“A child can live through anything provided they are told the truth and allowed to share the natural feelings people have when they are suffering” Eda Le Shan.
I am currently supporting a family where a parent has a life limiting illness. Devastatingly, it is expected that the parent has only a couple of weeks left with them. In preparation I have been identifying support services in the area that can assist the children, aged six and eighteen, during the difficult time before and after the parents passing.
During my research I have found that following a survey carried out by Winston's Wish, it is estimated that:
Most children and young people will experience loss, mainly due to bereavement. Bereavement is described as the loss that people experience when someone close to them dies. This could be a close relative, family member or friend. Alternatively the loss could be due to family difficulties such as separation and divorce.
Grief is the combination of feelings that are experienced as a result of the loss of something or someone close to them. Everyone experiences grief differently – there is no “right” way to feel. Feelings can include: shock, despair, intense sadness, guilt, depression, relief, fear and anger. It can sometimes feel that people move backwards and forwards between feelings. It is not unusual to feel numb, feeling that you have no feelings at all. Grief is a normal and natural response to loss.
Children and young people will go through a range of the feelings described above. However, the ways in which they respond to their loss will be determined by their age, their understanding of death/loss, their relationship with the person they have lost, the circumstances surrounding the event and the way the situation is dealt with by others around them.
The following information describes some of the common reactions that children and young people may experience following a loss, what they may need and what parents and professionals can do to help. This is not an exhaustive list and reactions will vary with each individual.
Children need reassurance that whatever has happened is not their fault; permission to express their feelings and be a child, in a constructive way; honest explanations; help and support to express their feelings; and, to be included in the funerals and rituals, if appropriate.
Great Answers to Difficult Questions about Death explores children's thoughts and feelings on the subject of death and provides parents and other caring adults with guidance on how to respond to difficult situations.
Grief in Young Children explores the common misconception that pre-school children are not capable of experiencing grief in the same way that older children do. This book challenges this assumption, demonstrating that although young children may not express grief in the same way as older children, they still need to be supported through loss.
There are a number of organisations that can offer support to children and their carers during a time of bereavement. The following are some that I have found to be particularly good and are available nationally or in the Greater Manchester area.
Manchester Office – 2nd Floor, Gateway House, Piccadilly South, Manchester, M60 7LP
Tel: 0800 58 58 58 (Monday - Friday 17:00hrs – 03:00hrs)
CALM works to tackle depression amongst young men (aged 15-35) across Manchester, Merseyside and Bedfordshire. It exists to help them deal with the problems they are facing, no matter what is troubling them
1 Sickle Street, Manchester M2 1DL
Tel: 0870 336 2920
Fax: 0870 336 2921
Chips Programme – North West Contacts:
Sue Tabner: 0870 336 2924
Maria Molloy: 0870 336 294
Childline provides a free, 24-hour, helpline for children in distress or danger. Trained volunteer counsellors advise and protect children and young people who may feel they have nowhere else to turn. Childline also offers an outreach programme, to schools, through its CHIPS programme, focussing on a range of areas including loss and bereavement
Riprap is a website that can help young people (12-16yrs) cope when a parent has cancer. There are stories from other young people going through similar situations and information to help them to understand and deal with what is going on in their family.
RD 4 U
Freephone: 0808 808 1677
This is a website designed for young people by young people as part of CRUSE Bereavement Care’s Youth Involvement Project. Offers support for young people after the death of someone close. There is a specific area for boys.
Clara Burgess Centre, Bayshill Road, Cheltenham, GL50 3AW
General Enquiries: 01242 515157
Helpline: 0845 20 30 40 5
Fax: 01242 546187
This is one of my favourites. I have used them in the past following the sudden death of a foster carer I was working with. The support they were able to offer both the 9 year old birth child and 13 year old foster child was amazing and it really did make a difference.
Winston’s Wish supports bereaved children and young people. The website explains how professionals can help bereaved young people and offers ideas for resources and activities.
They offer face to face work to all children and families bereaved of a parent, primary care-giver or sibling through suicide, murder and manslaughter and military deaths, living anywhere in the UK. For families who have been bereaved through an accident or illness, this service is only available for families living in Gloucestershire, South Gloucestershire, West Sussex and Greater Manchester. They have a variety of options available to families including:
A home visit by their practitioners will assess the needs of each bereaved family. Individual work may be offered to parents and children before, after or instead of a group activity.
