Tag Archives: Research
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.
Today I was kindly reminded why social work is not a straight forward job, that it requires going above and beyond – maybe even more than creative with the acknowledged lack of a budget. That poor grammar mixed with the wrong use of a word brings shame upon social work (good job I get my work checked before it is sent to court then). But sadly I think the message I was given was lost upon the method of delivery, its punch line seeping in self importance and with the owner of the comment more concerned with their own power and attempt to be little me. It is these behaviours that bring power and meaning to those arguments to the people that do not support social work or social care.
It is easy to forget that everyone has their own life story, or their own challenges to overcome to qualify in social work. That the experience needed is not gained with the certificate on graduation; instead it does however give you an opportunity to practise working with vulnerable people.
So therefore when sitting in someones living room discussing challenging safeguarding concerns with someone who may or may not agree with the concerns and you are discussing with them how you are going to support them or safeguard the child’s needs. Stop, think and consider your approach use your knowledge and your learning, challenge and be direct, make your point and get it across but do not do it at the expense of the parents or of social work.
If you are a social work student reading this, do not get the wrong impression social work is a profession that can adapt and does adapt quickly. Social Workers do work hard and longer than they should, Social Workers do make an effort and there is no time for luxury. So yes I do agree that in social work, that social workers should have the right tools to complete their tasks, I do think that the right working environment is needed and essential, and I do believe that confidentially for the people we work with is essential.
So thank you for reminding me why the focus must remain on the vulnerable children we work with and why research being completed by University’s and other social work academics is so important to informing our practise.
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!
What is your tipple?
For many of us the image above will not mean much, you will either take it or leave it, or maybe instead you will prefer a glass of wine or even a spirit.
I have to be honest I have never really given the amount of alcohol that I drink a thought, How much alcohol can you drink before you become drunk or worse still not in control of your actions? I have so far been lucky that I have not got any tales of woe from over drinking. However, I have found a handy self assessment tool here and it suggests that I should cut down, have a quick look yourself and see what it recommends for you.
Why am I talking about alcohol? sadly it has been on my mind all week (maybe a sign) because I had attended a conference early this week at the Institute of Child Health in London. The subject was about Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders a subject I have to be honest about prior to the conference, I was not particularly confident on. Furthermore, my interest was from a social work perspective and the impact of this on the young people I work with namely those 14 – 18 years old.
However, what I quickly learnt was that it has been a very long time since I have studied my social biology or even any neuro sciences. What I did gather though, was that the body remains addicted to alcohol in a way that celebrates overcoming this poison. Furthermore this is passed down from generation to generation. It is also important to point out that the effect of alcohol has a different impact upon different people.
So from a social work perspective the key points were around the child development and the associated behaviours that come with this. It is an interesting subject that if assessed correctly by the social worker/midwife could help early diagnosis and also a better treatment for the young person and also a better support plan for the long term permanence plan for the child.
For young people that have to live with this syndrome they could have with it cognitive difficulties, attachment difficulties, ADHD, ASD all with varying degrees. And for social workers, care workers, foster carers these are all things that we will be very familiar with. However, the difference is that if you can understand the history and the behaviours and with the right support maybe where placements become strained due to the behaviour then perhaps they may not break down. Meaning better outcomes for the young person who with the support of their family or carer can achieve with a valid support from the right agencies.
At present there is not a massive known support and diagnosis is only accurate if during pregnancy the Mum shares her alcohol usage. So for more information on FAS please read here.
Research Diary (half way through)
Have you ever wondered how-for long periods of time nothing appears to be happening. Then, just when you are unaware, relaxed everything hits you at once.
This of course never really happens in social work, because the case loads are to high-and even when it is quiet there is always a piece of work that could be completed to provide additional support.
However, saying this-I have met with my Research tutor this week and all of a sudden realised that I now have 6 weeks to undertake my research, analyse my data and write up the findings. Thank fully this is not going to be a life changing piece of work or I would now be breaking out in to a cold panic!
6 weeks!! What has happened? what have I been doing that has meant that so much time has already passed by? Well, I never really hard a lot of time to undertake this module so that explains how three months has now become six weeks. Furthermore, it is so easy to lose focus and concentrate on the more pressing issues of work. Sadly by the time I come home all I really want to do is collapse on the sofa.
However, In reality I am charged with the social and emotional development of my own children. Which includes taxing from one club to another, whilst listening to their reading and supporting with their own dinner.
I can not complain, over the year my wife and I have developed a Barcelona style approach to parenting where we don’t try anything fancy instead it is just hard work and make every pass count! But by the time I stop in the evening to reflect upon the additional learning it is easily substituted (to keep up with the football references) for a mindless television programme before bed.
Consequently now having met with my Tutor, I have been put back on the right direction. My consent forms are written, my project information sheet is written and I have even pencilled together five main questions and some smaller questions in these.
I will give myself a two week window to complete the interviews and leave myself three weeks to write up the research project. Only allowing myself one week to have my work checked, and make corrections.
The risk here is that my timescales have become so tight that I may have to sacrifice sleep in order to complete this work. And if you find yourself in a position where you have to undertake a literature review or your own research do not leave it to the last minute. You will need the time to make it relevant and I now find myself worrying whether I will have the time to make this research useful!