Hollie Guard: An App To Keep You Safe

Hollie Guard is a free app which essentially transforms your smartphone into an advanced personal safety device. All you need to do is shake your phone or tap the screen and you generate an alert, which automatically sends your location and audio/video evidence to your emergency contacts.

The Emotional Impact of Care

No-one wants to imagine a time in their life when a loved one needs real care. We don’t like to think of what it would be like if a person we know and care for, needs professional help. However, care is a part of so many people’s lives and can bring support to more than just their service user.

Seven reasons to become a social worker

If you want an in-demand career that lets you make a real difference in the world, there’s never been a better time to become a social worker. If you need a little persuasion, here are seven reasons why you should join.

It will challenge you in ways few other careers will

Social work challenges much more than just your typical professional skills. Social work is practically challenging. No two cases are the same, which means social workers must constantly solve problems and apply their studies and experience in creative ways. Social workers also have a direct influence on someone else’s life, which can be extremely rewarding, but also emotionally difficult, which is why social work requires a unique combination of intelligence and emotional strength.

You get to change someone’s life for the better

You may not get a thank you or card every day, or even every year, but when you do occasionally get someone thanking you for helping them to overcome the challenges in their life, you will not be able to stop smiling. To know that you helped another person in some small (or sometimes big) way is quite rewarding and one that you will cherish throughout your career.

You will learn new things about yourself

The situations social work put you in are unique and often extreme. You will learn how to cope when someone feels unwell or has emotional and well-being issues; you will learn how do deal with aggressive or challenging behaviour. You will learn your different strengths and weaknesses as you constantly reflect on your practice.

Being a social worker is really diverse

Whilst training to be a social worker, you will be trained in all aspects of the profession, from child protection to mental health. While you can choose to specialise in one area once you qualify, you will have the opportunity to move around different areas.

It is not just a desk job!

At any point during the day, you may get a phone call that requires you to drop everything and go to the scene of a crisis. You have to attend people’s homes, hospitals, schools, and community centres. Being an effective social worker means engaging with the community and this cannot be done from behind a desk. In fact, when you do eventually get to sit down at your desk, you enjoy the short break.

Your job will never be boring

In social work, each day is completely different than the next. While you may try and plan meticulously, you can guarantee that there will be several unexpected challenges for you to deal with each week. Social work constantly keeps you on your toes, allowing room for new challenges each day.

Opportunities to make a difference

Social work is undeniably stressful, because you witness many challenges firsthand. You might have to help families living in poverty, parents with drug problems or young people who are turning to crime. You might also witness mistreatment of senior citizens or meet victims of sexual violence. Social work careers are not for the faint of heart, but they are for those who want to make a difference. Few careers offer you the opportunity to be an advocate and a positive force for change the way that choosing to become a social worker can.

Deciding on whether or not a career in social work is for you takes a lot of thoughtful consideration. If, however, a passion for social justice and an interest in both your community and job security appeal to you, then social work may be exactly the career you’ve been looking for.

Communicating with Children

How often do you change your tone of voice or find yourself adjusting your vocabulary when communicating with children? One of the earliest forms of communication for children is the ability to pick up on cues given by adults. Some of these are nonverbal cues, such as a smile, touch, furrowed brow, etc. Others are verbal, and come from reading subtle changes during an interaction, such as inflection and tone of voice. Tone of voice is very important in human interaction, as it tells us more about the topic of conversation than just the words. However, communication is not just about the words you use, but also your manner of speaking, body language and, above all, the effectiveness with which you listen. To communicate effectively it is important to take account of culture and context, for example where English is an additional language.

Good communication is central to working with children, young people, their families and carers. It involves listening, questioning, understanding and responding to what is being communicated by children, young people and those caring for them. To build a rapport with children, young people and those caring for them, it is important to demonstrate understanding, respect and honesty. Continuity in relationships promotes engagement and the improvement of lives.

The importance of listening to children

Children experience a range of problems and worries at home, at school, with their friends and in the community. Some children may talk in a way that ‘normalises’ abuse and neglect because that’s what they have experienced as normal. Alternatively, they may avoid discussing these topics because they are painful to acknowledge or because they’re concerned about the consequences of telling.

With that being said, it is vital that professionals and carers pay attention not only to what the child says, but also to what they are not saying. They also need to pay attention to how the child behaves. Listening to the child’s views will help social workers and others to build a trusting relationship with the child.

The importance of relationships

Looked after children and young people are vulnerable individuals. The experiences that led to placement, including mistreatment or neglect, will have resulted in separation from their birth family which, even if unsafe, was the home they knew. Developing trusting relationships is important for these children to help them build security through attachments. Continuity of relationships is key to helping children construct their identity and develop a strong sense of belonging.

A consistent message is that children value relationships with people who:

  • are always there for them
  • love, accept and respect them for who they are
  • are ambitious for them and help them succeed
  • are willing to go the extra mile, and
  • treat them as part of their family, or part of their life, beyond childhood and into adulthood.

