Tag Archives: change

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.

 

 

Changes

For the past year I have been on a journey through Social Work, finding myself unhappy with myself and the work that I was doing. Like many Social Workers the long hours, stress and missing out on valuable family time put increased pressure on not only me but my family that could not carry on.

However, as I looked for change so did Social Work and I started to wonder whether the two would meet. Questioning my confidence to practice and manage, worrying whether quickly my circumstances would change and what this would mean for my family? I found that this added pressure just made everything worse; losing the passion and the enjoyment I once had in Social Work.

Time quickly builds up momentum and I would hear daily how frustrated and under pressure my Social Workers were. Despite Social Work moving towards better outcomes and more direct work, I found myself working in an environment where the emphasis was still to get the ‘square peg into the round hole’ that looking into the whole picture was not encouraged to focus and comply with the guidance rather than what works best for each individual families.

I found that my voice had become lost, that my arguments were laughed at and finally I found myself targeted for standing up to this. For the first time in my carer I was being questioned about my risk assessment skills! A low blow and one that I never recovered from. My manager informed me that it is not the plan that protects the children but the people involved in the plan. A great idea, but what it lacked was the understanding that you need to be able to identify the right resources and people first in order to create the plan. This type of ‘battery hen’ Social Work made me angry and you could see that the pressure was having an impact upon not just me but the Social Workers.

This type of Social Work Practice requires and demands that each social worker works above and beyond what is already expected. It demands 100% compliance, no mistakes, no learning only action. ‘Get it into Court!’ I would often hear, despite the lack of Social Work Intervention, despite the lack of understanding of what it was like for the children or young person in that family!

I have learnt that I do not enjoy change or that I like to admit defeat and that I can not do something or make a change. Sadly this year that I have learnt that I can change, I can admit I can not do something and that if I can not make a change or difference then I need to move on. It has grated on me, especially with the recent resurgence in the media about Social Work change and rebuilding the confidence in Society of the competence of Social Work Practice. Why? because where Social Work is allowed to work it can make a change, it can make a big difference. For many Social Workers there learning can be lost from University when they join a work place that focus on their compliance completely losing sight of their Social Work Practice rather than trying to work on both issues together.

It has taken a while but I have not given up, I have found my focus again! So please do not give up, Social Work does make a difference and we are important in doing this.

You, Me and Social Work

It sounds like a film title but sadly it is not.  Instead it describes the constant questioning many social workers ask themselves over and over.  Working in front line child protection will always raise tensions and frustrations, within ourselves and the social workers we work with inevitably leading to clashes of thought, personalities and outcomes.  This is not social work as we might want it to be, although many people may recognise the tensions and dilemmas that are experienced in front line practise.  As social work practise and theory changes the aim is to become more logical and systemic in the analysis, removing the clashes and tensions for a more logical thought process.  Gathering data and information with the aim to process this more efficiently in order to understand what the concerns are.

But have the changes in social work improved the working conditions for social workers? sadly not. The competing challenges of meeting targets mixed in with overcoming societies social and economic difficulties matched with a combined reduction in services and not forgetting the aim of trying to do some direct work we all trained for.  However, the strain of the changes is showing in many way different ways and worryingly it is the capacity to manage the amount of work that is being referred to Social Care for assessment.  Strain and pressure on a fragile service that remains high risk for the vulnerable children that need safeguarding and also a service vulnerable to a Government that would be happy to shut it down.

For me and social work this year, I have had to learn and develop a resilience to these pressures.   Rebuild my strength and resolve to focus on what I believe is good social work practise and promote positive social work intervention.  Often meaning even when I have felt like walking away, I have had to pick myself up and up the social workers I work with.  In order to give them the focus and reflection they need to remain focused on effecting positive change.  Whilst watching others argue and buckle under the same pressures and for some this has been too much and they have felt the need to move on to different pastures.

Social work practise may have changed and for the better, but its time to be honest and admit that the pressure has not.  The expectation that no mistakes will be made with high case loads, lack of resources remain.  Furthermore the expectation that as a social worker you will work long hours often unpaid and unrewarded will be a standard expectation and if you don’t do this you will be challenged and criticised for not meeting the expectations put on you.  So how can you enjoy positive work with families and children when the one thing you need is time is not available.  When even if you find the time and space you need, the ability to reflect and research the information you are given is not there because the pressure the service is under means you have no manager, no supervision, no colleagues to explore ideas with.

This might be what the Government wants, waiting for another major failure to attack and destroy social work.  But for you, me and social work we all need to continue to fight and improve the service we provide through better communication and learning from each other.

Journey

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Like for many people this year has been a journey for me.  I began so confident in the route that I had chosen to take because I knew where I wanted to be.  However, like many journeys you do not always end up where you think you will.  Worryingly this year I ended up becoming lost on my route losing the passion and strength required to be the best social worker I could be.  I guess if I am honest change never sits well with me anyway, yet this time last year I was excited by the thought of change and where it could take me.  Once again it is Christmas and I am again faced with the thought of making another change and for the first time this year I am feeling positive about myself and again excited about social work and where I might end up.

