Happy New Year to everyone! Its an exciting time for me writing this blog as I only started writing “How not to do Social Work” this time 12 months ago. The excitement is still there, not know whether anyone is going to read it or is interested.
2011 was a busy year for me and others with so much happening in the world of Social Care and Social Work. 2012 appears to be continuing with the same theme and is going to be equally as interesting and will no doubt demonstrate equally difficult challenges. I know where I work these challenges are not just in the terms of resources that are available, but also in the form of a major restructure and with changes in the terms of our employment conditions.
It is proving ever more difficult to practise as a Social Worker when working for a Local Authority that is having to make changes to fit the Government’s plans. It is clear that Social Work still remains misunderstood and therefore can be adapted like any other department. The priority still remains the pot holes in the roads, and with the cold weather coming it will be difficult times and tough decision making for some councils.
It is a worry for many people whether they will still have a job in a few months time, and for many people I work with it is the same. I hear it being said over and over again in the office “We will be okay because we are Social Workers!” Guess what, I don’t think anybody is okay in an environment that is as tough as this one. When Social Workers leave their posts they are not being replaced, and if they are it is to newly qualified workers who require more support and time, to ensure that they are protected until they are comfortable and able to manage.
However, no matter how hard it is it does not reflect how hard it is for the people we work with. That is the challenge, no matter what the politics are of the job is to find and fight for the right service for the young people. To raise their outcomes and encourage them to take the dwindling opportunity’s that are available to them.
I look forward to these challenges and supporting people to make a difference, I know I will continue with my learning and continue to raise the profile of Social Work in a positive way.
Happy New Year
Have you ever wondered or noticed how young people’s behaviour can sometimes replicates those around them. I only ask because as a social worker you are often asked about outcomes for young people and what are we trying to do to raise these outcomes.
But it is not just the people around the young people that affects their behaviour. It is the Police as demonstrated in the August Riots, and more importantly the Government. I am sure the Government are trying hard to reassure our anxieties and demonstrate that what they are doing is the right thing. And maybe if you are in a lucky position where you have money, savings and your own property or several properties you maybe pleased with what the current Government are doing.
However, if you are a young person just starting out, and more worryingly you are a young person in care. This message may not be interpreted the same, It may not even be the message you want to hear. As services are scaled down, cut and the amount of time of important workers such as Social Workers, Counsellors, Advocates, Youth Workers, Connexion Workers that is spent with you is squeezed down.
What does this mean? it means that for some young people they will not be getting enough support, it means that they will be anxious about what is going to happen to them. It means that their behaviours replicate this feeling. And what does this mean for everyone else? it means that the level of engagement is often raised by professionals due to placements ending, or the young person becoming involved in Youth Offending or Substance Misuse.
At present it does not seem that this will be possible, and will continue in this cycle until more investment either in resources or in workers who can provide support and opportunity for young people who maybe in crisis or the anxiety cycle. I do see this lack of investment as short sighted, as the longer that this is ignored the greater the cost on the individual and society.
It is also worrying as more and more people become affected by the current drastic cuts and changes to protect the few. Will those who are left be able to follow through with the “Big Society” dream? we know that those that need a tax break will continue to do their charitable bit. But will the rest of the society be able to pick up the gap left by connexions, Children’s centres or Youth clubs. Will they be able to go out on to the streets and engage disaffected young people and is this safe? does it leave vulnerable people to be lead astray and exploited.
Its not long to Christmas to now, even in the office the decorations have gone up under strict health and safety guidance! I have even forced myself and the kids to listen to xmas albums on our iPod every morning during breakfast, to try and find some of that xmas spirit. i mean this time last year it was completely different with the snow well and truly established on every inch of ground. Making it feel like a Movie Christmas!
Big news we were also blessed with an extra hour this year for our Christmas Party! I guess know one had sent the memo to the Chief Exc saying we were going to take it anyway. But none the less a kind gesture. Which, the following day was followed by another announcement of job losses and people at risk of their job. So again xmas spirit is slashed knowing that for some people this year Christmas will be done on the tightest of budgets so that every penny.
I try to avoid sending Christmas Cards to colleagues at work, purely because I know so many people within the LA, which means to send one would mean to send hundreds. So instead I like the idea of donating money to Charity for every card received.
It is a difficult time of the year, and whilst other workers maybe be calming down for a xmas break. I am finding that working with young people in care that the work is…………… , Well lets be honest in general all work in social work is just getting busier!
I also find and think at this time of the year it is hard, as the young people we work with either spend time away from home or alone. Some through choice and others because they have no family. At least this year xmas parties have been put on for those at risk of being alone during this holiday period through the participation teams. For some young people they may want contact with their family but continue to be let down by their family. Others may want contact but due to the risks presented by them it may not be safe.
