Category Archives: outcomes

Assessments

Have you ever had a day where you have wished that for one moment time would stop, just long enough to allow you to grab hold of everything that is going on and truely understand what is happening.  I have worked in child protection for many years and rarely do you find time where you can reflect upon one specific family giving them all of your attention.  For this reason I am glad that is protected time, where as a manager and as a Social Worker I can explore people thoughts and expanded on the grey and unknown areas.  Although this is a good social work skill, reflecting and critically challenging your anylsis is so important and not always easy, especially with the first assessment, where you may be rushed or pushed to complete because of the pressure of meeting timescales, evasive families or what ever the reason may be assessment can be lost to the pressure of the timescale and any following assessments that have been referred back in.  However, despite this I have been reminded recently that this is not always the case!

As a manager I have had to learn to keep an eye on these timescales and ensure they dont slip, but also equally ensure that they are completed with the highest quality of standard to ensure the right outcome is reached – Not for me or my manager, but for the child within each family.  Seeing the child, hearing the voice of the child and understanding their position within the family should be easy? After all, there is a multitude of tools, training designed to promote and engage the child to ensure at the mininum that they are given time and space to express their wishes and feelings.

I had recently changed teams, I am starting to like change, I find it keeps my practice fresh and up to date but also more importantly it provides me a challenge! And in doing so I have had to open my eyes to a different way of working a different way of understanding.  Risk still remains and plays a big part of my role in reviewing and approving assessments, but now there is a complex element that needs careful consideration and research.  I have found myself being challenged by some of my new team who do not agree and this has had an affect on me, making me reflect upon my own practice, my own management style and how I present myself within the team, questioning the decisions that I am making.  Concious, that equally they are going through the change process with me, as I challenge and tackle their own practice.

However, no matter what, no matter how precious time is, I still cannot allow the child to be lost within the family and the assessment that I am presented.  Furthermore, challenging the blank carpet statement that prevents and blinds the social worker to really unpicking and discovering where the support within a family is really needed or from creating the plan that supports the child in need or the child in need of protection.

 

 

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!

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?

 

 

 

To survive?

A quick survival guide to social work, don’t you just love the idea that you could open a book and then it will tell you the answers that you need to be able to get through the complexities of social work practise on any given day.

Okay I am a little skeptical that such a book could provide the answers, it would be nice if it could though.  But this then leads to the argument why would you need a survival guide? Yes social work is fast paced, with lots of pressure, arguments and disagreements and that’s just with the management trying to implement their children and young people’s plan.  Let alone the difficulties in engaging families that have either not agreed they need your intervention or support.

Social Work for the past eight years has tried desperate to move from being a vocation to a regulated professional body.  With this has come the degree course as standard entry now into social work and until July [2012] the General Social Care Council to regulate our registrations and poor performance.  Furthermore we have even finally got The College of Social Work to promote, support and advise on practise.

All of which leads to a point well made in my copy of the PSW [Professional Social Work] by Peter Unwin, Senior Lecturer in Social Work at the University of Worcester.  Who says

I am concerned by a recent tendency for social work to be pitched as a profession in which one might be able to ‘survive’ (May 2012)

A comment about recent articles and journals about social workers promoting an image of surviving.  When in which I completely agree with should be promoting social workers to thrive.  To take control of their practise and be more proactive in bringing change to the social work profession.

This view point has a major impact in every way that social work is seen.  In the Courts where social work analysis needs to be respected to enable the right decisions to be made to the media where relationships can be developed and lost within the communities we have to work.

Social Work is hard, and yes there is a very real risk of secondary post traumatic stress disorder from dealing with the numbers of sexual and physical abuse cases we deal with.  And for the daily mail readers this is not just a tap on the back of the hand! And as a manager I see this as part of my role to ensure good supervision is given and as a leader I encourage positive social work development.

Day to day practise may involve fire fighting, case loads are growing the levels of need are also growing.  But so is Social Work Knowledge, and so is the passion of the workers involved to make positive changes.  And Why Groups such as Social Work/Social Care and Media and the Guardian Social Care Professional Network  are having a positive influence on the use of sharing positive story’s of social work and social work development through the use of media.

