The HCPC said texting a service user outside of work hours was “inappropriate”
A social worker discusses the obstacles she faces in securing specialist care for people with autism
Working within Social Services is not easy for Social Workers are subject to their own management demands while endeavouring to do what is best for the vulnerable person. In doing so they need to obtain all relevant facts, which they need to understand and then decide the best course of action.
Within these their judgments may be clouded by their own personal views and opinions and this should be recognised by the respective managements within social services. Any decision made should be monitored to ensure that best interest was indeed followed. In this instance was any risk assessment produced and if it was, was it shared with Aimee’s aunt an uncle.
The secrecy which social services and especially the Family Court appear to insist upon needs to be looked at, for this could also not be in the best interest of those who are vulnerable.
All areas need to be more open, honest and transparent and then this could create an atmosphere where abuse is minimised.
Abuse is not only just related to care of the individual vulnerable person, but also the power of the authorities which they proceed to use over families. These authorities need to listen and understand situations more and then act accordingly and not proceed on a judgmental basis on unproven assumptions..
Comments of Chris Sterry: Yet again front line staff take the brunt of a systems failing. The front line in most, if not all local authorities do not have any in put to how the system is run and managed, but as seen in this instance suffer the consequences. Yes, the social worker should have reported their concerns, if only to cover themselves, but a history of not being listened to does create an atmosphere of why should I, even though it is their duty to do so. The front line staff as well as their clients are the eyes and ears and a wealth of knowledge and in every organisation should be encouraged to provide their input and there should also be a facility of reporting back. We all know, that in practice this is not the case, but it should be in all cases be ‘good practice’ and would in many cases minimise some of the reported failings. Social workers do have a demanding job and also have excessive workloads, so the least management could do is listen to them and be proactive in doing so.
Social workers’ values more likely to influence assessment outcomes than eligibility thresholds, according to research by the Institute of Public Care
Practitioner and blogger Social Work Tutor appeals to the government to rethink its approach to reforming the profession
Ramadam Ahmeti, in Kent’s south coast community mental health team, never lets a diagnoses interfere with his focus on the individual
Members of the children’s social worker network have been asked whether a strong voice is possible without financial independence
The children’s principal social worker network is to vote on whether it should attempt to become financially independent of government.
An email sent yesterday by the chair of the network asked members to vote “yes” or “no” on the following statements:
“I believe we can develop a strong voice through our network whilst being funded for administrative support by the Department for Education.
“I believe we should develop a strong voice through our network from a local authority-funded and -agreed private contract with an external provider.”
The hosting of the principal social worker (PSW) network is currently out to tender as part of a £192k package of government-funded College of Social Work legacy functions.
But children’s PSW network chair, Mandy Nightingale, said there had been talk of an “independent” network of principal social workers which did not rely on government funding.
The email said it had been suggested by some members the network should consider an alternative approach to its future functioning. This could include a financial contribution from each local authority and a procurement process between the network and any potential provider.
Nightingale said she was approached by a few individuals asking her to seek members’ opinions in order to obtain a view from the whole network before taking further action.
She said: “We are a democratic network of strong, independent principal social workers and it’s not for the chair but for the network to make a decision.”
The vote has gone out to the children’s network only, but Nightingale said she was in close communication with the adults’ network chair and would share any outcomes.
Nightingale added she saw the funding from the DfE as a reflection the government supports the network’s existence as a voice for the profession.
However, she said if the network comes forward and says as a majority it would like to move away from that funding, she would meet with members to discuss next steps.
“I do see us having an independent voice [already]. At the present time I’m happy to move the network forward as much I can while I’m chair with the financial and administrative support from the DfE.”
But former joint chair, Tony Stanley, said the network should not continue to accept funding until it was made more accountable and provided evidence around what it had achieved.
“I think the debate around who should support us is missing the point. What are we doing, achieving, contributing? We can’t make an argument about where we should be located because we can’t make an argument about what we’re doing,” he said.