“is this a fact or are you just saying this confidently” is a phrase I have heard a lot this year and sometimes my answer has been I do not know.  However, working in a new environment has helped develop my practise, supervision and reflection.  I have learnt for some social workers that this has been difficult to understand wanting and needing guidance on every step of case progression.  But I have learnt that although I can do this, it is not the social worker I want to be.  It has reinforced in my heart the type of social work I enjoy practising and delivering and when given the chance to do this I have seen how positive an impact this has had on my social workers.

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The current theme maybe that social workers are not able to achieve goals because of an over optimism in the ability of parents to make changes.  Yet outcomes remain a key focus of social work practise and change is part of this.  Mr Gove may feel better social work education is needed, but having experienced this year I would argue that education on its own will not be the solution to improving social work.  Instead recognising that social work learning never stops and that by maintaining links with the University’s in order to manage continuing professional development along with good workplace one to one supervision and peer supervision.

So again I am faced with change and the fear of failing but instead this time I am going to stick to what I enjoy.  I am going to continue to challenge practise and develop my social workers practise, because what I want to achieve is a positive outcome for children and their families.  recognising that there will be many paths I can take but I take strength from this year and what I have learnt and will use this to keep me focused on my new social work journey.  Remembering not to take the change for granted but again to start enjoying social work wherever I may be.

Settling in

Wow, what a week – it does make me chuckle as a social worker when making a change in my own life that I get anxious and nervous about it.  When every day I speak with people and support them through making their own changes.

Looking back though day 1 was the hardest I was truly the new boy on the block.  I did enjoy the tricks and the jokes of my new team with ‘the last manager brought us coffee and cakes every day!’ mmm really?

However, you quickly learn that despite a new building, problems with parking and different computer systems that it is the same job.  The same dilemmas and same issues popping up, and soon I found myself easing in and offering my thoughts, when I should have just been observing.

Despite all of this I have been made to feel welcome my first three weeks planned out to the hour.  An induction to help me hit the ground running and learning everything from legal to placements and everything in between.

And despite the social work haters out there, the discussion is about safeguarding not removing – unless a child needs to be removed to safeguard them.  It was good to see and hear of the services working together to keep children within their own families.

I am glad I have made the changes and it looks like I will have a challenge in my new role and I am looking forward to that

 

 

Time for a change!

Its that time of the year when everyone is talking about change and after all it is the New Year the time when most people try to make a positive change whether it to be diet, drink less or give up smoking!  However, this time for me its my job after five years working in one local authority I am looking to make a change and continue to broaden my skills and knowledge.

I have to confess though that this is a very scary time for me – where I currently work I know the services, I know all of the people and have good multi agency relationships that help me achieve good outcomes for the young people I work with.  I have a good team of social workers who make hard days good days, I have seen and encouraged them to develop in their practise and take on their own new challenges.

Sometimes I do wonder why if it is so good would I want to change? the answer is simple and despite the fear of any change, I enjoy social work.  Meeting new people and learning never taking any situation for granted.  I know that there will be those that disagree with social work and will probably be banging their drums about Social Services being the new ‘SS’ just wanting to remove children because of the power that we hold.

But for me change brings a new challenge, fresh practise and new people to meet and a chance for me to bring my own practise to them, whilst learning a new approach.  It also means that I can be challenged by my peers and the people I work with without the bias of everyone knowing me and allowing my practise to be questioned without any possible bias.  Whilst I always practise openly there is nothing like the fear of not having a job that keeps you working hard.

So this year is going to be a big year for me in Social Work and I am really looking forward to the opportunities it is going to bring to me.  I am also looking forward to what I can bring to social work this year, as always I can see that there will be many changes in the practise and legislation.  I also hope that social work will be recognised this year both in the media and by other professionals to be supported in the fight against child cruelty and neglect and helping vulnerable families bring about change without the need of protection plans and high end heavy intervention by social workers.

What do you want to achieve this year in your social work practise?

 

Urgent Review!

Just in case you were not sure, an urgent radical reform of social work is required for child protection practise, an understatement by a mile!  I am of course referring to the recommendations made by Lord Carlile of Berriew following his analysis of Child Protection in Doncaster .  However, amongst the obvious comments and arguments made after this very serious review of a very violent attack, made by two looked after children in 2009, a very real point has been made.

‘Cllr David Simmonds, chair of the Local Government Association’s Children and Young People Board, said the report shows Whitehall intervention isn’t working.

‘Government intervention is not working!’, the drive to make austerity savings and reduce red tape has blinded the government on the interventions that it believes that it is not so effectively making.  Removing ring fenced budgets, cutting budgets and can anyone remember the ‘Big Society?’ have all blurred any effective policy that the government has tried to install, after the Munro Review and now Lord Carlile’s review.

