Just when you thought it was safe to practise social work again after the latest scandal and in depth report. The local safeguarding board produces its latest policies. These are great and actually really useful, except there is a common theme them running through them all. “Serious Case Management” or “Serious Risk Meetings” or “Management of Serious risk”. All meetings that involve everyone within the council to analyse, reflect and examine everything that you have done, and then suggest something different. Sometimes this can be useful, and for some cases very definitely needed. Especially around the transition period from child to adult, when the threshold for a service suddenly rises leaving many young people with the bare minimum of support from their aftercare service.
Working with looked after Children aged between 14 to 18 years of age is not always easy for many reasons. The latest guidance produced is ‘working with children that are harder to reach’. Interestingly enough it suggests that many young people are harder to reach because they do not see their social worker enough!! However, its answer to this problem is to arrange a senior managers meeting taking you further away from the young person. Rather than allowing you more time with face to face contact allowing you to practise social work.
Today I spent most of the morning talking with one of my social workers. Sophie (not her real name) Sophie was sharing her frustration and feelings about the current pressures of her work affecting her health. “Its not the work Sophie talks about, its the increased reporting, longer pathway planning, computer systems creating duplication. Statutory visits that now consist of questionnaires, and information gathering, in order for the Local Authority to keep an eye and evidence on what it is doing.
I would argue that this is the reason why many of the young people we work with are becoming harder to reach. Losing confidence in the work we do with them because they can not see the benefit, as every visit is about information and not about them, losing the child focus and does not relate to them directly.
I like the idea that Munro gives of one continuous assessment, as long as it is accepted by everyone as a the basis for any information they receive. This way systems could be developed that enable better communication, and perhaps even indirectly through different applications that enables the information needed to be gained in a less intrusive fashion allowing social work to be developed with the young person.
Instead at present we have the daily dilemmas of which fire to put out, balanced with the paperwork required. Thankfully not in triplicate but still the working together document will look like a pamphlet compared to the number of people you have to remember to send all of the different information to.
Meanwhile Sophie is left frustrated and torn between the job she enjoys and the frustration of a system that is far from child friendly at times. Hoping that the positive visits will out way all of the negative meetings, that the small progress seen are greater than the massive set backs seen on a daily basis.
Have you ever imagined a world where there is no need for Social Work within families or Children Social Workers. For many families this will already be true, and for them it would be harder to imagine what Social Work is and why it takes place.
David Cameron is an example of this, and this week announced his vision to end state monopoly on Public Services. Cameron explains his rationale for this over his own experience of the care of his son; and his own frustration over the Local Authority having control of the budget for this. A feeling shared by most parents who have Children, that need extra support with a disability.
Perhaps worryingly this explains the increasing erosion of front line services, that are so successful in engaging vulnerable families. Agencies such as Home Start or Sure Start Children Centres. Which often provide a life line to vulnerable, and young families who need simple and often basic support to improve their situation. To be replaced with another vision of a Big Society where people will volunteer and support services and their own community’s. Something that has yet to be tested and tried in any large scale.
Being a Children’s Social Worker I do worry that through all of these changes that Child Protection is being forgotten despite being in the news for serious cases like Victoria Climbe (2003) that lead to the Laming enquiry and report. Baby Peter, and from this the Munro investigation into Child Protection.
I worry because we only just have the Munro interim report and her first report into Child Protection Part one from which, the key message was clearly early intervention and prevention is key for preventing families to enter into the system and drifting within it. What we have now seems to be a backward step being taken in an area, which is so key to the long term success for the child remaining within their family and achieve positive outcomes.
Early intervention is not a new concept and the CAF (Common Assessment Framework (2006) was a way of creating an early assessment and a team around the child quickly. To work with services to prevent families needing to come in to contact with Social Care.
I wonder whether Child Protection teams could be taken away from Council control and be part of a Profit making company or even a Non Profit making Charity such as the NSPCC who are the only other organisational body that can investigate Child Protection enquiry’s.
I guess that if I had a vision it would be for Social Work teams working with Children and their families to begin their work earlier to prevent families breaking down. It would be for Social Workers to support vulnerable groups such as looked after Children, Care Leavers, and Young Parents. Supporting School’s with Challenging Behaviour and neglect. Supporting parents with Substance misuse and helping families and parents develop their confidence to become part of the community that they live in. But I guess that this is not really a big vision or even a new vision. It is just a plea that all Social Workers are supported by everyone to reduce the stigma attached to having Social Care involved and promote the Job that we do initially to support family’s and then keep Children Safe!