Practical and creative activities encourage teamwork, building confidence and self-esteem. This sets the scene for the young people to begin sharing their own stories, to untangle and express a range of feelings, increase their knowledge about death and to continue their individual journeys towards understanding their grief.
Under 5’s (C.U.B.S)
Winston’s Wish offers a six-week play and grief support group programme for children aged between 3 and 5 years who have experienced the death of someone important.
The Outward Bound teenage groups combine challenging outdoor activities, team work and opportunities to talk and think about bereavement experiences with other teenagers. The programme of activities and small group work were created to empower, challenge and motivate, and to help teenagers in living with their bereavement.
A community outreach bereavement support service for vulnerable children and young people aged between 8-14 .
The Winston’s Wish Drop-ins for the North West region run weekly in Wigan and Leigh:
Tuesday Drop-in sessions are held every Tuesday from 11am-1pm at Compassion in Action, Patrick House, 58 Leigh Rd, Leigh, WN7 1QR
Wednesday Drop-in sessions are held every Wednesday from 3.30-5.30pm at Sunshine House, Wellington Street, Wigan, WN1 3SA
Grief Encounter Project, PO Box 49701, London, N20 8XJ
This organisation helps bereaved children and young people rebuild their lives after a family death. The project aims to improve resources available to bereaved children and their families
Childhood Bereavement Network
8 Wakley Street, London, EC1V 7QE
Tel: 020 7843 6309
Fax: 020 7837 1439
The Childhood Bereavement Network aims to provide all children and young people in the UK, together with their families and other caregivers, including professional carers, easy access to a choice of high-quality local and national information, guidance and support to enable them to manage the impact of death on their lives.
If you require any further help identifying services in your area. Please do get in touch through my contact page.
I’ve just started a new course entitled Psychology and Mental Health: Beyond Nature and Nurture by Professor Peter Kinderman (University of Liverpool). The course is largely built on foundations laid down in his two recent books: ‘New Laws of Psychology’ and ‘A Prescription for Psychiatry’.
A Prescription for Psychiatry: Why We Need a Whole New Approach to Mental Health and Wellbeing builds from a psychosocial approach to mental health and well-being to recommend a wholesale revision of our mental health services. Arguing that the origins of distress are largely social, and that therefore we need a change from a ‘disease model’ to a ‘psychosocial model’, the book argues that we should reject traditional psychiatric diagnosis, significantly reduce our use of psychiatric medication, tailor help to each person’s unique needs, invest in greater psychological and social therapies, and place mental health and well-being services within a social rather than a medical framework.
New Laws of Psychology: Why Nature and Nurture Alone Can’t Explain Human Behaviour proposes a common-sense, cognitive, account of human behaviour - arguing that our thoughts, emotions, actions and therefore mental health can be largely explained if we understand how people make sense of their world and how that framework of understanding has been learned. This approach challenges notions such as ‘mental illness’ and ‘abnormal psychology’ as old-fashioned, demeaning and invalid, argues that diagnoses such as ‘depression’ and ‘schizophrenia’ are unhelpful, and proposes that psychological accounts offer a more helpful way to address emotional distress.
This week we are looking at one of the fundamental questions about our mental health; nature or nurture? That could simply mean something like are mental health problems the result of biological processes (nature) or social in origin (nurture)? Are they the result of biological abnormalities or are they the result of life events or other environmental factors? Or, to be a little more specific, is the variance that we see in terms of mental health a result of variance in biological or social factors? That is, can we explain the differences between people’s mental health in terms of differences in biology (different people having different genetics, or different biochemistry) or differences in the experiences they’ve been exposed to?
Mental Health featured heavily in the political parties manifestos ahead of the general election in May and it’s right that this area of study and service is given greater priority. As a Social Worker I am acutely aware of the interplay that exists between mental health services and children’s safeguarding.
Young Mind is Mind’s youth division. Its website provides the following key statistics about children’s and adolescents mental health:
I’ll post again following next week’s session. Please follow me on facebook so you don't miss it! I can already tell that this is going to be a really interesting and useful course.
