Tag Archives: listening

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.

Children are the future!

One of the great joys of Social Work is that you can never be right, well at least that’s how it appears or portrayed by the media.  And in a blog post by Abe Laurens in the ‘not so big society’ titled ‘Shine a light’ illustrates rather well how the media portrays one image whilst the research points in a different direction.

However, children are the future of our world so it is therefore important to safeguard their well-being; and prevent harm that will affect them for the rest of their lives.  And by harm we are talking about significant harm.

But what did catch my eye this week was a Blog posted on the Community Care Children’s service blog post about neglect! and what is good enough parenting? A term so heavily used in Care Proceedings and Child Protection.  Action for Children in their recent report found on the blog or here that:

  • ” Two-thirds (67%) feel that the law on parenting is confusing.
  • Nearly three-quarters (72%) agree that there is no common understanding of what ‘good enough’ parenting is.
  • Only 16% agree that the law should not intervene in how people choose to raise their children.
  • Most parents (59%) believe that the state has a duty to intervene.
  • When asked what would help parents to meet their responsibilities, two-thirds (66%) call for a clear law which can be understood by all.
  • Support services were identified as the key way to help parents if things go wrong (73%). Action for Children 2012″

The main reason for this is because

“In April next year the law on neglect will be 80 years old – Action for Children does not want to see that anniversary come and go without government commitment that it will be changed so that more children are protected.”

For those of you who are a parent, or planning to be a parent there is always a worry about whether you are making the right decisions for your children.  The worry and guilt if you say ‘No’ and whether your children will forgive you for saying ‘No’.  Of course they do! and from this develops their trust and love in you, but at three in the morning when they are crying because they are unwell or missed school due to a lot of sickness you can start to question your own decisions.

However, do I need a law to tell me this? No I probably wouldn’t although I have the luxury of 15 years of training, reading and direct childcare experience and two great children that test me and reward me with their love (I hope).

More to the point does the law need to change? Do parents know what is expected of them? and do parents understand what neglect is? Of course we do and rather than have a new law we do require an understanding of neglect through positive media images of the work that social workers, teachers, health professionals, and volunteers do on a daily basis to prevent families breaking down.

Child development theories have been clear about the stages that babies, toddlers Children and young people move through.  This is regularly measured and monitored by health professionals starting with the Midwife, then the Health Visitor and then School Nurse and General Practitioner.  Inevitably with the cut backs in Public services the observations made by these professionals will affect the number of families that can be identified at an early stage.

Furthermore the law is clear about Children’s attendance at school and also there is clear law around substance misuse and Domestic Violence.

However, what is lacking in English Law is the consideration for all legislation to include relevant consideration to the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child .  We do have the Children Act 1989 and also the Children Act 2004, which with all of the guidance and the Working together documents highlights what Child Neglect is.

The real message is that neglect does not just occur in poorer families, and neglect can be identified through knowledge and observations from Professionals and then assessed by Social Workers.  The concern is that there will be no law passed by next April, instead the real concern is that Neglect is a priority of the Government that could be lost with the cuts that they are trying to make.

It remains important that the assessments made by Social Workers are respected and checked by their managers as a Safeguard to rogue assessments.  That, neglect remains on the agenda of everyone but allowing families to live their lives.  The law is already in place to protect children, research is available about neglect and more research is currently being undertaken.

Social Work is not about herding children into care, it is about protection and support and Neglect or good enough parenting will be different from family to family and hard to legislate and enforce.

Did I understand you?

Have you ever wondered how easy is it to communicate what you want to say? When you are anxious or nervous, angry, sad or just confused! for me I can find it very difficult and often find myself tripping over the words that I want to say.

However, as a Social Worker we learn that communication is a powerful tool that needs to be used carefully in order to make positive changes.  Some people would argue however, more could be done to support families in order to help them communicate with their social worker. 

Communication is therefore defined as: ‘the imparting or exchanging of information by speaking, writing, or using some other medium’: (Oxford dictionary).

As a Social Worker working with young people I find myself very conscious about how I communicate and often consider how I can create an environment that promotes communication.   Each person I meet is different, and the way that they want to talk to me is different.  Some prefer a soft caring approach, other young people need and prefer a firmer approach to help them feel safe.

But what is lost is that the spoken word is only a small amount of information that is being communicated at any time.  It is very easy to argue that someone is not listening.  However, it is not as easy to argue that someone is not listening when you are saying one thing whilst carrying out different actions.

There is no magic wand that can change this, our non verbal communication is often done by our subconscious.  And the most damaging especially when the Social Worker meets someone for the first time and the wrong signals are sent to each other, which means an honest exchange of information is going to be harder to achieve.

In order to safeguard children is is therefore important to understand for  families to understand it is okay to be challenged, as long as the points they are being challenged on are answered honestly.  It is also therefore okay for this to be reciprocated and families challenge decisions made in an appropriate way, either through the complaints procedure or Judicial Review depending on the decision being made.

It is in my opinion that certainly when working with young people that support is being provided to enable good communication, through their pathway planning, looked after children’s reviews, advocates or solicitors.  I would also like to see more children and young people being encouraged to take part in Participation events, working with Children’s Trusts to develop the services in their area to meet their needs.

I would also like to see the stigma being removed from people who need to have the support of Social Services and maybe their is a time for a change in title.  However, the role of the social worker is very important and families should not live in fear that Social Care may knock on their door.  Instead communities should work hand in hand with social care to promote a more positive supportive relationship, focusing on early intervention rather than removal.












Assessments?

Life has a funny way of having patterns, last year my second blog was about assessments.  And again this year I am left thinking about the effect of assessments especially when they have been done badly.  


An assessment is being described “as the beginning of helping another person or family” and an “to aid the planning of future work together” (Taylor and Devine, 1993)  The “Assessment is the process of systematically gathering and analysing information about the client, family and context.” (Taylor and Devine, 1993)


So there is a clear focus of what assessments are and what the function of the assessment should be.  However, is it always this easy! the method of intervention is key, and the workers ability to gather and analyse the information is essential.  


The need to complete an accurate assessment is essential in order to safeguard and protect children.  Part of the assessment is about the context of the family, what am I observing? and what does this mean?  It is here where a worker needs to be confident and able to probe into the history of the parents to fully understand their parenting and own childhood.


And this is where I am glad that the issue of time-scales are being removed, because in some families the trust to disclose this information can take longer to earn.  Or there is a risk that the wrong conclusion could be reached.


This week I have met a family in crisis, left ripped apart from an assessment that had assessed them as abusive, neglectful and controlling.  The benefit of completing this assessment has not helped either the family or the young person.  The young person has now experience a double rejection and has no contact with their family.  


The danger is in the method of gathering information, when factual information is misunderstood.  Or leading questions have developed a picture you have created and closed questions have not adequately challenged the information you have been given.


For this family the trust in social care is destroyed, the relationship with their child is lost.  For those that complete assessments remember your aim and consider the models and tools that you are going to use to gather your information.  Remember to allow the family to tell their story and challenge inconsistency’s and probe.


There is no silly questions, and I remind the family that I do not live their life and I want to understand so need to know everything no matter how big or small.  It is also important to have a good team around you to be able to bounce thoughts off and check for gaps in the information you have to answer your questions.


I hope this time next year, I will not be looking back again on this subject.  However, I fear that unless more time can be found and given to complete better quality assessments I may be.