Monthly Archives: September, 2012

Its all Math

Do you remember saying whilst you were at school ‘what will I ever needs maths for when I leave school?’ I know I did, and although you know that you will always need maths for your every day life, its not until recently that I have seen it in a different perspective.

Your maths teacher who appears to be very wise, would always say ‘show your working out’ – ‘its not the answer I want to see, but how you got to that answer’.  This is so true for social work assessments to, after all we know the long term impact of neglect, sexual abuse, physical abuse and emotional abuse on families and importantly the young person.

But what we do not always do so well is show how we get there or more importantly demonstrate for the families, for the young people and maybe sadly sometimes the courts, Guardians, independent organisations that may review our work they might not know how we get there.  After all I strongly believe that where a good social work assessment is undertaken it does not need to be disregarded by the court for then an ‘expert’ to rewrite to give the same conclusion.

And sadly these assessments are not simple equations they are long multiplication, because there is no one sum that will give you the necessary formula to follow.  It is however the biggest worry that I have in the current economic crisis, that social work is trying to become through different strategies a lean systems thinking machine.  Able to reflect and assess and target each factor affecting every aspect of the vulnerable family and therefore protecting vulnerable children with targeted work with just one formula.

My advise would not to rush to solve the problem, instead look at each part of the equation and ensure that each part of the sum adds up before moving on to solve the next part.  Each agency will use a different code so it is also important that it is translated clearly, with a good analysis of the assessment and should be using research and legislation to support the sum.

I know this is starting to sound like code, but in short with all of the thinking and policy being focused on ‘Think family’ and early intervention, it is especially relevant and important that these good quality assessments are completed, that every action is understood as to what the long term impact will be.  Why – because if family placements were to break down during adolescents the emotional damage will by far greater and harder to engage meaningfully.

So stores of Rochdale will become fewer and fewer because social workers will be exploring each part of the sum rather than skipping to the conclusion or more often than not, taking a prescribed action with out considering the long term impact of not looking at all options.

To Safeguard does not mean making and taking quick child protection actions (always) unless there is an immediate risk of significant harm.

 

What is your tipple?

For many of us the image above will not mean much, you will either take it or leave it, or maybe instead you will prefer a glass of wine or even a spirit.

I have to be honest I have never really given the amount of alcohol that I drink a thought, How much alcohol can you drink before you become drunk or worse still not in control of your actions?  I have so far been lucky that I have not got any tales of woe from over drinking.  However, I have found a handy self assessment tool here and it suggests that I should cut down, have a quick look yourself and see what it recommends for you.

Why am I talking about alcohol? sadly it has been on my mind all week (maybe a sign) because I had attended a conference early this week at the Institute of Child Health in London.  The subject was about Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders a subject I have to be honest about prior to the conference, I was not particularly confident on.  Furthermore, my interest was from a social work perspective and the impact of this on the young people I work with namely those 14 – 18 years old.

However, what I quickly learnt was that it has been a very long time since I have studied my social biology or even any neuro sciences.  What I did gather though, was that the body remains addicted to alcohol in a way that celebrates overcoming this poison.  Furthermore this is passed down from generation to generation.  It is also important to point out that the effect of alcohol has a different impact upon different people.

So from a social work perspective the key points were around the child development and the associated behaviours that come with this.  It is an interesting subject that if assessed correctly by the social worker/midwife could help early diagnosis and also a better treatment for the young person and also a better support plan for the long term permanence plan for the child.

For young people that have to live with this syndrome they could have with it cognitive difficulties, attachment difficulties, ADHD, ASD all with varying degrees.  And for social workers, care workers, foster carers these are all things that we will be very familiar with.  However, the difference is that if you can understand the history and the behaviours and with the right support maybe where placements become strained due to the behaviour then perhaps they may not break down.  Meaning better outcomes for the young person who with the support of their family or carer can achieve with a valid support from the right agencies.

At present there is not a massive known support and diagnosis is only accurate if during pregnancy the Mum shares her alcohol usage.  So for more information on FAS please read here.

 

 

 

 

Crash and Burn

Its not often that you see headlines like in the recent Children Service blog on the Community Care website like ‘Are ministers scared of social workers’ and it is interesting to think that this might be true! (I wish) however, it still remains that the real agenda remains with the coalition government to save money for the country’s economy to be stronger! (groan) or into those with money can recover their savings and feel a little bit happier in themselves that social care issues can be thought about again with real meaning – or in reality the pendulum swings back in favour of the Labour party and some focus may be given again to social care issues – Argh!!!!

However, I think rightly so that social work still has a lot to fear from ministers, it is reassuring in some way to understand that the new Children’s Minister Edward Timpson has some experience of family law and social care issues so that any changes that are made will be relevant and not a token gesture towards change.

The reality is the same for every member of the public in that by not meeting with BASW, or the College of Social Work means that they do not need to hear what the real difficulties are, or how bad the neglect, abuse and poverty really is or to the pressure that public sector workers and Charities and other voluntary agency’s are under to support the most vulnerable and in need, in order that more time can be taken to work out how they can balance the needs of safeguarding the vulnerable, with the agenda of the party to create a ‘Big Society’ (puke).