Again I can not help but worry about the comments that Mr Gove has made about social work and its interventions, about a service doomed to the dreaded ‘tick box’ bureaucracy created by ICS – which is ironically a great system to store all the information you need, but just badly! A system that came about as a part of the Laming Review and Every Child Matters – unless we do not have any money then, Mr Gove wants Social Care to find its own solution and to point the finger when it goes wrong.  Of course I can not blame all of this all on the current government after all it was Labour that responded to Lord Laming’s response to Victoria Climbe .  Just to point out that in this document there is a call to drive change in child protection in a positive quick approach and to improve assessments by being able to get information fast – Sounds familiar! (Munro review, Khyra Ishaq)

After all maybe a review of how the Government looks at its own social care policies is needed, I would not want to raise the Jimmy Savile subject and his relationship with the Department of Health that appointed him into a position to carry out this level of abuse!

But to come back to the recommendations from Doncaster and the Urgent and radical reform of child protection practise! Cough how urgent? I recently went for a job interview and part of the knowledge that I had to demonstrate was about the ‘Change Programme’ from Every Child Matters that was written in yes 2004! called ‘Every Child Matters: Change for Children’ which talks about a multi agency front door team that can gather information quickly using a triage system to assess the level of support and when it is needed.

So how seriously does the Government take child protection change, how serious is it at driving through change? Social Work has learnt from its mistakes and Eileen Munro’s review of Child Protection is good evidence of this and I wonder whether Mr Gove has read it? or supports it because the Child’s journey through child protection is very important as is the core principle of the ‘Children Act 1989’ which is where possible to keep families together!

I just wonder!

 

 

Room to think!

One thing that is always true in social work is the fact that you continue to reflect about almost everything that happens throughout the day.  And this got me to thinking about where is the best place for social workers to be working to do this.  The picture above is a call centre, but is so close to what my office looks like that it worries me, in fact at least these workers have sound boards to prevent the noise going side ways.
The office space that social workers work in has always been a hot topic to discuss and one I first wrote about in ‘fish bowl working‘  but over the past two years a lot has changed and significantly about social work practise and a time has come that the profession of social work has needed to be taken seriously, regulated and more importantly founded in a culture of learning and research that is respected in the courts and by other professionals.
So here we are two years on, with funding that has been cut to all services and an increase by the public of an awareness of the flaws in the current child protection system.  Which could not be ignored and lead to the Munro Review, which is still to be fully implemented.  We have had along side this with children in care teams a trial of Social Work Practises  which has recently had a review that can be found here.
Which leads me to where I again started to reflect about the location that I work, the office above is neither supportive of reflective practise or one where you can think, learn and share good practise.  But perhaps more importantly it is removed from the community and the children and families that we are supposed to be working with.
Maybe I am not the only one but I certainly feel like that I am where the world has gone mad.  In an attempt to achieve the change needed in Child Protection a ‘Systems thinking’ approach is being used to improve outcomes for the children and their families.  Where the key resource is the social worker for them.  BUT we continue to be hidden in our hard to reach, far removed office location where the council is trying to save money by selling off buildings and cramming all services in to one location.
So with positive changes comes another brick wall, which requires good will of other services to lend the use of their buildings when they are empty in order to deliver the service that is essentially needed by the most vulnerable people who may not always want to make the long journey to County Hall, to discuss their worries and fears in a room that is not friendly or supportive.
Please please if we are going to improve social work, lets not stop half way make the changes count and enable better social work practise at every level of reflection, learning and allow it to be open to inspection from the people that most need it because they can drop in and speak to a social worker whenever they wish.

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?

 

 

 

What is my experience?

Its not often I stop to think what it is in social work that I am good in doing! it is easier to say that I make mistakes and learn from these.  However, it still remains clear that despite the many hours of training and then the many hours of direct work with families that social workers are still rarely seen as experts.

I can see why, after all how easy is it to say that I am an expert in child protection? or I can predict the age of a separated child! But I do have a long history of working with children, furthermore I understand risk and my ability to reflect perhaps stops me from thinking that actually I might be expert.

After all, the last place anyone wants to be is in court highlighting what has happened well and what has happened not so well and what the immediate significant harm is.  Instead it would be far better to be an expert in keeping families together but this would never get to court to be proven would it?

But what this really means is how can I adapt as a social worker to change within a changing service? What do I still bring to the table as a skilled practitioner and how can I support other social workers and the families that they still work with.

As privatisation and the talk of early intervention becomes an almost daily discussion in the media, the need of social workers to really understand the work that they do becomes more important.  To continue to broaden your experience to be able to adapt to meet the needs of young people and their families becomes more key in understanding what you are experienced in completing.

I am pleased to say that I have been lucky in the opportunities that I have had and will continue to fight for.  But for those starting out in social work, do not ignore the work you do on a daily basis and the extra you need to do to learn from it and develop the expertise we may all need one day.