I have never brought a survival guide to anything in Social Work and never will, and for social work students to see that they also do not need to do this either.  Some of you may realise you do not want to practise at the end of your course but those who do and are lucky enough to find work.  Do not just survive ‘Practise’ social work, be part of a developing profession and challenge other institutions views of what Social Work used to be and is today!

Mission Work Experience

When you were younger or if you are young did you ever have a dream? That when you left school you would enter into the job of your dreams! My Granddad was in the airforce as part of his national service and my fondest childhood memories involved going to many an air show looking at and watching planes fly through the air.  Of Course, sadly my dream of becoming a pilot never came to be, but the help my school gave me in my work experience placement did help me in identifying my skills and a practical placement that kept me on track to becoming a Social Worker today!

However, a few weeks ago I was speaking with my cousin and I asked her about her work experience placement.  “I have not got one, I have to find my own!” I was shocked, the value of these work experience placements is far greater than the paperwork needed to complete them! And today the difficulties are further described in an article by the BBC.

The report from the Education and Employers Taskforce and Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, and with a foreword by Mr Lightman, says work experience makes a big difference to the career paths of young people. BBC

The significance of using personal social networks to create work experience placements further creates social disadvantage.  Furthermore, without encouragement could prevent many young people for pushing themselves to challenge the system and lift themselves out of their current situation.  Also with 1.8 million children living in Workless families what is their opportunity to find work?

I know from my own personal circumstances that without the insight work experience gave me that I would not be where I am today.  Moreover, the cut backs have crippled and removed in many places the carers support that Connexions offered.  Compulsory education is being extended to 18 years of age and part of this could be an apprenticeship, but what is the meaningful outcome of this if there is more blocks than supports to young people trying to find work.

The challenge is to prevent young people from becoming NEET (Not in Education Employment or Training).  The impact upon the young persons self esteem in having a Job is significant in the rest of their lives and their ability to contribute to society.

Perhaps their needs to be a rethink of the process involved with work experience to make it easier for schools and employers to take young people on.  It most definitely should not be a ‘Work Fair’ scheme but a meaningful learning process that encourages further learning and young people being able to obtain better outcomes for themselves!

Am I ready to move on?

Working in a looked after children’s team working with young people preparing to leave care, I was not surprised to read in my daily Community Care e-mail this article on Care Leavers. Although it does not surprise me, it does worry me and whether maybe the research that was put into this is now out of date? As the link at bottom of this articles states the Care Regs changed in April 2011. However, if you are not signed up to CCinform the full guidance is here.

In short the new care regulations promotes 16 year olds remaining in care rather than being left to look after themselves in their own flat. The main reason for this is for the exact reason describe in the Community Care article. Of course if they can return home or can live with friends then this is also encouraged and will provide young people an opportunity to understand independent living.

However, it does not matter whether you are 16, 18 or 24 years of age, if you are not ready to live alone or do not have the skills independent living is is always going to be a challenge. Furthermore, once you have left care there is very little protection for you. If you make a mistake in your rent payments or a vulnerable young person and can not manage your tenancy then you lose your right to hold another tenancy.

Although the leaving care service does provide a transition for young people leaving care, their role is not statutory. As young adults they can make the decision not to engage with their workers and for many young people leaving care they do not want to continue to think they are still being “looked after”.

It is also worrying the cost of placements for young people planning on leaving care. Making it impossible sometimes to find sustainable housing for them. This is another area in which vulnerable people are being affected on a daily basis by the cuts being made else where. The lack of suitable accommodation and support provide in what is available can impact on all other areas. The good placements where support is at the right level are often to expensive and may not transition into a placement that will provide an independent placement post 18.

There are also many challenges for young people especially those who have been placed out of county for many years and no longer wish to return to their Local Authority where they might have housing priority. For many young people to be able to feel confident in moving on, the need for a positive support network maybe essential. And often this can not be a professional network that finishes work at 5.30pm.

