Category Archives: Doubts

Still working on work

Would I want to be young again, I wonder? It amazes me every year we hear that the GCSE grades are getting better because the exams are becoming easier.  Yet, does this really say what is happening.

In my experience I have been fortunate enough to have never been out of work, homeless or destitute.  But like many young people I do wonder what would happen if I did not have a job, or a skill I could sell to potential employers.  In fact without my social work qualification I think I would be in great danger of struggling to find work in today’s work market.

Working with young people in care has made me more aware of the difficulties that many people especially young people find in looking for work.   Placements, transports, contact, support are all areas that could affect the emotional well-being of the young people to stay employable.

There have been many schemes that try to get people back into work and the latest promotes work experience as a way of giving valuable experience in a work place.  However, this has come with a well publicised criticism and most of which has been fair.

We have yet seen from this government a positive approach to enabling young people to return to work.  I doubt that we will see anything meaningful until confidence is restored in employers to meaningfully recruit and expand their business again.

For young people more support is needed in helping develop their own understanding of the work market.  Time dedicated in developing their own interests and knowledge so that as business shrink into the Web and out of the high streets.  Young people can challenge the business markets and create their own work.  Maybe if more vulnerable young people such as care leavers are encouraged to work with organisations such as the Prince’s trust their mentoring scheme could help develop this.

Or if you are someone who could help young vulnerable people develop confidence and skills needed to find work offer your help to the Prince’s Trust mentoring scheme.

future changes

There is one thing that I can say about social work, and that is you never really know what direction you could be going in. What I mean is that working in a Local Authority you are always subjected to the effects of budget cuts, and in all the years that I have practised the budget has always been reduced.

For some of us in social work especially children services we became excited over the prospect of social work becoming social work again. So looked forward to the next change with a glimmer of hope that it would bring the promise of more direct work.

It appeared that the sun was going to rise upon the social work profession. A new body monitoring and regulating social work practise, The College of Social Work to offer support, guidance and much more. The Munro Review providing the argument and understanding why the change is needed for social work and a direction that it could take.

But like a firework display on a very wet night the hype was there and dampened by the rain it so far has not amounted to much. The promise of reclaiming social work may still be a dream relying on social workers to give more of their own time to offer a small percentage of what the greater public expect of the profession.

The effect is staff that burn out, children and families that stay in distressed states unable to manage and unsure what is happening. The trouble is that often intervention for families does not need to be at a high level, often intervention at an effective level at the right time will prevent stress and separation within families. And the changes that are still promised in social work are geared up towards this work.

The trouble is everyday that passes by leads to the risk of another serious incident putting young people and adults at risk of significant harm. Although serious case reviews take place and learning is applied to professional practise, this does not give the information needed by each local authority to redesign their provision to meet the needs of the most vulnerable.

Change will happen, I am sure of that but what I am not so sure of is whether it will bring with it a glimmer of hope. A service that can prevent family breakdown where possible. A service that keeps children safe at home and when they are in care, can invest in better quality contact and therapeutic interactions.

But don’t be fooled every day positive work still goes on, social workers going beyond what is expected for the people they work with. It is also important that social work myths are challenged and dispelled and it was good to see the three-part TV series Protecting our children. I hope that more will follow and show all aspects of social work in the same caring positive light.

Child Protection

If you could point a finger at someone to blame for the cuts that we are starting to shoulder and feel the bite of who would you point it at.  I would imagine that it would be like a game of spin the bottle but no one wanting to get in the cupboard with Local Authority’s.  

Its hard to imagine that anyone would want to do that anyway? after all in some areas they are one of the biggest employer (or were).  But it is like being dragged to the hair dressers when you are a little child and you want to let your hair grow long.  “You will make the cuts” – “you will have your hair cut!” So 25% goes straight away from every service including Child Protection and the specialist services.  I mean its a Tory council so there can not be pot holes in the road.
But as a Children’s Social Worker should I be pleased to hear that finally a review of the cuts is being asked for  by the four Children’s Commissioners.  Although we already know the answers, and why the NSPCC argued that it is a false economy to implement general cuts to all services.
Could I be to harsh about the impact of the cuts, should I be looking at ways of supporting the community to help others within the street in child protection issues.  How to have those sensitive, difficult conversations with their neighbours about domestic abuse, substance misuse, physical, emotional, sexual abuse and neglect.  I have lived in a street where the neighbours have wanted to know all about everything that is happening in your life.  Where it is common for people to walk in and make the tea.  The trouble with this is if you can not get on with everyone the situation often becomes worse.
Its not all doom and gloom, there is opportunity for groups to come together to manage community centres and run breakfast clubs, after school clubs, support groups, parenting classes, keep fit classes, cooking classes.  Managed and promoted by the community for the community.  Providing support from people who are living in the community and understand the difficulties that are specific to that area.  Therefore the support being provided is relevant, necessary and needed.
Child protection is important at all levels and can not be cut in the community, or at the higher level.  Because the impact on Children does not last just until 18 years of age, learned behaviour is hard to change especially if there has been damage done.
So to the Children’s Commissioners speak to the young people, hear their complaints about their care, accommodation, access to education, contact with family and their future prospects.  Challenge the Government on the cuts, and ensure the right services are provided for all Children and Young People.

Hard decisions

Have you ever wondered about how wonderful Social Work is.  Despite the negative media attention, there still is a sense of job satisfaction.  The one “Thank You”, or the one smile.  Or maybe seeing a client several years on still doing well.  Of course the other good side of Social Work is the diverse nature of the job.  Which I saw today when I met a Student Social Worker completing her final placement within a School.  But it could have been a Prison, Children Centre, Family Centre, Youth Centre, Drug and Alcohol Centre, or other Voluntary settings.  That is without the statutory settings or even independent Social Workers who have their own exciting roles.


But what happens when you stop enjoying Social Work? What happens when you stop noticing the work that you do.  When the issues become bigger than you can imagine and they start coming home with you.  Sadly this can happen more often than not, poor Supervision, and a blame culture that does not promote a positive environment to work in.  


The idea of a protected case load ensures that this does not happen to newly Qualified Social Workers who may full prey to these feelings, and may who may not receive good feedback about the work they are doing.  


However, this week my Manager has shared her recent experiences of these feelings.  Oddly I am asked to look over her CV as she wants to send it out looking for new work.  “I want you to apply for my post when I leave” she informs me.  “I can not carry on working here like this” she tells me “I need to find one more challenge or retire!”  


However, as nice as her comments are, doubts are placed in my mind and if this is what I want to do.  Do I want to work in an organisation where after a few years I may find myself in the same position.  Everyday, the pressure is on.  And rightly so, ensuring that the right plan is considered for each Young Person.  The argument to fight for services and funding for services grows harder.  With an expectation and reliance on using universal services that often do not meet the need of the young person.


The question is how long can you fight for the Young People and also for your own emotional well being.  Can I be strong enough to develop the team and ensure that they also do not feel this pressure.