Tag Archives: future of social work

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.

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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!

 

 

Who is making the change?

Have you ever wondered if there is another job that can change as fast as social work without any changes having any immediate direct impact upon the people it should be helping.  As a social worker who has spent many hours of reading every week to keep my own knowledge up to date, it does worry me that with all of the changes that have recomended through Munro, that the one task that remains key to any succesful intervention remains pressurised to be completed – the social work assessment.

Early intervention continues to provide a positive prevantative barrier for many families and young people becoming involved with social care.  However, further reinforces the importance of the qualified social work assessment when it is needed.  It therefore remains a challenge for social workers to continue with their learning and research, when in order to save money by the LA higher case loads and interventions are being placed upon remaining social workers whilst at the same resources are being moved to help with early intervention.

For me this is essential as it remains critical that postive outcomes are found for the vulnerable young people that we work with.  As services are cut and funding is cut it is often left to the interventions made by the social workers to ensure that current placements do not break down.  That joint working has taken on a new meaning with the priority being to ensure that the outcomes are the right ones for the young person.

Something that this year has been rewarded with positive GCSE results and fewer placement break downs and importantly great understanding of the needs of looked after children.

However, are these changes being driven through by the government with their policy changes or by the social workers encouraging the young people to achieve their goals? As the changes suggested in the Munro review and the government policies have yet to take true effect it appears that with increased participation and what appears to be despite all odds a will by the young people to improve their situation and reach their dreams.

Gathering the data

Time is really running short now with just under four weeks left to gather my data and analysis what I have found in a meaningful way to write up in just 8000 words!

I have not been sitting in a blind panic since I last wrote about my research, and the danger of this project is that it is in addition to my day to day work.  The result is as can be expected that with the end of one financial year that I have had to complete the performance appraisals with the social workers that I supervise.  I have had to manage long term absence and balance the needs of the young people.  Which meant putting more pressure on the social workers who were in the office, and in turn give more support to ensure that they did not have their own meltdown’s and go off sick.

All in all a difficult time of the year with the social workers I supervise walking around in a mild panic about how I will review their year.  And along in my own head, I have all the thoughts about my own research that I jot down and stash away.

However, when planning my data gathering I was allowed to be convinced that recording the interview will allow me to capture more information and be more focused and approachable during the interview.  Great! that is exactly what I want more participation and therefore more honest answers to the questions I was going to ask.

What was I doing? this is a small piece of research for my post qualifying award in social work. Some people will know that when I sat down on saturday to type up the recordings that this was a painfully slow process.  What was one hour recording took up the better part of the whole day to stop – start play, pause and record.  Never mind the fear that I had that I might hit the delete button and lose the lot! Do not get me wrong it was so tempting and the delete button was the biggest button on my rather useful iPhone that I used to record the interview with.

Also the child in me was so tempted just to hit the big red button! 

And after six hours I was very tempted!

However, some sound advice was given to me – and the logic was like waking up fresh.  What was I looking for and what was the purpose? The recordings did not just give me an accurate understanding of the interview but a real chance to listen to what was being said.  Something, that I might have missed if I had just been reading the words.

Although verbal communication is a small part of how we communicate, the way the answer were delivered gave an added extra meaning that could have been lost if I had written it down.

So what was I looking for? what were the patterns and themes that were being discussed and shared with me.  After playing the interviews through several times these started to jump out of the sounds and in to defined groups.

So with my recordings made easier, I was given the next bit of advice, remember to keep a few sentences for quotes to be used in the research project.  Simple advice that may appear obvious, unless you have just spent a long time breaking your back painfully making accurate transcripts of your interview.  I would recommend if you choose to do this to ensure you have plenty of coffee and a comfortable chair.

I still have one interview to gain and then I will be able to start meaningfully writing up my research project.  What I have learnt so far has been incredible about the amount of preparation needed and why your methodology is so important.

I will continue and hope that others will want to do this.  Do not be put off and the learning from exploring a subject you enjoy enhances your social work practise and also provides a better service for the people you are working with.

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.

Socialworkhelper.com Social Work of the future!

its not often that I get asked to review websites, mainly though I am asked to review pathway plans, care plans or assessment of needs or Core Assessments.  So I write this with a little bit of excitement, and nervousness not only with the worry of the wonderful person that asked me to do this but also of all the people that may have their own view and decide to differ from my own.

So I here I go…………….

socialworkhelper.com describes it’s self as..

“a free social networking community created exclusively for social work, social care, and human service professionals and students”

Created by Deona Hooper, MSW a Social Worker who has gone on to get a second degree in Information Technology.  Deona explains that she created this website ” as a place where students and professionals could connect and get immediate feedback to a question or concern, without the usual delays you may have on twitter or bloggersphere”.

It is also very exciting as the website is still in its infancy but already had a varied selection of professionals and students as it members.  And I am now one of them, I have to be honest I am now a geek that does almost everything from my generic mobile phone (iPhone) and was disappointed that I could not access the content from my phone.  The thought of sitting in front of the computer when I get home is not something I enjoy.  So prefer the casual use my phone allows me, but don’t let this put you off.

However, Deona has been kind enough to upgrade the site to allow for ease of access for the professional on the go who can not get to their desktop.  This has enhanced the user experience of this site socialworkhelper.com Thank you Deona

The registration process is quick and easy and soon you have full access to the community.  I have kept my Twitter name @SimplySW for the site.  And I had considered whether I should shed the mask and step out as my true identity, but aired on the side of caution not wanting to risk the young people I work with or the organisation being identified.

What Deona has created is very interesting and complex, I doubt that I would have the skills to do the same.  The site has the ability to allow you to connect to your favourite social networking sites whilst communicating with other professionals and students safely.  Moreover, If you are someone who has thought about blogging but has not wanted to do so openly their is a chance to do so on the socialworkhelper community site.

What I do like about this site is the potential that it has, an acknowledgement that social work is no longer a profession relying upon a note book and pen.  A profession that has suddenly become technologically aware, and as daft as this may seem I still hear some social workers ask how to switch the computer on!

Social work is a fast piece of intervention that should take place before the crisis has occurred, and the need for this intervention takes place on many different levels.  The first is the political level ensuring that the government in each respective country continues to have the social needs of the country at the heart of their policies.  Which is where socialworkhelper.com and twitter can have a voice for the College of Social Work or BASW or the International equivalent to allow Social Workers to share their thoughts and allow these thoughts to be snow balled into action through free speech.

At the next level social networking allows the work of social work to be shared with others, the pressures, strains and challenges the dilemmas and risks that are taken to allow families to stay together whilst battling their own demons.

However, what I would like to see is what these guys at Social Work/Social Care and Media have done, their ability to stir up enthusiasm and discussion has been exciting and fast paced.  From the student to academics to the professional.  The discussions have been relevant and important and allow free involvement from anyone who has a view, and is able to share it in 140 characters or less.

Combine this with what Deona has created on Socialworkhelper.com  and there maybe something beautiful created for the future of social work in the social media.  Of course there is always going to be competition and an already established forum is the Community Care space.  However, what this lacks is the ability to join in with Twitter and Facebook and allow for instant messaging with a group of people in discussion.

I guess the message is take a look for yourself, and if you would like a venue where you want to talk about social work or social care.   Then this is definitely the place you will want to check out.  Maybe we will have a chat there about social work!

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