What skills do you need to communicate effectively with children and young people?

In order to communicate effectively with children, social workers need to be confident and have a range of skills. These include:

  • active listening
  • empathising with the child’s point of view
  • developing trusting relationships
  • understanding non-verbal communication
  • building rapport
  • explaining, summarising and providing information
  • giving feedback in a clear way
  • understanding and explaining the boundaries of confidentiality

 

Check out our Children Services resources out here.

In summary, spend some time reflecting on the words you use when communicating with children. Build a rapport, develop a trusting relationship and use language that the child will understand, but above all – listen.

Free direct resources, guides & more

Qualities and skills required to be a social worker

Social work requires a diverse and demanding range of professional, emotional, and cognitive skills. While many people who become social workers have a natural aptitude for these skills, it is essential to sharpen them throughout one’s career. In fact, becoming a life-long learner is an ethical requirement of professional social workers. While there is no definitive list, here are a few qualities and skills required to be a social worker.

Effective communication

This is vital in the world of social work. We need to be able to effectively communicate to do our job efficiently. We need to have the ability to speak appropriately to a wide range of people e.g. children, parents, supportive family members and professionals. These will all be tailored at different levels depending on their ability and understanding. From having this key skill we are then able to communicate effectively with a wide number of people who are also from different lifestyles and backgrounds.

Listening skills

Active listening and being fully present with others cannot be underestimated.  Every person has a story and every person wants to be heard. In today’s busy world of technology, doing more, and pressures to meet deadlines, a client’s need to be listened to is sometimes rushed. However, building a therapeutic relationship means listening, really listening, to the person sitting in front of you. Active listening validates one’s need to vent, one’s need to be understood, and one’s need to be heard. It helps with empathy as social workers put themselves in the shoes of another to try to understand what life is like for the client. The bonding formed through the use of active listening makes social workers the go-to persons for clients and colleagues alike.

Honesty and Empathy

Even for the most experienced professional, working with people who are different from ourselves can be both challenging and rewarding. It is often in our experience as an intern in field placement that we are initially faced with dealing with worker-client differences. It can sometimes be awkward or scary, but it is those experiences that will force us to break through boundaries and rely on the power of empathy to engage our clients and develop sound interventions with them.

Technical and academic skills

As a social worker we must be able to use a computer and have a reasonable speed for typing. We need to have the skills to be able to use the system that we document our reports and progress on. It is important that we can write reports to a professional standard. We need all parties to clearly understand what we have written and we should use clear language and avoid jargon as much as possible. This can take time when you first start but you soon learn what words or phrases are best to use. We need to have an analytical mind and be able to identify conclusions and required outcomes. Again, this takes time and is always going to improve.

Self-care

Self-care is fundamental for everyone. It is part of self-regulation, the physical and mental processes through which we create inner and outer balance. If we cannot self-regulate, we are prone to overwork, overplay, burn-out, and unhealthy living. The need for balance is particularly important for social work students, who must manage their own stressors (for example: balancing their desire to pursue a master’s degree with other responsibilities), and the feelings they experience when working with clients.

Social Work Needs to Help Fathers

[vc_row bg_type=”” dima_canvas_style=”” translate_x=”0″ dima_z_index=”0″ delay=”” animate_item=”” delay_duration=”” delay_offset=””][vc_column bg_type=”” dima_canvas_style=”” min_height=”” translate_x=”0″ dima_z_index=”0″ delay=”” delay_duration=”” delay_offset=””][text delay=”” delay_duration=”” delay_offset=”” id=”” class=””]It’s no secret that families have changed in recent years. Divorce is no longer a taboo subject, IVF and other advances have made it easier for everyone to start a family and, slowly but surely, adoption by a gay or lesbian couple is becoming legal worldwide. To look at things simply, the term family means something different to what it did 50 years ago. With such positive development though, we must take the time to make sure we are adapting to the new normal: in particular in terms of the roles fathers play in the lives of their children.[/text][custom_heading delay=”” delay_duration=”” delay_offset=”” id=”” class=”” style=””]

Why focus on dads?

[/custom_heading][text delay=”” delay_duration=”” delay_offset=”” id=”” class=””]When a couple separates children are more likely to live with their mother, which leaves their relationships with their fathers in a precarious position. Or if a family is hit by a tragedy, a father can sometimes be the only parent a child can turn to. These changes mean the importance of the role a father stereotypically used to play in the nurture and emotional upbringing of a child is very different. With these new changes, social workers need to make an active effort to ensure that they are working with fathers and teaching them about how best to care for their children. There’s endless research proving how having an engaged dad is beneficial for the whole family, with kids developing better social skills and mental health, as well as performing better educationally. Sharing the child care responsibilities reduces the pressure on individual parents and statistically leads to more positive relationships with both parents.

