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  • in Tameside near Manchester, senior practitioner Liz curry is arriving for

  • another day in Denton's Children's Social Work team. After starting her

  • career in the voluntary sector, Liz has been with the Tameside team since 2008.

  • Coming to Tameside because of the way that we work here we don't have a

  • separate duty team we don't have a second looked after team the area team

  • does everything and I wanted that very steep learning curve and I wanted to get

  • experience of all the different areas I like that style of working where you

  • take something right from beginning and follow it all the way through and build

  • up those relationships with each other and many families.

  • Liz can have around 20 or

  • 30 children on her caseload at any one time. Today's shift starts with a

  • voicemail from a 12 year old boy living in a children's home he's unhappy and

  • wants to leave. it's Liz's role to try to listen and to manage the problem - it may

  • mean reinforcing the boundaries the young person needs to follow.

  • He's struggling there at the moment because a new young person's moved into that children's home

  • and so he's really struggling to adjust to that. Generally when he rings

  • me up it's because he's not getting his own way and he's kind of hoping that I

  • will change whatever decision has been made

  • what's up, what's been happening? Now if you need some time out of that situation you

  • can go off down the park or whatever and then come back at an agreed time.

  • He wasn't

  • entirely happy with me, he did put the phone down on me I think a couple of times

  • which he tends to do when he doesn't hear something he wants.

  • I spoke to him and spoke

  • to staff to work out what was happening and what rules they were putting in

  • place for him because equally we need to kind of support what they're doing but

  • make sure he understands what they're doing but also find a way out of that

  • situation so that he and staff aren't, you know he isn't winding them up

  • and getting annoyed and they're not having to manage that all morning.

  • With the situation stabilised, Liz will keep in close contact with the

  • staff and the young person to try to ensure the placement can continue but

  • her next case can't be dealt with over the phone she's received a referral from

  • another professional whilst on duty, around suspicions there's a 12 year old

  • boy with learning difficulties maybe involved in sexual

  • activity and substance abuse.

  • We need to know whether parents know

  • about that what the supervision level is for the child and also having spoken to

  • the child he was very clear that there's a lot of people living in the house at

  • the moment there's a lot of arguing going on at the moment and he's not

  • actually very happy living there.

  • Liz and family support worker Paul Wayne need

  • to do a home visit to investigate their concerns

  • I think what we'd like to happen

  • is to be able to sit down and have a discussion with mum and dad

  • about where they feel things are up to with the child at the moment and how

  • they think they're getting on in terms of supervising him, whether he's sticking

  • to boundaries - because that's been a problem in the past - we need to

  • establish whether not they can supervise him adequately and whether they would

  • understand what the risks would be of not supervising him.

  • Visiting children

  • and families in the community is a crucial part of their child protection work.

  • Ideally we don't want to do an unannounced visit as it's quite

  • disruptive and and rude to the people that you're visiting to just have social

  • workers banging on the door, but equally there's a concern that's been raised by

  • the agency about the child then we will do unannounced visits.

  • I think home visits are one of the most useful parts of the job, in terms of engaging families, in terms of

  • assessing and understanding what's happening I think the situation when you

  • get some people to come into the office and talk to you it's a totally

  • false situation, and you're not getting a true picture - you're just getting what

  • they want you to know whereas if you see them at home you're seeing and dealing

  • with things that they can't particularly control all the time the understanding

  • of what it feels like to be that child, what experiences of being parented

  • is this child having, what's their life like day to day?

  • As with many unannounced visits it can provoke a strong reaction towards the

  • social workers.

  • I went in and spoke to mum and she was...

  • I think she was a bit upset and she called dad in and he was

  • really upset, he was quite quite angry he struggled to stay in the room because he

  • was he was feeling quite angry so he went out but mum stayed and talked to us

  • she's agreed for working to spend a bit of time with him and work

  • out what his wishes and feelings are what his view is of what, if

  • anything, has happened.

  • With at least one parent open to support, this will ensure

  • the family receive the correct help to put effective supervision in place.

  • Back in the office, Liz rushes into a multi-agency meeting

  • about a separate case.

  • The teenage boy is causing concern.

  • The difficulty I think is

  • that everyone has a lot of concerns but no one has a lot of evidence about the

  • concerns, so you get quite a lot of people being worried about the child and

  • saying things like well I think this is happening but nobody knows - youth

  • offending team have expressed some concerns about what's going on for this

  • child at the moment and and we're looking at going to look at what

  • information they have whether it's information we've had before or not what

  • the basis of that information is.

  • It's a case Liz knows well, and despite the lack

  • of evidence, her experience and intuition always told her that something was not

  • quite right. Effective social workers need to apply

  • professional skepticism to cases like this.

  • Mum says exactly the right things

  • and I have no reason to disbelieve her other than I have a feeling that she's

  • not telling me the truth or that she's telling me the party line but you know

  • if you get some parents who've got years and years of experience of working

  • with the system and getting rid of professionals, they're very good, and she is

  • very good - I'm not disputing for a second her

  • skills are getting rid of me she's excellent at that! I think my intuition

  • has held this case open actually I think we could quite easily have said

  • several years ago they're not engaging, let's shut it.

  • New police information supporting her intuition is revealed in the meeting and Liz believes

  • she may need to escalate the case into a formal child protection conference.

  • First, she must discuss the evidence with team manager Tracey Row.

  • We've got a lot of

  • new information from police that I wasn't aware of

  • police say that mum spends a lot time in the evening in the pub, they're saying

  • they been round and she's been intoxicated.

  • I think we are supported

  • really well I think one of the things I really like about this Authority is the

  • high level of support and the opportunities for discussing things.

