Tag Archives: current-events

‘Decisions and impact’

grief-and-loss-therapy

Its hard sometimes to remember childhood, I look back and there are still some things that I remember well and others when I hear about them I laugh because I have no recollection of them.  However, for children and children in care the issue is not about remembering but living their childhood.

More importantly that as adults we can make life changing decisions for ourselves and our children, often without thinking about them.  As a parent it is hard when faced with making a decision that is important whilst considering the impact upon your child.  Significantly for some people being able to understand the impact of your decision making upon your child is impaired due to your own childhood experiences or substance misuse or violent relationships.  But perhaps more commonly now is the impact of the austerity cuts where low income families are forced to make decisions that increasingly leave their children at risk.

It has often be presented that social workers have forgotten these challenges and this can easily be understood as the tick box culture has been developed to prevent errors and mistakes.  Instead the talking part of social work has been lost, the time that families need to unpick their understanding of the situation they are in.  Furthermore simple but effective services are cut and removed from these vulnerable families forcing them to either sink or swim.

Lets not forget though that for Children’s services it is the children that are important, and for that any small change for children can have a massive impact upon their development.  A change in school could mean a loss of a friend or supportive teacher, a change of home frequently could cause many difficulty’s relating to attachments and feeling settled and having a sense of belonging.  Lets not forget as social workers or parents that Children need to understand the events that are happening in their life in order to make sense of it.

Mixed messages from parents and or professionals can leave the child in turmoil, feeling confused and unsure often causing these anxieties to be acted out through behaviour.  Behaviour which then can lead to the child or young person being excluded from their school, friends, family and then increasing their risk of vulnerability.

Its easy to forget as adults that it is our responsibility to be responsible for this, not to draw the attention to our needs rather than the needs of the children that are in our care.  To raise awareness of the impact of the serious nature of the cuts made by the government that looks to early intervention to reduce the long term care needs and budget demands on the Local Authority’s.

Instead I fear that the impact will be far worse that where you can see this sign

closed

and continue to see this sign then there will always be a danger that without a serious investment in to social care and the voluntary agency’s that support vulnerable families and children that this will continue to be a major concern.

Article 3 (Best interests of the child): The best interests of children must be the primary concern in making decisions that may affect them. All adults should do what is best for children. When adults make decisions, they should think about how their decisions will affect children. This particularly applies to budget, policy and law makers. ” 

So Mr Gove in the government that does not focus on the rights of the Child, perhaps it is time that this is the change that is enforced.  Stop looking else where for the blame, start to implement the concepts of basic rights for children in legislation and policy and lets prevent children from experience loss.

Who are the real people?

Ask the real people I am told? there is another side to the story and innocent people have been waiting a long time for someone to stand up to the despicable actions of those (few) but nasty social workers that remove children.

Who are these real people and are social workers not real people? perhaps this might be why there is a problem with social work training! For a different view of child abuse, how about one where people strongly believe that those who commit child abuse should be castrated (not my view) but one that is certainly held in The Republic of Moldova .   Of course this is an extreme view and may be the polar opposite of those that think children should remain with their parents, even if they are being neglected! But for me this is why social work is so important, because it does not sit in any camp and for many people this is scary and a threat.  After all how can each family be treated differently and no same outcome achieved twice?people

I blogged about this on ‘Is there anyway to improve?’ and how there are many different perceptions of one snap shot of life.  There is also multiple ways that each scenario could end up, and with out everyone wanting to end child neglect it does not really matter which camp you support the outcome will be the same! Children will suffer.

As a social worker, working with children it does make me sad and angry that many adults who argue that they have the best interests of the child at heart; are still only arguing for their own personal gain and feelings.  When something goes wrong or a mistake is made the children are used for the reason to make a change rather than being the focus.  It is however the adult issue, which remains the subject of the media interest.  The media that can not even give respect to the children it believes that it is campaigning for including the Sun in this piece that could not even name Peter Connerly and instead referred to him as ‘Baby P’.  The shame of this article makes me sick because it focuses more on the adult writer rather than the tragic story of neglect suffered by Peter Connerly.  Or even worse the story of the Rotherham foster carers who want an apology for the children removed from them! After all lets not focus on giving the children  a chance to have their future determined through their family proceedings with out any other factors influencing the final outcome.

The real issue of this story is poor communication and the right to privacy for these young Children. Not very exciting and one that you would not often see in the media, however move the victim from the children to the foster carers, add a local election, race and we have a far more interesting story in which to beat the local council and the reputation of all social workers with.

Who are the real people? If you ask me it does not matter who the real people are – It is the children that matter to me, breaking the cycle of neglect and poor parenting YES poor parenting not poor people but poor parenting.  Which is why I am interested in early intervention and understanding how each family works and what support is needed to keep children safe.  Because I know that being in care is not always the best options but sadly sometimes it is the only option.

Perhaps Mr Gove rather than making wild statements instead you should invest in Social Care and education rather than criticising the service you are pulling apart!

 

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!

