Monthly Archives: October, 2012

Is there anyway to improve?

There has been a lot of discussion over the past few years about how we can improve social work for children’s services, mostly from the very well publicised failings.  Each time there has been significant learning for those in social work, which has lead to some positive changes in practise.  This includes the Children Act 1989 being updated with and supplemented by the Children Act 2004, it has also seen the Guidance that is attached to the Children’s Act being updated, along with the Working Together Document, which is still in the process of being updated and agreed.

But despite this Social Work practise remains misunderstood and that instead of it being a well needed service it is instead seen as a burden to society, draining it of it financial resources.  Instead of the real focus of social work, which today remains focused upon the needs of the most vulnerable people in society and protecting them from abuse.

It remains clear that the biggest issue still remains in defining what a vulnerable child is and at what point intervention is needed.  It is at this point that social work is needed to be understood that there is no quick fix to create a perfect utopia as Andrew Adonis suggests, that you can not rush through social work learning to jump into this puzzle with a commitment of two years a hardy smile and a willingness to challenge!

Walking into the room above is a good example of what social work is about, each reflection tells a different story and each story may be interpreted differently by those who observe it, including the family and the child and it is only at the point of immediate risk of significant harm that a legal order can be applied for to safeguard a child.  So to rush through the learning and the reflection needed to gather each persons perception of what they are seeing to analyse the risk and identify the impact of this to decide whether it is a concern that requires a social work intervention is not something that can be raced through.

The aim is to raise the profile of social work and prevent child abuse and the worse case event of a child dying due to the neglect by the perpetrator of this.  It should also be recognised that this responsibility lies with everyone and every organisation should have a child protection policy, in order to understand it and prevent it from happening!

So today when I was asked the question is there any way to improve? the answer was Yes, talk to Social Workers, understand what the difficulties are in social work and where the learning is needed to develop practise including investing in social work and acknowledging that specialist knowledge is learned over a long period of time not over a fancy title.  So lets expand on what is already happening with the Change programme and the assessed year of practise.

And remember if you walked into the mirrored room would you be able to identify which image was the true reflection of what was happening for that child? because removing a child has serious implications especially when done so for the wrong reason!

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Room to think!

One thing that is always true in social work is the fact that you continue to reflect about almost everything that happens throughout the day.  And this got me to thinking about where is the best place for social workers to be working to do this.  The picture above is a call centre, but is so close to what my office looks like that it worries me, in fact at least these workers have sound boards to prevent the noise going side ways.
The office space that social workers work in has always been a hot topic to discuss and one I first wrote about in ‘fish bowl working‘  but over the past two years a lot has changed and significantly about social work practise and a time has come that the profession of social work has needed to be taken seriously, regulated and more importantly founded in a culture of learning and research that is respected in the courts and by other professionals.
So here we are two years on, with funding that has been cut to all services and an increase by the public of an awareness of the flaws in the current child protection system.  Which could not be ignored and lead to the Munro Review, which is still to be fully implemented.  We have had along side this with children in care teams a trial of Social Work Practises  which has recently had a review that can be found here.
Which leads me to where I again started to reflect about the location that I work, the office above is neither supportive of reflective practise or one where you can think, learn and share good practise.  But perhaps more importantly it is removed from the community and the children and families that we are supposed to be working with.
Maybe I am not the only one but I certainly feel like that I am where the world has gone mad.  In an attempt to achieve the change needed in Child Protection a ‘Systems thinking’ approach is being used to improve outcomes for the children and their families.  Where the key resource is the social worker for them.  BUT we continue to be hidden in our hard to reach, far removed office location where the council is trying to save money by selling off buildings and cramming all services in to one location.
So with positive changes comes another brick wall, which requires good will of other services to lend the use of their buildings when they are empty in order to deliver the service that is essentially needed by the most vulnerable people who may not always want to make the long journey to County Hall, to discuss their worries and fears in a room that is not friendly or supportive.
Please please if we are going to improve social work, lets not stop half way make the changes count and enable better social work practise at every level of reflection, learning and allow it to be open to inspection from the people that most need it because they can drop in and speak to a social worker whenever they wish.