I wonder with all of the cuts being made whether this will be offered next year, or whether there will be money to provide Christmas Presents to children living alone in supported living placements. In a way I am glad that I have not seen the Coca Cola advert this year with the sound of the Holidays are coming being repeated over and over again.
Could you save money when working with children? Would you be able to decide who can have a therapeutic placement or who would have to leave a foster placement to live alone or in a shared house?
It’s not easy, is it? The impact of this decision could have a lasting impact on a young persons life. It could mean the difference of managing adulthood in work and being happy or living a life in chaos and always needing a service.
For young people in care, I worry that the social work assessments are slowly being replaced by the need to keep budgets balanced. Team Managers are being trained to manage their own budgets, so that the blame for over spends can be placed at individual teams rather than the service.
Pressure is being placed on recording almost day to day why young people are still in their foster placements! Why are they still placed out of county in Residential? With the same information being requested in different formats.
The reason for the information is that the budget only seven months after restarting, is going to be over spent!
If you are in agreement with the budget cuts are you happy knowing that your profit and luxury is at the expense of a young person needing quality therapeutic intervention. Knowing that this young person will grow up struggling needing more support.
Big Society is not going to be able to support the pressure of placements and nor will encouraging more private business because there is still no money to pay for the placements. Social Enterprise will also struggle to find the money to pay for services, placements.
For the young people more uncertainty and confusion and worry will impact upon their integration and development into their adult world and society!
One useful tool Social Workers have, is knowledge and information. Being able to access information to aid assessments quickly helps to develop and maintain relationships. Whilst also making these assessment more accurate and essential to the families it involves.
The note book and pen is a useful tool, it allows thoughts to be noted and reflected upon. Its a tool that can be given to a child to help them express what they want to say. It does have its weakness that in our changing world of social work that with office space shrinking and storage space non existing. Keeping notes and finding them again is becoming difficult, with pressure mounting for them to be added to our computer systems, quickly.
I had been quite lucky with a 3G laptop and being able to access our systems where ever I might be. It enabled me to be able to retain knowledge that with everything else would have been to to much to manage. It meant that instead of delay I was able to get information and send information without having to go back into the office first. It not only helped me but the agencies that I was working with, and promoted working relationships.
This may not sound like modern technology, but for me and my practise this was a useful tool in getting information quicker. It enabled me to be a more mobile working social worker and saved me time especially if I had to go out of county for a visit or if I had to sit in court all day waiting for an hours direction hearing. As we waited for this to be trialled within the service, the spirit of the trial was lost. Instead mobile working became flexible working from home and now the contract has finished so has my mobile working.
Being able to access your e-mails and respond to them is an important part of a social workers job. But being able to access the child’s electronic file is also important, and would help practitioners to double check information and make decisions and risk assessments faster.
Computer programmes has been previously developed to enable young people to share their views for Looked After Children’s Reviews. An idea that recently seems to have disappeared where I am. However, with smartphones and apps there is a chance for further development in this area of engagement. Not just with Social Work, buts Schools and maybe CAMHS to.
I have had no information as to why this was stopped or whether any thought had been given to this. Instead I found one e-mail saying we maybe be allocated Blackberries! this may mean I am losing my hot desk or it may mean I have to learn a new password. I also hope that Social Work loses its fear of technology and learns how to communicate through this medium to safeguard the vulnerable people we work with.
There is not many times in my life where I have felt extremely happy or that I feel I have achieved something extra special. Social Worker is a battle either to keep families together or to get funding to provide the right service to the young people you work with. More frustrating than not this is often left by senior managers to the last minute. However, for me this week I have been given a smile on my face as my faith in Social Work is temporarily restored. I have found out that my wife who has been studying Social Work for the past three years has a job in her service area.
The hardest realisation you can face is often the one you find out to late about it. For years there has been a stereotype that if you are young and pregnant you will be given your own flat. And having worked with young people for the past two years this has not always been the case. But I am also pleased that until now all young mums that I have worked with have been brilliant at meeting the needs of their babies.
However, there is still a very small percentage where the level of support is needed to be higher. It is always harder to explain this process without instilling fear into the young person! The dangers and risks are high because the parents are also young and vulnerable.
To increase this risk the young Mum has still been living in her own chaos, fighting the system and demanding a flat despite not coping living alone twice before.
I worry that this small percentage of young people will be set up to fail, as services are cut well trained professionals and organisations will not be able to provide guidance and assistance where needed. For young people in care there is already little trust in social care workers as expectations change with high staff turnovers, or funding being with drawn from needed services.
At 17 and a half are you a child or are you a young adult? Will you get a flat? Only when you are ready, only with support. It is right that this is assessed and that a decision should be made as to whether this is the right thing to do.
I hope that no further support is cut for young people especially young mums. And because of this those who are vulnerable will be given more time to show that they can affect change for themselves and their babies.