On Friday I posted an article asking 'is Social Work on the political agenda in run up to the general election?' My post gave a general overview of the parties main pledges with regards to social care and my take on it. Chief executive of the British Association for Adoption and Fostering, Caroline Selkirk, has also responded to the key general election manifesto pledges for looked after children from the Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties. Here's what she had to say:
We will increase support for children in kinship (family and friends) care and their families, a group too often overlooked and undervalued
"We have been campaigning alongside the Family Rights Group to raise the profile of kinship care, and we'd like to see a commitment from all parties to support kinship care. We are delighted that the Labour Party has taken this first step."
"Kinship care is currently the Cinderella care option – kinship carers are not eligible for the same support as adopters or foster carers, and they are also penalised by the benefits system. For example, many have fallen foul of the spare room subsidy and availability to work rules. As a result, it is crucial that any additional support for kinship carers should enable free access to legal and advice services."
We will introduce regional adoption agencies, working across local authority boundaries to match children with the best parents for them
"Introducing regional adoption agencies would be a major change to the way in which adoption services are currently delivered. It is vital that any such reorganisation will focus on a child and their need for a family for life. We need to see greater clarity on these proposals."
"At present there are nine Regional Adoption Boards reporting to the Adoption Leadership Board, who are focused on improving performance at a regional level. This is still a fairly new initiative and needs further time to become established."
"We agree that there are benefits for children when local authorities work co-operatively, together with Voluntary Adoption Agencies in their region, to identify suitable matches for children in their care. There are already some well-established regional consortiums, where local authorities are developing new ways of working together and we would support further development of these models."
Continue to make it easier for children in care to find a loving home, through the national Adoption Register and the new national gateway for adoption, a first point of contact for potential adopters
"Recent reforms to adoption have reduced delay in the time it takes for a child to be placed. However, for children from ethnic minority backgrounds, older children, those with a disability and sibling groups it is still a challenge to find the right match. The decision by the Liberal Democrats to maintain momentum on the current measures, like the Adoption Register, and the new national gateway for adoption, provide continuity and is welcome."
Tackle delay and instability in foster care, with better support and training for foster carers, including on mental health issues
"Providing better support and training for foster carers, and focussing on mental health issues will be essential to the development of foster care. A further step in the right direction would be a government commitment to driving forward best practice in the sector, ensuring increased support and funding of foster care, alongside the emphasis on support and training for both foster carers and social workers."
"There are over 90,000 looked after children- that's children in the care system in the UK. It is paramount that the next government provides appropriate support for these children and their carers. Any failure to do so risks condemning some of our countries' most vulnerable children to an unstable and uncertain future."
Community Care reported on Wednesday that UKIP would seek wholesale reform of Britain's "clearly failing" child protection services, if elected. If I may overlook the fact that this is from UKIP for a second; if this policy was coming from any of the political parties I would be very interested in hearing more. Highly skilled and able practitioners are working in a very challenging environment with many systematic failures. If any party was to take an open and unbiased review of child protection services I would be very pleased because they would see what many of us have known for years. However, I am rather sceptical about any of their motives. In my experience politicians are too quick to scapegoat practitioners rather than look at the impossible system within which they are expected to practice safely and invest the necessary capital; because that is what is needed - INVESTMENT.
When politicians refer to Child Protection Services what they are actually talking about is Children's Social Care. The problem with this choice of rhetoric is that it leads the majority of voters to believe it is not a service that they will ever need and therefore, whilst they may be interested and concerned, they would not prioritise spending in this area. This is a false dichotomy. Children's Social Care encompassed a whole host of services for a diverse demographic of children and young people. We are not just talking about front-line Social Workers but also the preventative services that are bearing the brunt of cuts; support and care for looked after children; services and respite for families of children with additional needs. Social Workers do not only work with 'troubled families' but also families experiencing crisis whatever their background. Leading the often complicated array of professionals and services are Social Workers. It is when Social Workers are overstretched and unable to do the job they love that the system falls apart and children are put at risk. Serious Case Reviews often cite poor multi-agency working - Social Workers, when sufficiently resourced, are the glue that holds it all together and should be valued for the job they do.