 

 

The God Syndrome

Dear Mr Gove, thank you for your extremely helpful comments on “Child Protection‘ which has historically been under resourced, disrespected by the Government and other professionals because of its lack of a status as a ‘Profession’, and by the gross failure in the family courts to respect the experience social workers bring in their long term case work with vulnerable families and their children in order to provide long term safeguards.

I have enjoyed reading other people’s views of the direction Mr Gove wants to take social work from this speech, such as ‘Give over Gove‘ on the socialworkerx blog and also Andrew Ellery makes good points about ‘Frontline’ for BASW to highlight the anger of the proposals to train the new super social workers from ‘certain’ University’s, perhaps creating the biggest contradiction in social work history.

An excellent example of this contradiction can always be found in the Daily Telegraph and as recently as the 1st of September 2012 titled ‘Don’t ask your Grandson how his jaw got broken, says Social Workers’ describing how children are ‘ruthlessly taken into care’ and of a young girl who had a ‘tif’ with her parents was then taken into care, by social workers.  But worse than this is the awful term ‘God Syndrome’ which is thrust upon social workers because of this attitude.

  It does therefore saddens me that this image is still being portrayed of social work, that those who are vulnerable still require saving from great harm – and that only social workers can do this, descending into the family home creating chaos and distraction to remove confused children.

Children, do require protecting from serious harm, they can not be left without love, food, warmth, stimulation, so yes they do require protection! and to play down neglect is a serious crime.

However, social work can not continue in the contradiction that it currently exists within, created by the those in power and those who have the power to influence through the use of the media.

So as social work continues to promote reflective practise and research in to the very foundation of its practise, and understanding evidence of the systemic impact of generational impact of neglect and vulnerabilities; which YES is still in its infancy with the social work learning on the degree course and ‘the college of social work‘ and social work continuing professional development.

It does mean Mr Gove, that your comments are damaging and unhelpful, baring in mind how some people can see social work as a whole – it appears that Mr Gove wants this to be reinforced with his view of what social workers should be…

“I want social workers to be more assertive with dysfunctional parents’

Reinforcing the biggest contradiction of social work practise, that as a social worker I would not want to associate with.  But have no fear Mr Gove, as a social worker I have been assertive with parents I have found to be lacking in their care of their children, but the real skill is not to quickly remove the child leaving them scared and confused.  Instead to help develop their resilience and act upon their wishes and should this to be removed to a place of safety – it should be a place of safety that they have identified.  This is a social work skill that can not be taught or even exclusive to certain graduates, but one that is learnt through experience, observation, mentoring, guidance and mistakes.

Young people that are in care should also play an important part in the learning of our practise, they should play an essential part in the recruitment of social workers and other care staff.  But as I discussed in my last post ‘Is there any way to improve?‘ the best way to do this is to speak with social workers!

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.

 

Understanding Teens

Have you ever wondered what happened to being able to understand teenagers? We have all gone through this stage unless you are reading this and you still are a teenager.  In which case help!! who are you and how can social workers meet your needs?

Is it really that bad? can social workers really not understand teenagers of today? is the assessment of need that is started at 15 and a half a poor assessment of adolescent needs? As a social worker who has worked with adolescent young people for over ten years it does worry me that such bold statements have been made, especially in the ‘Rochdale‘ incident.

However, does this not go deeper than just social workers not understanding teenagers and Residential homes that can not keep teenagers safe? Yes it does, this can not be about another story where social workers can not keep children safe! if this statement was true then what is the point.

However, better matching of young people who are going to be placed and living together is needed rather than a ‘take as many as we can to raise our profit’ attitude is definitely needed then maybe this could be a start.

But what is it that teenagers want, and why is it that they remain one of the most vulnerable groups in society? is perhaps a more meaningful question.  The issue of young girls and boys being groomed by stronger and more unsavoury characters is not just confined to children living in residential care, in fact if Local Authority’s are struggling to keep them safe when they are already in residential care how are they also keeping the teenagers living at home safe.  Where moody grunts, doors slamming and late nights may all be part of what could be classified as human development and teenagers learning about themselves.

The teenage years are the most important years after your ‘early years’ for social, physical and emotional development.  This is particularly significant for children in care that have suffered early childhood neglect and abuse.  Where early messages of hate, distrust and self worth have already been preprogrammed into the identity of the young person.  Where emotional warmth and knowledge of who you are become confused between torn and inconsistent messages from families and social care.  Where older younger people start to develop their own relationships and start to make and take risks of their own.

All acceptable human development so far, but why then is it that more and more young girls and boys rush for relationships that are or may be abusive.  Moreover, why is it so hard for workers to have these conversations in a meaningful way challenging already learnt behaviour and making positive challenges to these types of attachments.

Perhaps the biggest question is why are local authority’s are not trying harder to engage these vulnerable young people.  Maybe this is to harsh as I know that especially where I work that there is already a lot of support offered to young people.  However, what is lacking is the time and ability for social workers and residential workers to identify and promote participation and answer questions that young people have about their own families, themselves and life.  Rather than ticking boxes, and offering meaningless services as a way of approaching this subject.