“We can’t have a network [accepting money] that doesn’t do anything or show any outcomes.” ………’
‘…………..By Dr Jane Dodsworth
Former social worker Dr Jane Dodsworth reflects on the process of researching one of society’s most sensitive subjects
As a former social worker I worked with sexually exploited young people. I understand their reluctance to engage with ‘authority figures.’ So I knew it could be difficult to engage with an equally wary ‘hidden population’ of adult women when I began research into sexual exploitation and sex work.
I felt that using the skills and values of social work practice might enable me to gain their trust. Social workers understand issues of power and aim to achieve equality, fairness and balance in their working relationships and this had resonance for me in gaining interviewees’ trust.
To facilitate the sharing of often very personal and sometimes painful stories it was crucial to ensure that my interviewees felt valued and respected as individuals, selling sex being just one aspect of their lives. They are also daughters, sisters, mothers, partners and friends.
Identifying risk and protective factors
My study explored the stories of 24 sex workers. The aim is to identify risk and protective factors influencing involvement in sexual exploitation and sex work. The women interviewed described childhood histories of abuse, neglect, rejection and disadvantage. Half were under 18 when they were first sexually exploited, 18 were substance misusers and most had experienced abusive relationships. Of those who were parents, most had lost their children.
The emotional investment involved in hearing often traumatic a violent experiences was not easy to plan for. I often had to remind myself that I was a researcher not a social worker and I was there to listen not to help. I had to learn to absorb emotions and to go away. Nonetheless, I was grateful for my social work training and experience, and the opportunity to share with colleagues some of the anonymised experiences I had listened to.
However, some stories were so overwhelming in terms of the levels of pain and despair experienced that it is impossible not to feel a deep sense of sadness, anger and frustration for those whose lives are lived in such painful ways.
For example, ‘Cindy’, described a childhood of domestic abuse, trauma and loss. Her stepfather sexually abused her when her mother was in a psychiatric hospital. She recalled a childhood “full of anger and fear.” She blamed her stepfather for her subsequent drug taking and ambivalent feelings about sexual relationships but also recalled feeling no love from her mother. It was impossible not to feel sadness for her pain, confusion and sense of being alone.
Another interviewee ‘Izzie’ recalled her mother physically and emotionally abusing her:
“I can’t remember why they didn’t want me; it ruined my life. Mum told me she wished I wasn’t born and that if I had any contact with the family she’d stab me.”
‘Izzie’ went on to have five children all of whom were adopted following abuse by her violent partner. ‘Izzie’ felt that she somehow “deserved this”. Some women’s memories of childhood rejection, or the loss of their own children were so sad that I sometimes found it impossible not to cry with them. Whilst this is not a professional response, it was the only response possible and felt totally appropriate to me at that time.
Humour and resilience
At other times women spoke of feeling helped by sharing painful memories with someone who was not involved either personally or professionally in their lives. In this way there was a sense of reciprocity which made me feel less that I was taking something from them, but that they were sharing something with me. An overriding positive was the humour, resilience and friendly approachability of many of the women I interviewed. Thank you to them all.
Analysis of the women’s stories indicates that those who are likely to be most vulnerable and those most likely to manage life experiences is determined by the accumulation of risk factors, particularly those experienced in early childhood, the individual, familial and wider ecological resources available to individuals, and the meaning attached by them to early experiences of adversity. This suggests the need to take a holistic, strengths-based approach to policy and practice with those involved – whatever their age.
Be there for people
What was clear the women’s stories is that what they valued most from early childhood to adulthood was for someone to ‘be there’ for them, to listen and not to judge. These are skills that we as social workers already have and can build on to support young people and adults at risk of or involved in sexual exploitation and sex work.
As one interviewee, ‘Amy, said:
“Be there for people. They’re just normal human beings. They’ll only tell you things they want you to hear if they want you to hear them. The only way to find out anything is if you stop putting people in boxes and start looking at them as human beings and talk to them”.
