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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.
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What is social work? Children and families

37 Folder Collection
540455851 published on January 16, 2020
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