I have worked with an incredibly mixed demographic of clients in my time. Some would have fitted the governments definition of a 'troubled family' others would not. My role has involved safeguarding children from physical, sexual, and emotional harm. It has also included working with parents who need support and assistance as a result of redundancy, homelessness, illness and disability. One family in particular springs to mind as I write this; they were a young professional family who had fallen on hard times as a result of redundancy. Dad had lost his job and, as result of the economic downturn, was finding it difficult to bridge the gap. He was extremely conscientious, hard working and proud. He found it very difficult asking for help but when he was unable to pay the rent and they lost their home, without any extended family to offer assistance, he turned to Children's Services to help him, his wife and their two young daughters. It was only a month until he found employment again but I am sure he would say that we offered him a much needed lifeline. This was not his fault and I am sure a year or two earlier he would not have envisaged a time when he and his family would have ever needed the help of a Social Worker. This is my point: you never know when you will fall on hard times; this is why Social Care should be on the political agenda; and why voters should be interested in what party manifestos have to say about it.
So, lets take a look at what the main parties have to say in their manifesto's.
Labour would avoid "extreme" social care cuts and continue to fund the Frontline fast track training scheme for Children's Social Work according to their manifesto. They would also:
The Conservatives would create regional adoption agencies that work across local authority boundaries, the party manifesto has pledged. "Far-reaching powers" over social care would also be devolved to large cities that opt to having an elected mayor, like Greater Manchester. Their party manifesto also said they would:
The Liberal Democrats have pledged to "radically transform mental health services" if they are elected to government. Their manifesto states that a Liberal Democrat government would build on the work of the coalition to establish parity between physical and mental health services. They also say they would:
The Greens have pledged free social care and health care for all older people at a cost of "around £8bn a year" and an end to "failed" austerity. Their manifesto also promises:
As mentioned earlier, UKIP would seek wholesale reform of the "clearly failing" child protection services in Britain, if it were to win the next general election. They would hold an open review of all childcare and child protection services, with a view to reforming the system. The cited concerns over "misplaced sensitivity to issues of race and religion", "forced adoptions" and professionals "letting serious cases of abuse and maltreatment slip through the net". In their manifesto UKIP said that they would:
The Greens win for me but as we don't have a visible candidate in my area this is a mute point. What party impresses you the most? Why? I hope that the next government values Children's Social Care enough to invest in it. I hope that they realise it is not only a bad workman that blames his tools. It is impossible for Social Workers to produce good outcomes 100% of the time when they have sky high caseloads and dwindling preventative services.
Developing Empathy: It's easy to judge when we have the power and resources to change our circumstances
This story showed up on my facebook feed yesterday and it's been on my mind ever since. It's the story of Adam; a baby that was born with facial deformities at a Christian hospital in India. It claims that his parents rejected him at birth and threatened to kill him should they take him home. Instead, a couple working at the hospital adopted him and took him home to America where he is now receiving treatment. On the face of it this sounds like a heart-warming story. A child taken in by a warm and caring family and given the chance of life. The headline is, however, rather provocative and invites us to condemn Adam's parents for abandoning him. It is this that I find most upsetting and tragic about the story. I wonder whether Adam's parents were offered support in getting the treatment his affluent, western adopters have been able to secure for him. I wonder whether they were heartbroken upon seeing their child, not through their inability to love a disabled child, but because they knew they were unable to help him. It's easy to judge when we have to power and resources to change our circumstances. I try to remember this in my practice and try to empower people to help themselves. It deeply saddens me that Adam's birth parents were probably never given this opportunity. A parent should not have to make the choice between euthanising her child or watching him die because they can not afford the healthcare he needs. Some of you may be reading this post and believe me to be overly idealistic. The world isn't fair after all. People born into poverty around the world are not in the same privileged position as I am. However, it is when we accept these inequalities without challenge and outrage that humanity will truly suffer.
A friend asked me about e-safety today. She was concerned after finding her child on an inappropriate website and panicked. Her initial reaction was to revoke all on-line privileges as she did not feel confident in her ability to manage the situation. This is a natural reaction. We often want to remove our children from all situations which might cause them harm but in this day and age, it isn't particularly realistic. Children need to learn how to use computers and the internet. It will play a huge part in their lives growing up and should be supported if they are to enjoy and achieve, make a positive contribution and achieve economic well-being.
So, here are my top tips for protecting young children (Foundation and Key Stage 1) whilst on-line. I will write a separate post for older children at a later date.