But what is clear is that social workers should be checking out placements before they are being made, ensuring their levels of visits are maintained and that the level of engagement with the young person is being maintained between the home, family and social worker and the reviews of the looked after children’s plan should be perhaps more frequent where the placements are made outside of the local authority.

 

 

The ten year plan

What every person needs is a ten year plan to work towards, a plan which sets out clearly step by step your actions that need to take place to affect change and also improve outcomes.  Ten years? [wow] what a long time, I can barely set out a plan for five years before something comes along and changes what I want to do, let alone for me to have the financial ability to carry it out.

However, here it is the Governments collectively since 2004 have had a ten year plan, and I guess that the start and finish times are slightly fluid in movement to fit in with whenever the Local Authority’s achieve the change needed to boast about sufficiently.

I was wondering whether the current coalition understood social work in any form.  Did they understand the changes that were recommended by Eileen Munro, although even before Eileen Munro began talking about improving child protection procedures the Government had already decided on what it called the ‘Every child Matters: Change for Children’ plan.

In 2004 the Children Act 2004 was introduced with some key changes in place to improve the outcomes for all children.  This included a necessity of all LA’s to have a Children’s Director, an elected councillor who will have links with the local Safeguarding board.

The change for Children plan put clearly at it heart clear defined outcomes that would be linked to the OFSTED inspections and placing responsibility with all organisations to be responsible for providing improved outcomes for the vulnerable young people they were engaging through Joint area reviews (JAR).

Furthermore it found that the consultation from Every Child Matters that better outcomes will be secured by services working more effectively at the front line to meet the needs of the children.  even in 2004 it was identified that there needed to be a massive culture change in the way the service delivery was provided, with narrowing resources and budgets by pooling what is available and having a joined up front line service children and their families could be sign posted to the right service sooner rather than later.  It would also mean that children would not lose the benefit of the specialism that exist within different teams.

However, it is only today that these teams are being openly talked about although some have been in place longer.  On the BBC website talks about Northamptonshire County Council setting up a Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub or (MASH).

The idea of which is really exciting and means that whether these teams are vital or physical that better communication, assessments and working will lead to a reduction of families needing high end social care involvement and children achieving better outcomes.

It would be interesting though to wonder where the Munro review fitted into this and whether this is the driver to ensure the 10 year plan is achieved and needed? and whether the two plans can work together as many LA’s are still trying to implement massive budget reductions and reorganisations to achieve this, whilst offering the best service to children and young people.

 

Change and Hope?

If every day was the same life would quickly become boring.  In social work this is one certainty you can guarantee, that every day will bring something new and exciting.  But with this comes a lot of pressure and responsibility that would be expected when working directly with young people.  And also for a Local Authority that will be under pressure to demonstrate it is performing well, which is quite right considering it is using public money to do so.

The other topic you will here regularly is change, designed to ensure efficiency is achieved and the best service can be delivered to the minority that need it the most.  Despite not practising for not as long as others I have already experienced these changes almost constantly since qualifying.  Which, to me already makes these changes pointless.

Furthermore, I can not see how they save money as different parts of the Local Authority are sold off highlighting each mistake like alarm bells as the dwindling pot of money disappears.  Each time experienced knowledgeable workers are retired or made redundant to be replaced with inexperienced colleagues who are increasingly becoming over worked.

Now it is not really hard to see what is happening in the bigger picture with the coalition government in power.  We all understand the ethos, and the need to make money from private enterprise.  So here we are being run into the ground and with 270,000 public sector workers already unemployed, it is certainly going to plan.

This will not be getting any better for the foreseeable future so if we have to make changes let them be positive and beneficial for the people we work with.  Lets stop changing job titles and rising pay with it, lets stop creating position for people that have no direct meaning on the work we do.  Lets stop funding pot hole repairs and use tarmac that won’t erode under heat and cold weather conditions.

Social Work, despite its criticism is not about reacting to problems, it is not about removing children in order to meet adoption targets.  However, it is about safeguarding and protecting vulnerable children and young people.

Early intervention should be early intervention, multi disciplinary teams should not just be professionals but also volunteers to provide family’s with advice and support.  this should also include legal advice for people who are suffering from Domestic abuse in order to achieve change sooner.

Moreover, early intervention should be the responsibility of everyone making more use of the Common Assessment Framework (CAF) for all professionals to understand what is happening for these children and young people.  To invite support sooner for their families and therefore creating more positive home environments.

The coalition government has removed funding for everyone, making it harder for the third sector to survive and provide the essential support it has always done along side the public and private sectors.  Local Authority’s should also invest into the community’s where the support is most needed, rather than moving troublesome families around the housing association need to share essential information to ensure the right needs are being met.

Child protection should also be essential training on all courses that involve working with people.  Whether it be teaching, health, mental health, government the aim to ensure that everyone understand what everyone needs to do to ensure the safety and well being of every child.  So that it does not need a referral to Children’s Social Care.

In order to do this the government will need to start considering the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child with all legislation that it wants to bring in.  Making all children prime consideration at all times and not just after a tragic death.

I live in hope

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