For some young people their teenage years are often spent in turmoil and chaos, despite the all of support and guidance offered. Reigning in their own emotions is not achievable, and often the only way to feel secure is to be around a lot of other people. So when moving on plans are discussed in review meetings, or reviews of the pathway plan or on visits this causes the trauma to be triggered again. Making any move on plans harder to make.

Sadly no Local Authority is the same in the services that might be offered, but whilst pressure for budgets to be cut on all services again leave young people being forced to cope often alone due to what each Local Authority might be offering. Cuts on budgets also means higher case loads, lower support packages and placements being ended to ensure a service can be offered to everyone.

And despite the perception of social workers this can impact on the way that you feel about the work, the pressure and strains this can have whilst social workers fight to ensure young people can manage. Many often putting in long hours to try and achieve sometimes the smallest tasks for the young people.

 

Workshop

 

It is easy to forget something when the majority of your week is a blur of chaos and tension. however, this week I did find an interesting e-mail asking whether I would be interested in running a workshop on ‘Equality and Diversity’ for a group of social work students.

I have to admit that I had to open the e-mail fully to check who the message was for, after all its not every day I receive these messages.

However, my excitement was my managers panic, and how often will you be gone for this? “don’t panic it is only one workshop”. Not that it should make any difference! But I guess that I should be flattered that I will be missed.

Why would I get so excited by this? I guess for me it will be doing something that I enjoy – which is talking about social work in practise, whilst also supporting Social Work Students in their learning.

As a social work manager reading a lot of care plans, pathway plans and assessments I often find myself questioning whether the young people have any diversity needs; and is therefore always a subject that I find myself having with my social workers that I supervise.

But as I gently challenge the social workers to reflect upon each young person and what makes these young people different from their peers. I can see how this then leads on to improve the quality of the assessment or even to a better understanding of the young persons needs. I have also seen an improvement in the outcomes for the young people we work with. Mostly this has been evidenced with fewer placement breakdowns over the past six months.

So I am excited about being able to talk with students alongside an academic to promote good analysis and reflection around an important subject that is relevant to everyone.

 

photo credit to: estuary.co.uk

 

feeling drained

Its one of those weeks again when despite everything you do, you still find it hard to feel like you have achieved anything meaningful. At the moment it feels like having sole responsibility of painting Golden Gate Bridge on your own. Knowing once you have finished, that you will have to start again.

I wonder whether I have made the right carer choice sometimes? I know I like social work, and spend a lot of time doing my own reading and learning. I understand good practise and enjoy spending time with other social workers sharing what I have learnt. Furthermore I really enjoying seeing their faces or hearing the stories when they return to the office after my advice has helped them.

Still, despite all of this social work is trapped within a small bubble a small percentage of the population. That already is disadvantaged by poverty, lack of education encouragement and low job prospects. Moreover, the services required are often rare and where available costly.

Which, often means that each management decision sort is a battle that after time becomes draining, consequently having a massive impact on not only the social workers, young people but now me!

Don’t worry I am not looking for sympathy! because each day is a new day and a new battle. Each one leads to a better outcome for the young people as rules for engagement are learnt. However, as a social worker it is important to understand the needs of the young people. Without this understanding, without those important conversation being held with the carers, with the schools or the managers then social work can be a difficult task in protecting essential funding for the young people.

picture credit: sanfranshuttletours.com

Research diary March 2012

As part of a research project it is often useful to keep a diary or journal, I do not have a diary but thought how about writing posting my thoughts here. Hope you do not mind?

The formal learning part of this module is scarily going past quite fast, and my draft proposal is almost ready to be submitted. I have to be honest, this is the first time I have taken on a piece of work like this. The project itself has sparked a real interest in research for me. Its not that I have not been interested in research, the pressures of day to day life and work seem to make this a difficult subject to find time to do.

However, now that I have started it appears that there is not a minute that has gone past when I am not thinking about something or the other to do with the project. I do think that because of the amount of work this does cause in my day to day job has helped me to reflect upon the subject material that I have been reading.

I have found many interesting articles that have been very thought provoking in the area of age assessments. And I guess when undertaking research projects gaps in research start to form sparking further interest into the subject. Ravi Kholi in ‘The sound of silence: Listening to what unaccompanied asylum-seeking children say and do not say’ highlighted this saying that steadily over the last few years the detailed lives and circumstances of these children and young people have begun to be charted and understood (Kholi, 2005). Some of these I have saved in my useful links page.