It's never too early to start talking to your child above staying safe on-line. There are a number of great resources available for parents and professionals to download. One of my current favourites is Smartie the Penguin by ChildNet International. You can download the story from the tools section of this website along with prompts for exploring the themes raised. It is a great way of introducing the boundaries we highlighted earlier in a child centred way.
The story follows Smartie the Penguin as he learns what to do when pop ups appear, when he finds himself on an inappropriate webpage and when he receives a message from a stranger.
There are also a number of books that you can share with children to explain the importance of internet safety.
Chicken Clicking is described as Little Red Riding Hood for the iPad generation; this is the perfect book for teaching children how to stay safe online.
Penguinpig teaches children about stranger danger online. When a little girl reads about a penguinpig on the Internet, she decides that she must go and find one. Not telling her parents, she sets off to the zoo and carefully follows the instructions from the website.
Penguinpig has received acclaim from children's authors Andrew Cope and Ian Whybrow, and has been recommended for families and schools by Claude Littner (BBC1's The Apprentice).
The Internet is Like a Puddle by Big Hug Books attends to the wonderful aspects of electronic communication as well as gently discusses some of the possible pitfalls of sharing, chatting and using data. The Big Hug books grew out of letters sent to children and their families after their psychology sessions. Each book has its origins in a real need for a real child with a real problem and offers real strategies from a real psychologist. The heart-felt illustrations and simple words aim to simplify tricky situations and soothe strong emotions. The books aim to give children, and the people who care for them, a way to talk about problems.
Digiduck's Big Decision is an illustrated children's book that tells the story of Digiduck and his friends, to help children understand how to be good friends to others on the internet. Designed for children age 3-7 years (Foundation stage and KS1) this book is very accessible for this audience.
I hope that you find this helpful. It can be a little intimidating when our children venture into the virtual world but with support and boundaries they will have have access to a resource with huge educational and social value.
Cafcass have just published their third survey of Guardians’ views regarding care applications (s31 Children Act 1989) made by local authorities.
The aim was to gauge the views of Guardians in relation to care applications received by Cafcass during the period 11 – 29 November 2013, specifically in relation to:
Key findings from the research include:
This research will come as welcome affirmation to Social Workers in the sector whom seldom see their dedicated work with children and families recognised in the public arena. However, it is disappointing that I was unable to find one news article related to the report during a quick Google search. News agencies are quick to pick up on damning findings from serious case reviews but are not so interested to learn that on the whole Social Workers do a very good job safeguarding and protecting vulnerable children.
If you would like to read the research in full you can find it here.
Play dough is an excellent aide for working with Children but when you are using it with multiple clients it can quickly become mixed up and dry out. I don't know about you, but whenever my kids are playing with the bought stuff I get a bit annoyed when it becomes a mangled mess of colour within seconds. That's why I make my own. It's so cheap, easy and quick to do. Because of this, I really don't mind replacing it more frequently.
To make your own you will need:
1 cup of flour
1 cup of water
1 cup of salt
1 table spoon of oil
1 table spoon of Cream of Tartar
(Supermarkets only seem to stock 10g sachets of Cream of Tartar nowadays so I buy mine online as it works out cheaper that way and lasts 'forever')
Heat the water, oil, salt, and food colouring. Once it starts to boil take it off the heat and stir in the flour. Once all the ingredients are combined, knead the dough until you reach the right consistency. Be careful though as it will still be quite hot!
Using Play Dough in Direct Work
There has been much research into the fact that both children and adults are more open and honest when they have something to hold. That's why I always accept the offer of a brew when making visits to clients. They are likely to make one for themselves at the same time but you don't have to drink it if your not really a tea drinker. I've also mentioned before that children are often more willing to open up when they are engaged in an activity. Play dough can be used for it's sensory qualities, giving children something malleable to hold and squish in their hands whilst you explore issues affecting them and their family.
To use in direct work set up a simple invitation to play in a quiet room where you are unlikely to be disturbed. The last thing you want is for someone to walk in looking for a stapler when you are on the brink of an emotional disclosure.
You can also use play dough in directive play for a specific assessment purpose. Children could be encouraged to create themselves or others out of play dough. This is a variation on the draw-a-person technique and should be interpreted in a similar way.
This is a brilliant activity to do with new clients. Children, in particular, find it useful to have a visual aide when talking about their emotions.
