clear law around substance misuse and Domestic Violence.

However, what is lacking in English Law is the consideration for all legislation to include relevant consideration to the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child .  We do have the Children Act 1989 and also the Children Act 2004, which with all of the guidance and the Working together documents highlights what Child Neglect is.

The real message is that neglect does not just occur in poorer families, and neglect can be identified through knowledge and observations from Professionals and then assessed by Social Workers.  The concern is that there will be no law passed by next April, instead the real concern is that Neglect is a priority of the Government that could be lost with the cuts that they are trying to make.

It remains important that the assessments made by Social Workers are respected and checked by their managers as a Safeguard to rogue assessments.  That, neglect remains on the agenda of everyone but allowing families to live their lives.  The law is already in place to protect children, research is available about neglect and more research is currently being undertaken.

Social Work is not about herding children into care, it is about protection and support and Neglect or good enough parenting will be different from family to family and hard to legislate and enforce.

Mission Work Experience

When you were younger or if you are young did you ever have a dream? That when you left school you would enter into the job of your dreams! My Granddad was in the airforce as part of his national service and my fondest childhood memories involved going to many an air show looking at and watching planes fly through the air.  Of Course, sadly my dream of becoming a pilot never came to be, but the help my school gave me in my work experience placement did help me in identifying my skills and a practical placement that kept me on track to becoming a Social Worker today!

However, a few weeks ago I was speaking with my cousin and I asked her about her work experience placement.  “I have not got one, I have to find my own!” I was shocked, the value of these work experience placements is far greater than the paperwork needed to complete them! And today the difficulties are further described in an article by the BBC.

The report from the Education and Employers Taskforce and Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, and with a foreword by Mr Lightman, says work experience makes a big difference to the career paths of young people. BBC

The significance of using personal social networks to create work experience placements further creates social disadvantage.  Furthermore, without encouragement could prevent many young people for pushing themselves to challenge the system and lift themselves out of their current situation.  Also with 1.8 million children living in Workless families what is their opportunity to find work?

I know from my own personal circumstances that without the insight work experience gave me that I would not be where I am today.  Moreover, the cut backs have crippled and removed in many places the carers support that Connexions offered.  Compulsory education is being extended to 18 years of age and part of this could be an apprenticeship, but what is the meaningful outcome of this if there is more blocks than supports to young people trying to find work.

The challenge is to prevent young people from becoming NEET (Not in Education Employment or Training).  The impact upon the young persons self esteem in having a Job is significant in the rest of their lives and their ability to contribute to society.

Perhaps their needs to be a rethink of the process involved with work experience to make it easier for schools and employers to take young people on.  It most definitely should not be a ‘Work Fair’ scheme but a meaningful learning process that encourages further learning and young people being able to obtain better outcomes for themselves!

Down with the Titanic

Have you ever heard your practise described as that of the Titanic? Maybe you are thinking, that’s not so bad! After all, at the time the titanic was advanced ship of its time, fitted with Luxury and built for speed.  I know that is being extremely positive and normally you might expect a more negative meaning.  And I think you are probably right, as the comments that followed alluded to Social Workers being unwilling to change their views about progress.  I guess with this type of logic it is right for the ship to sink!

Confused? so am I what social worker would not want change! less cases more functional and positive time with children and their families, better outcomes, less paper work, less hurdles to provide an essential service.  Sound crazy to say “hey, I like the red tape, the pointless tick box exercises!”

Okay there are still ( a minority now) of social workers who are still trying to work out how to switch the computer on, but even they would like change if only so they could have an easier system to work.

It is not often that I get offended, but if I have to miss my lunch to give my views and get insulted in the process you will get an honest answer even if you do not like it.  Social Care has waited a long time to see what changes will come from the Munro Review and as the Government stalls this with further evidence required from extending the trials.  We are now trying to step out into the brave new world formulating a design that would work for us.

Like the sinking ship Titanic there is no life boats (the budget was cut!) Its time to accept that there has to be a rethink of how the service is delivered.  Fine, great you want our views.  Okay you started off with an insult –  that’s cleared up now we will move on.