  • I read something saying that all intuition is bias. To some extent it

  • is, so I say if you have any intuition as of work or is a professional you have a

  • responsibility to examine that and think about 'what am I reacting to

  • here?' and working with managers can help you explore some of that, there's very

  • few facts you know you're on the hypothesis you are thinking well

  • this information that leads me to think this and that doesn't mean I believe

  • that thing 100%, that means at the moment my information leads up this way and

  • there's a possibility that I might be wrong - there's always a possibility that

  • I might be wrong.

  • Team manager Tracy agrees that Liz should consult the

  • conference team to take the case forward, as the new evidence clearly supports her

  • initial concerns.

  • You don't sort of just pull it from thin air it's your years of

  • experience it's your training it's your knowledge, you may not be able to put

  • your finger on what it is that's not quite right but you sort of know it's

  • something that you do sort of get more confident to rely on and you

  • get more confident on looking for what is it that's not not feeling right.

  • The majority of the time when people say it's not quite right - usually it isn't

  • right and when they explore with other professionals who talk to other agencies

  • like health, education - it sort of backs up that feeling really.

  • After lunch at her desk, typing up the morning's notes, Liz is back on the phone in the

  • afternoon dealing with various children, professionals and foster carers

  • a teenage girl on Liz's caseload is struggling in a new placement. The foster

  • carer is concerned about how to deal with contact with an older sibling.

  • It's Liz's role to provide ongoing advice and support for the foster carer to ensure

  • the safe care of the child.

  • She's not supposed to see her sister unsupervised

  • at the moment because of the concerns about who the sister is associating with,

  • she could put her in contact with people that are inappropriate and people that

  • could sexually exploit her. We're not convinced it should be

  • safe and our responsibility is to keep her safe, now if she goes against that

  • and runs off to see her sister then you need to report her missing.

  • I think this is a really good foster carer with younger children but I think

  • she does struggle with teenagers and you know the young person's quite a

  • difficult, challenging teenager - we can't have the young person that's in our care

  • put at risk like that so we need to keep her safe, we have

  • explained this in person, but equally you know she's not that fond of boundaries

  • and she tends to kind of challenge, so she may well challenge that.

  • It's now mid-afternoon and Liz is back on the road on her monthly home visit to 14

  • year old looked after child, Paige. A month ago Paige briefly ran away from

  • her foster carers. Liz has been working with Paige for two and a half years and

  • wants to make sure these current issues have been resolved.

  • She wasn't very happy

  • last time I saw her she was fine by the time it ended. Things

  • were disrupted a bit at the time so I needed to go and see her and

  • see how she's been since then, see how everything has been going for her.

  • last time I saw her she had just had the blip, it was the day when she'd

  • come back from from doing a runner. I need to see how it's been since she got

  • back you know how is she feeling is she still happy in the placement you

  • know if she's still having feelings about wanting to leave because sometimes

  • she does I think that's natural I also think particularly with teenagers it's quite difficult

  • and quite a lot of teenagers say 'I don't want to be here anymore'

  • but when you've got the option of not having to be there anymore that kind of

  • magnifies it makes it worse.

  • I saw your mum the other day.

  • have you spoken to her recently? Yeah, when I stayed at her house that night she only

  • had coke and some cream soda on the side, she wasn't drinking which

  • is pretty good.

  • But overall you've been getting on alright with Marie and Kevin?

  • Yeah - I've made friends with them.

  • She was 11 the first time I met her she's gone

  • from being a quite sulky, quite difficult young lady into... she's absolutely

  • brilliant now you know she's lovely. Does brilliantly at school, does really really

  • well you know, she's working above average. Teachers love teaching her now, 100% attendance

  • participates in lots of activities, she wants to go to college - she's great -

  • she's done so well the change in her is amazing.

  • I've known her for about two and a half years I think, and at first when I

  • first got put in care I didn't like her at all because I thought it was their

  • fault and she was saying that my mum was a bad mum and all that, but I think now

  • I've actually grown up I can understand where she's coming from when she says

  • that my mum is not a bad mum, but she can't look after us - I understand now.

  • Part of my when I go isn't just what she's telling me verbally it's what

  • she's telling me with her behaviour or how she appears

  • It's nice when she's in good mood and she seems really settled. She was clear

  • that you know she's getting on really well with carers at the moment that

  • the blip we were having last time was just a blip and that's fine now and

  • she's moved on from that.

  • Having ended the visit on a positive note

  • Liz returns to the office to write up her case notes. Her job can be filled

  • with emotional highs and lows, and she's constantly aware of her responsibilities

  • to the children and families that she serves.

  • Taking children into care is an

  • extremely difficult thing to do and I think that's right - I think it should be

  • I think it should have an emotional impact on you and you should question it.

  • It's never decision that I would make - it's a decision that we make in

  • consultation with managers and senior managers and the legal department

  • it's very final and the courts described it as a very draconian

  • measure and it is, and seeing how distressed the parents - it is

  • upsetting... it really is upsetting.

  • I like it when children start to trust you and

  • I also like it when you can see good outcomes for children, when you

  • can see them perhaps you know things change within their family and they're a

  • lot happier at home or they're settled in foster placements and they're

  • a lot happier there and when you see a child that's gone from

  • kicking off at school all the time terrible school attendance and then you

  • see them perhaps living in a foster placement and wanting to go to school

  • every day and thinking about a career and thinking about the future and you think

  • well actually, if this child stayed at home that wouldn't have happened and the fact

  • that now they've got more choices is because of something that we've done the

  • other thing that I really like is how well everyone gets on as a team

  • - I think our team is really close and supportive we got on really

  • well with people from other agencies and it's actually a really nice atmosphere to work

  • in and I really like that.

in Tameside near Manchester, senior practitioner Liz curry is arriving for

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A2 US liz mum child foster young person intuition

What is social work? Children and families

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    540455851 posted on 2020/01/16
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