The one above is a very simple illustration. You can include as many or as few sections as you wish, assigning appropriate labels depending upon the child's particular circumstances. It's a great way to find out about who is important to the child and what is happening in their life. I would recommend guiding the child through the activity before inviting them to colour each section whilst you explore any issues raised further. Children often feel more comfortable opening up when they are engaged in a simple activity.
It is important to be mindful of the fact children sometimes offer answers that they believe are expected instead of what is true for them. For example, when completing the example above, my daughter said "my family(?)" when asked what makes her happy. I have no doubt that family brings her great joy, however, she offered the answer as a question, seeking my reassurance that this was the right response. Professionals are usually acutely aware of this behaviour and should be reflected in any analysis of the results.
Unlike intelligence and physical attractiveness, which depend largely on genetics, empathy is a skill that children learn.
Although the best training for empathy begins in infancy, it’s never too late to start. Infants and toddlers learn the most by how their parents treat them when they are grumpy, frightened, or upset. By the time a child is in preschool, you can begin talking about how other people feel.
When working with children and young people whom display complex and/or challenging behaviour I have used paper dolls to encourage them to think about how their behaviour impacts upon others and visa versa.
The activity can be used in several situations and also with adults. It doesn't have to be about discussing negative behaviour. You could also use it as an opportunity for families to share pride in one another's achievements. Some families find it difficult to share emotions with one another. In this instance you might write a child's recent achievement on the first doll before passing it to other members of the family to complete their own, describing how they feel.
Another idea might be to use it as an opportunity for children to voice their feelings about a parents behaviour during child protection cases. The end result will provide the parent with a visual reminder of how their choices impact upon their children's welfare.
This week it was announced that an agreement for devolution within the Greater Manchester Combined Authority has been reached with central government. The agreement, reached with the Chancellor who has called for a 'Northern Powerhouse' to maximise the economic potential of the north - and building on the work of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) established in 2011 - will give greater powers to the combined authority working in partnership with a directly-elected Mayor.
The agreement, which will need to be ratified by all ten Greater Manchester Councils in due course, signals a step change in the willingness of government to devolve power within England.
Greater Manchester has long been recognised as being at the forefront of the debate with government on devolution in England. This is the first such deal struck with a city region and this is a recognition of the fact that Greater Manchester has established better and stronger collaborative arrangements than any other city region within the UK.
It is hoped that these will open up new opportunities for increasing economic growth and improving the quality of life of Greater Manchester residents by replacing an over-centralised national model, imposing ‘one size fits all’ solutions – with greater local control over certain budgets and powers.
For example, they make promises to unlock huge public transport improvements and help tens of thousands of Greater Manchester residents into work.
Under the settlement, a directly-elected Mayor for Greater Manchester will be created. The first Greater Manchester Mayoral elections are expected to take place in 2017.
Some powers will only be devolved to Greater Manchester once the Mayor is in place but a significant number of initiatives will be taken, starting in the New Year, in advance of the election of the Mayor. These will include the establishment of a new funding deal which will enable Greater Manchester to invest in further extension and strengthening of the city regions transport infrastructure. The deal is worth £900 million over the next 30 years.
Powers to be devolved to Greater Manchester include:
The existing Police and Crime Commissioner’s role will also be merged with the Greater Manchester Mayor’s role. Indeed the Mayor of Greater Manchester is likely to get even more powers than the London Mayor with control over it's health and social care budget.
However, not everyone is convinced about the announcement. Geraint Johnes (Professor of Economics in the Department of Economics, Lancaster University) has said that in his opinion these powers are modest and do not offer the promise of any real capability to stimulate economic development.
But what does all this mean for Social Work?
Firstly, GMCA and Greater Manchester Clinical Commissioning Groups will be invited to develop a business plan for the integration of health and social care across Greater Manchester, based on control of existing health and social care budgets. In the document published jointly by HM Treasury and GMCA specific mention is given to making use of of existing budgets and including specific targets for reducing pressure on A&E and avoidable hospital admissions. It says that the government will also work with local government and NHS England to give greater certainty about health and care funding settlements. This includes by working towards multi-year allocations at the next Spending Review. It assures us that the Treasury will support a Greater Manchester-wide health and social care strategy which fairly and accurately reflects the priorities of the full range of NHS and social care stakeholders, including acute trusts.