It should feel better to know that potentially I could be involved in something special.  I added my comments and expressed a view that change is okay but why settle for just that……… We should be in the forefront of developing services and supporting young people, we should not be creating services that for many Local Authority’s have been around for many years and nor should we be creating obstacles for either the young person or the workers to go through to get a service.

Well also like the Titanic we have set out on a Journey and I hope that we will reach our destination.

A rise in numbers!

The family courts body received 10,199 new applications between April 2011 and March 2012, a 10.8% rise on the same period last year.” (Community Care).  There is no shock here [sadly] and no surprise either.  I say this because after reading another article on the Children Service’s blog I ordered a copy of the book quoted ‘Lost in Care‘.  Almost immediately it talks about the research undertaken for this book commissioned due to the large numbers of children coming into care (being greater than the previous years).

Although it is arguable that this surge in referrals has been in part, largely due to the death of baby Peter and the fear of this being repeated again.  It is sadly more likely to be due to the massive cuts in budgets for all organisations that work with family’s and children.  Resulting in catastrophic consequences for many families struggling to manage; leaving their children at risk of neglect and further abuse either intentionally or unintentionally.

Rightly so this is where the Government wants Social Care to be focusing its services towards.  Where ‘The Big Society’ should be picking up the gaps in the services that have been cut.  Which, as we are all aware has been an outstanding flop! coupled with the media’s often biased view creating a polarising effect for Social Workers who are trying to engage in early intervention, often finding [rightly] an unwillingness to engage because of fear of losing their child[ren].

Will there ever be an easy answer to solve the dilemma of the rising number of children coming into care? probably not if there continues to be an unwillingness to invest in Social Care – being either in early intervention (parenting classes, more midwives, health visitors and free childcare places) or a more advanced early intervention with CAMHS being able to have the funding to engage with families at an early stage rather than when the young person reaches a threshold so high that any work is unlikely to be meaningful to the family.  Or Social Workers who are trained to an even higher level who can carry out short term crisis work with the whole family before the crisis becomes a normal way of life for family’s leading to the removal of their child[ren].

However, social work continues to work to the principles as set out in the Children Act 1989 and 2004 working with the Children and Young People to prevent children coming into care.  While we wait to see how Social Care will be developed and changed as the Government tries to slimline a service that carry’s a greater expectation than any other organisation to produce results that will never please everyone.

Research Diary (half way through)

Have you ever wondered how-for long periods of time nothing appears to be happening.  Then, just when you are unaware, relaxed everything hits you at once.

This of course never really happens in social work, because the case loads are to high-and even when it is quiet there is always a piece of work that could be completed to provide additional support.

However, saying this-I have met with my Research tutor this week and all of a sudden realised that I now have 6 weeks to undertake my research, analyse my data and write up the findings.  Thank fully this is not going to be a life changing piece of work or I would now be breaking out in to a cold panic!

6 weeks!! What has happened? what have I been doing that has meant that so much time has already passed by? Well, I never really hard a lot of time to undertake this module so that explains how three months has now become six weeks.  Furthermore, it is so easy to lose focus and concentrate on the more pressing issues of work.  Sadly by the time I come home all I really want to do is collapse on the sofa.

However, In reality I am charged with the social and emotional development of my own children.  Which includes taxing from one club to another, whilst listening to their reading and supporting with their own dinner.

I can not complain, over the year my wife and I have developed a Barcelona style approach to parenting where we don’t try anything fancy instead it is just hard work and make every pass count! But by the time I stop in the evening to reflect upon the additional learning it is easily substituted (to keep up with the football references) for a mindless television programme before bed.

Consequently now having met with my Tutor, I have been put back on the right direction.  My consent forms are written, my project information sheet is written and I have even pencilled together five main questions and some smaller questions in these.

I will give myself a two week window to complete the interviews and leave myself three weeks to write up the research project.  Only allowing myself one week to have my work checked, and make corrections.

The risk here is that my timescales have become so tight that I may have to sacrifice sleep in order to complete this work.  And if you find yourself in a position where you have to undertake a literature review or your own research do not leave it to the last minute.  You will need the time to make it relevant and I now find myself worrying whether I will have the time to make this research useful!