Category Archives: Decision making

Did I understand you?

Have you ever wondered how easy is it to communicate what you want to say? When you are anxious or nervous, angry, sad or just confused! for me I can find it very difficult and often find myself tripping over the words that I want to say.

However, as a Social Worker we learn that communication is a powerful tool that needs to be used carefully in order to make positive changes.  Some people would argue however, more could be done to support families in order to help them communicate with their social worker. 

Communication is therefore defined as: ‘the imparting or exchanging of information by speaking, writing, or using some other medium’: (Oxford dictionary).

As a Social Worker working with young people I find myself very conscious about how I communicate and often consider how I can create an environment that promotes communication.   Each person I meet is different, and the way that they want to talk to me is different.  Some prefer a soft caring approach, other young people need and prefer a firmer approach to help them feel safe.

But what is lost is that the spoken word is only a small amount of information that is being communicated at any time.  It is very easy to argue that someone is not listening.  However, it is not as easy to argue that someone is not listening when you are saying one thing whilst carrying out different actions.

There is no magic wand that can change this, our non verbal communication is often done by our subconscious.  And the most damaging especially when the Social Worker meets someone for the first time and the wrong signals are sent to each other, which means an honest exchange of information is going to be harder to achieve.

In order to safeguard children is is therefore important to understand for  families to understand it is okay to be challenged, as long as the points they are being challenged on are answered honestly.  It is also therefore okay for this to be reciprocated and families challenge decisions made in an appropriate way, either through the complaints procedure or Judicial Review depending on the decision being made.

It is in my opinion that certainly when working with young people that support is being provided to enable good communication, through their pathway planning, looked after children’s reviews, advocates or solicitors.  I would also like to see more children and young people being encouraged to take part in Participation events, working with Children’s Trusts to develop the services in their area to meet their needs.

I would also like to see the stigma being removed from people who need to have the support of Social Services and maybe their is a time for a change in title.  However, the role of the social worker is very important and families should not live in fear that Social Care may knock on their door.  Instead communities should work hand in hand with social care to promote a more positive supportive relationship, focusing on early intervention rather than removal.

Risky do Risky don’t

Have you ever wondered how some people make decisions.  This is what I have been wondering this week as other people’s decision making has been a prominent  issue for me.  I have been working with Young People for over ten years, and like myself and everyone else, when we were in our late teens.  This age is about self learning, understanding how to push boundaries and most importantly learning who we are.

For young people living in care this is not always as easy as it could be.  Mainly because of the fear that some workers have in understanding, managing and assessing risk.  In the case of the young person that I have been working with their is also a fear that the family will make a complaint and threat legal proceedings.  However, the GSCC codes of Practise (2002) 4.1 encourages the importance of Young People taking risks.

So imagine what I am thinking when I find out that a 16 year old girl has had her mobile phone removed from her.  All because she had been out with a friend, and had not checked in when she should have done.  As a result of this incident an inevitable argument leads on to the young person absconding back to her Mum’s home.  Who has ever since enjoyed screaming down the phone not only to me, but also anyone who answers the phone.

What worries and troubles me is that after every phone call, I can hear the frustration in the Mother’s voice that her daughter is still there.  I also know that her daughter will also be sitting there not wanting to be there; yet to scared to tell her Mum that she wants to leave.

What angers me even more is that the workers caring for this young person continue to fail to see the harm that they have caused.  Most importantly for this young person it is about the trust, and attachment issues and her own self confidence, which have been destroyed and betrayed because of the heavy handed approach, to her testing the boundaries around her or more simply put trying to find a boyfriend.  

There is a risk if this young person remains at home that she may not leave.  However, the difficulties lie with her age and the Fraser Guidelines and Gilleck Competence.  This means that if this, has to go to Court for a recovery order under section 50 of the Children Act 1989 there is a strong possibility that the young person could argue to stay with her family and the Judge may grant this.

Ironically by the misunderstanding of what the real risk has been here, by the workers.  The worst outcome has occurred.  There will come a point where the young person will be asked to leave the family home by her mother.  Further reinforcing the rejection she has already suffered throughout her whole life.  The impact of this will further affect her ability to form and maintain relationships.  In desperation that she might be still able to have a relationship with her Mum.    

I hope that when considering risk, that all possibilities are considered and balanced.  That it is important to include the young person in the planning and that they are listened to.  That Honesty is key to the concerns and trust in the plan; and having a good back up plan.  Afterwards, assess whether now is the right time to challenge the young person, or should they be allowed time to appropriately calm down.  More importantly if there has to be a sanction for a behaviour, that it is appropriate for the young person and effective and achievable for them.