Dr Jane Dodsworth is a lecturer in social work at the University of East Anglia and the author of ‘Pathways into Sexual Exploitation and Sex Work’ published by Palgrave MacMillan ……………..’
‘…………..By Matt Bee
Matt Bee says it is councils’ failure to value their staff that is leading social workers like him to leave local authority practice
Well this is embarrassing…It turns out the feature I was about to write, examining the deluge of social workers fleeing local authorities for the welcoming arms of recruitment agencies, has already been written. Social Work Outlaw beat me to it last June, right here in Community Care. It’s the writing equivalent of turning up to a cocktail party to find someone else wearing the same dress.
It’s a good feature by Social Work Outlaw as well. Heartfelt, frank, sincere. He or she asks why so many long-serving practitioners are deserting their employers, putting this down, at least in part, to the ‘shabby and abhorrent’ way employers treat them. I couldn’t agree more.
But I want to write this piece anyway because, you see, I am one of those practitioners. I’ve just left a local authority and hope to work for an agency. I concur completely with what Social Work Outlaw writes.
What’s surprising is that local authorities themselves haven’t cottoned onto this yet. As they watch the workforce diminish, they’re scrabbling around for ever more desperate measures to win them back. The London Borough of Barking and Dagenham will offer you housing. Somerset will do the same. The Thurrock Gazette reported recently that its local children’s department is giving would-be social workers an open top bus tour in the hope it might convince them to sign on the dotted line.
That’s all very good and well but I don’t suppose many practitioners are throwing in the towel and causing these recruitment headaches in the first place because they haven’t been given a tour of the city recently.
Bullying, aggressive, neglectful
The reality is much simpler than that and, at the same time, much harder for local authorities to stomach. The fact is – and brace yourselves if you work in HR at one of these venerable institutions – we don’t like working for you. Not even a little bit. You’ve become bullying, aggressive, neglectful, overbearing, pernickety, insensitive and overly sensitive as employers and, if we’re honest, we’d much rather leave you behind in our wake.
I realise at this point I can’t speak for all social workers. I can point you to a survey published last October which found that 6 in 10 social workers wouldn’t recommend their employer to a fellow practitioner. I can cite another survey, this time from 2009 and published in the Guardian, which found that although the vast majority of social workers were happy in their profession, over a third still planned to leave their employer within the forthcoming year.
That only demonstrates a general dissatisfaction with our workplaces, though, it doesn’t say what that dissatisfaction is about.
On the other hand, I have just spent five years working for a local authority, and worked for three others before that as well as for several agencies in between. So I can speak for myself here and maybe this will chime with your own experience, maybe not. In any event, I’ve no desire to work for a local authority again.
‘I didn’t feel valued’
And the reason is very simple. I didn’t feel valued.
At this point people usually start bringing money into it, but I was happy with my wage. No problems there. And even though there’s a big financial incentive to join an agency, this isn’t what pulled me across. The fact is I wasn’t pulled across at all. I was pushed.
My last employer and I had a very imbalanced working relationship. When it came to wielding control they held all the cards and behaved exactly like they knew it, drenching my workplace in rules, regulations, policies and procedures, and sharply questioning anyone who strayed from or dared query them. A practitioner’s own professional judgement was out; managerial directives in.
I know this is a trend seen throughout the profession – just read Social Work Outlaw’s account to see what I mean. But it felt like my employment contract was nothing more than a big stick with which to spur me on – my salary, holiday leave, sick pay, and pension were all in their hands. All I had was my notice, and they soon got that as well when their high-handed ways became too much to bear.
Escaping compliance and control
It bought me my freedom, a chance to escape that world of compliance and control. Signing with an agency will plunge me right back into it again, of course. But it’s different when you aren’t on the council’s own books. You feel more like an outsider, a spectator. When other team members wonder aloud why they work there and say they feel trapped, the truth is you don’t. You can always go elsewhere – thanks to the agency.
The mistake councils make is to think this is all about money. It’s not. It’s actually about control, and taking some of it back.
Matt Bee is a social worker based in the North East of England …………..’