Tag Archives: changes

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!

Down with the Titanic

Have you ever heard your practise described as that of the Titanic? Maybe you are thinking, that’s not so bad! After all, at the time the titanic was advanced ship of its time, fitted with Luxury and built for speed.  I know that is being extremely positive and normally you might expect a more negative meaning.  And I think you are probably right, as the comments that followed alluded to Social Workers being unwilling to change their views about progress.  I guess with this type of logic it is right for the ship to sink!

Confused? so am I what social worker would not want change! less cases more functional and positive time with children and their families, better outcomes, less paper work, less hurdles to provide an essential service.  Sound crazy to say “hey, I like the red tape, the pointless tick box exercises!”

Okay there are still ( a minority now) of social workers who are still trying to work out how to switch the computer on, but even they would like change if only so they could have an easier system to work.

It is not often that I get offended, but if I have to miss my lunch to give my views and get insulted in the process you will get an honest answer even if you do not like it.  Social Care has waited a long time to see what changes will come from the Munro Review and as the Government stalls this with further evidence required from extending the trials.  We are now trying to step out into the brave new world formulating a design that would work for us.

Like the sinking ship Titanic there is no life boats (the budget was cut!) Its time to accept that there has to be a rethink of how the service is delivered.  Fine, great you want our views.  Okay you started off with an insult –  that’s cleared up now we will move on.

It should feel better to know that potentially I could be involved in something special.  I added my comments and expressed a view that change is okay but why settle for just that……… We should be in the forefront of developing services and supporting young people, we should not be creating services that for many Local Authority’s have been around for many years and nor should we be creating obstacles for either the young person or the workers to go through to get a service.

Well also like the Titanic we have set out on a Journey and I hope that we will reach our destination.

One cut to many?

Sometimes when the phone is ringing, and two different clients waiting in reception wanting to see you urgently, and your manager is wanting more updates on your out of county placements and the latest pathway plan urgently. The heat in the office is extremely high as Health and Safety will not let you open the window, and the last time you had a drink was five minutes before you left home this morning.

This is just a one minute snap shot that is repeated every five minutes of the working day. What gets you through the day? sometimes I wonder but the support of your team is one good way. But really it is a confident understanding of the procedures and the legislation that we work to. Understanding the remit we work in, enables clear guidance to underpin the knowledge learnt whilst studying to become a social worker.

It can already feel like that if you have not got support from any other agency the expectation is that Social Care will provide it. For some people this is essential for them to manage, however for others leaves families angry because the support they feel they should have has not been provided.

So although I do not like having to read through books and books of guidance, I understand that it is important. So maybe scrapping the guidance is not necessary but instead understanding where it is and how it can be accessed would be a better way of managing the bureaucracy.

The working together document is not just a useful document for Social Workers, it also provides useful guidance for other agencies. Essentially, it provides accountability for social workers and provides a basis for support.

And lets be clear this guidance does cover a large variety of abuse from neglect to sexual and all of the variety’s that this may be forced upon children. So to take it from one document, will ultimately mean that others will have to be written.

It is not the guidance that needs to be cut nor is it the budget that needs to be cut instead it is the time spent fixed to the desks completing funding request forms, forms to pass information up to management, forms in triplicate to make a referral, forms to request other forms.

I guess the one area in which the young person would like to see more of will become a luxury and that would be to see their social worker more often. Rather than just the statutory guidance, which many social workers will find hard to manage with the constant pressure they are under.

So lets not cut the guidance, instead be creative as to how it can be found I do not want to have to trawl through the intranet, or the Safeguarding board website then to the Department of Education or Opsi to find the information I need. Instead, provide the systems that help social workers make their decision accurately, quicker and more effective to enable true safeguarding of vulnerable children. To enable them to remain within the family when they can and to process child protection system’s faster where they are needed.

The Fun Fair

Have you ever wondered how working in social work is like riding on the ‘Merry-go-Round’.  Every day, week and month you get back on the ride appearing to go around in circles.  Restricted by the legislation and budgets from veering off the path, the goal to complete your work.

Its easy to see how as Social Workers you can quickly become dizzy, confused and disorientated.  When you get on the ‘merry go round’ you understand how it works, it gently goes around in a circle with the ride you are on also going up and down.  But, what you do not expect is that the ride does not stop, that due to the time that you are required to use the computer systems that the ride can speed up.

Despite social work being like a ‘Merry-go-Round’ it is not fun! as your journey takes you around and around it makes it essential that your social work skills are used effectively.  Your perception requires you to be able to observe changes and improvements or regression in behaviours and child safety.  My favourite description of observational skills is looking at a piece of cheese.

Everybody will observe a situation and although everyone maybe looking at the same situation they may observe it from a different angle, and therefore see a different story.  When riding on the social work ‘merry go round’ it is possible that every time we complete a visit we may also see different sides of the same piece of cheese.  Which, due to the nature of social work requires real analytical skill to decipher in the spin whether you are seeing change in the family and if this is leading to a positive outcome for them. Or is it the same cheese from a different angle masking the problem.

But, Social Work is more than just going around in circles with the families we work with.  With Carer development and personal learning a good social worker will experience all of the rides in the fun fair.  A journey that is never boring, and always a challenge.  That when you get home all of the adrenaline, (pressure or stress) needs to be released to avoid the burn out.  Finding the balance is not as easy as it seems.  Knowing that young children and babies may be living in situations that cause sleepless nights, or arguing in your own head whether the right decision has been made.  

But don’t forget that as fund fairs pack up and move around in social work we like to do the same.  Instead of moving though the nature of the fun fair changes, the rides become smaller.  And the entrance fee rises, the conditions change as to who can ride on the rides.

Lets all promote positive social work and positive interventions, that social work is not a fun fair that can be forced closed or shrunk.  That like fun fairs, social work may not be liked but when done well, it can have a big impact on the community and all of the people living in it.