What it does not say is specifically what services in the new world will look like. It say that agreement from Greater Manchester Clinical Commissioning Groups will be required to implement any plan for services and budgets which are their responsibility. Consequently, we will have to wait for a peek of the proposed business plan mentioned above to give us any idea of what this really means for social work. I am sure that it is little surprise to those working in the sector that greater emphasis has been placed on health services in the published literature thus far.
What it does say, however, is that the Treasury has agreed to work with Greater Manchester on their early years pilot, with a focus on providing advice and support in ensuring effective pilot design and the creation of a robust evaluation framework. The treasury will work with Greater Manchester on engaging with schools to support early
intervention and to make the case for this more widely across Greater Manchester. This is good news for the vulnerable children that may otherwise go unseen by professionals in the Early Years.
I will of course keep you posted as further details are released. In the meantime, if you are interested in reading the agreement in it's entirety I have uploaded a copy to the Guidance section of the website.
Motivational Interviewing (Miller & Rollnick, 1991) is a way of talking with people about change that was first developed for the field of addictions but has broadened and become a favoured approach for use with a wide variety of populations in many different settings. It complements the strengths based approach that is gaining in popularity and engages clients as agents of change.
Typically, in child protection parents motivation for change is presumed to be static. They either possess it or lack it and there is very little the Social Worker can do to change this. Under these conditions the Social Worker becomes a punitive enforcer of court orders and agency rules and regulations and does little to promote change. Under the threat of punitive measures parents are asked to change or else.
However, it is well documented that a confrontational counselling style limits effectiveness. Miller, Benefield and Tonnigan (1993) found that a directive-confrontational counselling style produced twice the resistance, and only half as many “positive” client behaviours as did a supportive, client-centred approach. The researchers concluded that the more staff confronted substance-involved clients, the more the clients drank at twelve-month follow up. Problems are compounded as a confrontational style not only pushes success away, but can actually make matters worse.
By using Motivational Interviewing interactions become more change focussed and relationships between families and Social Worker become more collaborative. The technique should be used simultaneously with other protective measures to ensure that children are safeguarded from the risk of significant harm. I trained to use motivational interviewing whilst working with an offending and addiction service in 2007. I have since found the technique to be hugely beneficial when applied to work with children and families.
If you would like to learn more, Motivational Interviewing in Social Work Practice is an excellent book providing an accessible introduction to MI with examples of how to integrate this evidence based method into direct practice. You can also find some useful MI tools on my website.
I've just read this article on the Guardian website. The author puts into words what I have been feeling for a while now. The general public just doesn't seems to get what it is we do! The media doesn't help matters of course. I feel proud to be a professional Social Worker. I earned the title academically with an undergraduate degree, post-graduate degree, post qualifying awards and professional development courses. I also earned respect in the field, amongst professionals and in the courts with my direct-work, assessments and analysis. I also know that there are many families and children out there that would say I had a positive impact in their lives too. I feel that the profession is a professional one with status equal to teachers, solicitors, psychologists, etc. The assessments expected of us by the courts are complex and comprehensive. We need a good grasp of sociology, psychology, and politics. Yet most, without any direct experience of Social Work, believe it's nothing more than a chat over a cup of tea. Don't get me wrong, I've managed to produce some good assessments and direct work over a cup of tea. It's just that there is a whole lot more skill to it than that. Perhaps we should promote our profession more and toot our own horns a little bit. However, at the end of the day, does it really matter? It's the results that attest to our value as a profession. It's about the children that are saved and the families that are supported.
Simple tools and quesionnaires are a little unpopular with Social Workers, which is a pity, because if used correctly they can add value to the assessment process. I have just uploaded a copy of the Parent Concerns Questionnaire to the tools section of my website so that you can download it and use in your practice. It was originally developed in 1999 by Michael Sheppard, a professor of Social Work at Plymouth University, to research maternal depression. Since then it has been adopted and used by practitioners across the sector. It is based upon the Common Assessment Framework and takes approximately 10 minutes to complete and can be used as a starting point for discussions between parent and practitioner. However, it goes without saying that Social Workers should not rely too heavily on it and ensure that they continue to use their objectivity throughout the assessment process. There are also a number of other resources for you to download. Take a look and let me know what you think.
I'm a Qualified Children's Social Worker with a passion for safeguarding and family support in the UK.