Furthermore because this has been well written and covered about topic my focus has to take a different direction. Again I find Ravi Kohli’s comments interesting as he argues what do we know about the young people’s ordinary lives before they make their journey? and by understanding their ordinary lives we will start to see separated children as ordinary children and not people trying to beat the system (Kohli, 2005). This argument is supported in a report called Negotiating Childhood: Age assessment in the UK asylum systems where UASC whether they are ‘genuine’ refugees or not their status as ‘genuine’ children may still be challenged (Kvittingen, 2010).

My next stage once I have completed my research proposal is to start collecting the information that I need. Although this creates some apprehension in whether I will be able to find any meaningful data from the sample I will be approaching. I do not know, and although this appears very vague at present I guess I have to protect the work I am doing.

Social Work Practises

Have you ever wondered what would happen when the Government finally is able to privatise Social Work teams? Its not too far off and for Looked after teams in Kent, Liverpool, Hillingdon and Staffordshire and Blackburn it is now as this scheme is being piloted.  The idea is to reduce the bureaucracy and increase outcomes for young people.  The scheme has been running since 2008 and is now being to extended http://dfe.gov.uk/


 The Government set out this scheme in the ‘Care matters White Paper’, with provisions to test these in the ‘Children and Young Person’s Bill’.  At present these schemes are going through a process of evaluation.  Looking at the impact on the young people in care and also the wider Children Services and the impact on them.  Next year in 2012 a report will be published on the Social Work Practise Pilots and will evaluate how they have been.  This scheme will only be developed further if there is a clear measurable outcomes for the Children.  Another measure is to improve the relationship between the young person and their Social Worker.  (something I can agree with)  I have known Children to have left care with more than 15 Social Workers!


It looks like the Authority will continue to be the Corporate Parent, and continue to monitor whether the Social Work Practises are:


  • Get to know you – what makes you happy and what makes you sad.
  • Work with you to resolve any problems that may be making you unhappy.
  • Help you to stay in touch with your family where appropriate.
  • Ensure you are healthy and doing well at school.
  • Make time for you when you need it.
  • Be honest, reliable and trustworthy.
  • Test new ways of giving you more control over your life.
  • Try to give you a much better experience of care.
What are the benefits for practitioners?

The aim is to reduce bureaucracy, and enable different models of practise.  A chance to use different approaches in order to improve the outcomes for young people!  Note: that there will still be a practise manager of sorts and that there will still be a level of accountability

But for smaller practises there is a chance to take on additional tasks for a fee that might create extra funding that could be used to create, fund and run extra training, or facilities for young people.

The aim is that once a Social Work Practise takes on a Young Person they are responsible for looking after that Child until they leave care and after they have left care.

Key Principles:

Social Work Practises should be Child Centred and the welfare of the Child is paramount.  The Child’s interests is the main interest of the Local Authority and the Social Work Practise.

Accountability:

The Local Authority will not be able to discharge its responsibilities towards the Looked After Child.  So the contract between them and the Social Work Practises should be critical and clear about the terms and the expectations of the work being requested.  This should be guided by the Children’s plan.

The role of the Independent Reviewing officers becomes even more important on monitoring the outcomes and the views of everyone to ensure the quality of care is being maintained.

Payments:

These will be made on agreed thresholds of measurable outcomes for the young people the Social Work Practises manage and could be reduced if these targets are not met.

Roles and Responsibilities:

The Social Work function will be maintained within these teams and Assessments and Care Planning will need to continue.  Social Work Practises will need to report to the Children’s trust to ensure Policies and Procedures are kept up to date and relevant.

At present there is not much information on how these Practises are doing.  Other than the Government are looking to extend the project.  I know that I will be interested in these results and what may or may not be the future of Social Work and whether this will be integrated in to Child Protection.

However, for some Social Workers this may be an exciting opportunity to develop their practise and make some positive changes and listen to the young people and develop services tailored for them.