At present it still remains a statutory duty by the Local Authority to safeguard the needs of the vulnerable and in need, however if this responsibility could be fully transferred to Children’s trusts and then in turn to Co-operative teams this could quickly change.  furthermore without further education to society about the role of social care and what child protection is and how it is perceived will impact ultimately on the future of social work.

So I take it with a pinch of salt at the moment whether ministers are scared of social work and what this might be about, or whether we should be scared of what this might mean – could Society function without social workers as I was asked today?

 

 

 

Lost freedom or too big a risk?

Can you remember when you were younger and the world was your playground? When your friends garden was a different playground in which to explore.  I know that when I was a child I was very lucky to have a whole farm to explore Hay stacks to climb and ditches to jump.  Now as a parent my own children do not have the same space, my own need to develop and survive has taken me away from my own rich heritage to living in a new environment.

Here in a reasonable small town the adventures are more risky, there is more roads and more cars on the road.  There is less green spaces and the trees are no longer strong oaks instead they are conifers.  However, if it is not football it would take a small miracle to encourage my children off their computer and out, let alone find a tree that could become a start of their new adventure.

So it comes with no real surprise that in today’s Independent there is an article stating that ‘over protected’ children need to learn about risk! I would also imagine in the same sense then as a parent that I would also need to learn to let my children take a risk in this new environment.  Something as a social worker I am always wary of, but know that I need to do.

Of course this comes down to the Health and Safety brigade (the ones that do not want to take any risk) who have banned the age old game of ‘Conkers’ in the school play ground, or do not allow outside play in the rain or cold.

But where is the line? what is the risk of allowing children to much freedom? Imagine parks fall of children, over spilling into any area of green space, street corner.  Imagine them being out from the moment they are awake to the time they go to bed.  Is this adventures play time or the beginnings of something else far more sinister.

Do not get me wrong, I completely agree all children should be aloud to grow up learning what is safe, right or wrong and develop an imagination that not only will help them in the classroom but also with their own children and their carers.  This is especially true for the more vulnerable children who may miss out on ‘play’ and socialising with other young people.

However, instead of just our young people learning this, it should also be us as adults, parents and neighbours.  People that rush through life only wanting to get from one place to the next with out being interrupted or prevented in anyway from doing this.  Without the phone call that say’s you need to come quick because something terrible has happened – only to find out that something terrible is your son/daughter playing out!

If we see children out, slow down understand the importance of them being out and playing but also where the line is as adults.  Support your local clubs and youth centres to provide safe activities that replicate my own early childhood experiences rather than letting them close and this positive behaviour become pent up frustration. Lets keep open areas safe for young people to play and met up with each other.

Safeguarding v Safeguarding

 

Ding Ding round one! A common theme I always here is that working with looked after children is not the same as working in child protection – or its not ‘Safeguarding’ young people.  It is almost the same as “My team is better than your team” attitude, and one that makes me angry as it shows a real lack of understanding of what Safeguarding is and what child protection is.  With five years experience of both I feel that I have a good understanding of what this means for both a child at home and a child in care.

So I was surprised to here back this week that I did not have enough ‘Safeguarding’ experience.  A comment that I almost choked upon, and had to quickly test whether the person making the comment understood what they had just said.  It was clear that they did not as they quickly tried to further evidence their statement with no real further understanding of social work.  A typical problem for many recruitment teams for Local Authority’s.

So what is ‘Safeguarding’ and what is ‘Child Protection’ a definition can be found on the department of Education’s website here:  But just to be clear

Safeguarding is defined as

Safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children is defined as:

  • protecting children from maltreatment
  • preventing impairment of children’s health or development
  • ensuring children are growing up in circumstances consistent with the provision of safe and effective care.

and Child Protection is defined as:

Child protection is a part of safeguarding and promoting welfare. It refers to the activity that is undertaken to protect specific children who are suffering, or are likely to suffer, significant harm.

It is clear to see why some families would become upset with social workers who are working closely within child protection if they themselves can not understand what the safeguarding work is and the child protection work they are doing.  After all the aim is not to remove the child, but rather ensure families can remain together.

Furthermore with the rise in investment of early intervention this is even more important in preventing vulnerable families to fall through the still newly protective services designed to prevent social work intervention and child protection plans where they might not be needed.

It does then worry me, how this can be actioned if the aim of the work can not be understood or for social workers to be able to develop a skill set need to work with vulnerable harder to reach families and young people that require safeguarding and child protection interventions.

Moreover, I can see how newly qualified social workers continue to struggle to find work when social work management are set on finding the ‘right’ type of social workers using the new language of systemic practice and systems thinking that basic language such as ‘safeguarding’ is forgotten.

I hope that this is a blimp and not a return to a school playground scenario of one side chanting my team is better than yours, with the chorus being repeated from the other side.  I know that I will be challenging this view and hope that for those working in child protection or with looked after children that they remember

Effective child protection is essential as part of wider work to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. However, all agencies and individuals should aim to proactively safeguard and promote the welfare of children so that the need for action to protect children from harm is reduced. (department of Education)