The past year has been dominated by strong women standing up for themselves and taking a stand for equality; and while it’s a slightly quieter movement, men are fighting their own fight around gender stereotypes and what it looks like to be a man in 2019. Hollywood actor Justin Baldoni recently gave an inspiring TED Talk which went viral in a matter of days, where he discussed why he was done being “man enough”. President Obama was celebrated not just for his political actions, but for the way he expressed his emotions towards his daughters while in the public eye, most notably in his farewell address in Chicago. Men in positions of power or fame are more frequently using their platforms to discuss modern masculinity and most importantly, their relationships with their children. The power of technology and media means that children can see what positive father-child relationships look like across the world; whereas historically a father eager to actively participate in the typically feminine role of care was a rarity in everyday life. It’s becoming more normal for fathers to be involved in their child’s emotional growth.[/text][custom_heading delay=”” delay_duration=”” delay_offset=”” id=”” class=”” style=””]

So how do we start helping UK fathers?

[/custom_heading][text delay=”” delay_duration=”” delay_offset=”” id=”” class=””]The whole social work industry needs to develop programmes where fathers can learn about pregnancy and raising children in a welcoming environment, through advice from men going through similar situations or sessions with doctors or child psychologists. By understanding the situation, fathers can then learn to facilitate change with the help of social workers. As a society we need to show support for men who challenge the stereotypical norm and are keen to take on a leading role in the emotional education of their children. Practitioners need to involve dads in their work, by asking about them if they’re absent in meetings or ensuring their voice is heard. It can be difficult to engage with some fathers, maybe they aren’t comfortable discussing their emotions, especially during tough times but it is so important for the whole family that they do. A good place to start could be promoting support groups for dads dealing with loss or encouraging workplaces to recognise family commitments for men in the same way as they do for women. This is an issue that has gained government attention, with MPs recognising that the current parental leave system needs reform, but while the politicians debate legal change; we as members of communities need to show societal change. Social workers need to make sure there is adequate support for dads within the existing structures, even with simple things like making sure fathers get all the same information as mothers. Meanwhile, everyone else can show their encouragement for dads by asking about them in schools, doctors’ appointments, extracurricular sessions… any aspect of a child’s life where another parent would be a positive addition.

A father is an irreplaceable part of a child’s life; no matter what social background, economic class or nationality – fathers are important. And if social work does not factor in this importance then children can be left with emotional scars and damaged relationships that stop them from living their best lives, which at its core is what social work aims to do for every citizen.[/text][callout type=”style_one” delay=”” delay_duration=”” delay_offset=”” title=”Direct Resources” message=”List of free to download resources you can use when working with parents.” title_color=”” text_color=”” bg_image=”” href=”” id=”” class=”” style=””][button text=”Parenting Risk Assessment | Assessing Parenting Capacity (NSPCC)” type=”” size=”large” color_class=”” float=”start” target=”blank” lightbox=”” delay=”” delay_duration=”” delay_offset=”” href=”https://www.onestopsocial.co.uk//social-work-social-care-resources/resources-card/?dID=5379″ title=”” popup_content=”” id=”” class=”” style=””][clear by=”10px” id=”” class=””][button text=”Parents Guide to making plans for their children after separation” type=”” size=”large” color_class=”” float=”start” target=”blank” lightbox=”” delay=”” delay_duration=”” delay_offset=”” href=”https://www.onestopsocial.co.uk//social-work-social-care-resources/resources-card/?dID=3819″ title=”” popup_content=”” id=”” class=”” style=””][/callout][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row bg_type=”” dima_canvas_style=”” translate_x=”0″ dima_z_index=”0″ delay=”” animate_item=”” delay_duration=”” delay_offset=””][vc_column bg_type=”” dima_canvas_style=”” min_height=”” translate_x=”0″ dima_z_index=”0″ delay=”” delay_duration=”” delay_offset=””][/vc_column][/vc_row]

How digital technology can transform social care – TEC

[vc_row bg_type=”” dima_canvas_style=”” translate_x=”0″ dima_z_index=”0″ delay=”” animate_item=”” delay_duration=”” delay_offset=””][vc_column bg_type=”” dima_canvas_style=”” min_height=”” translate_x=”0″ dima_z_index=”0″ delay=”” delay_duration=”” delay_offset=””][text delay=”” delay_duration=”” delay_offset=”” id=”” class=””]Technology Enabled Care (TEC) – What is it? Connected health, also known as technology enabled care (TEC), involves the convergence of health technology digital media and mobile devices. What does it do, you ask? It enables patients, carers and healthcare professionals (HCP’s) to access data and information more easily and improves the quality and outcomes of both health and social care.

TEC is not simply about the technology, it’s about putting people first. To do TEC right, it’s about joining up services around the individual – using data from various sources which provide real-time monitoring and communication, in relation to mental health as well as physical health. When people are living alone with long-term conditions or health challenges, TEC can keep them in contact with practitioners, monitoring services and carers in the form of digital media and mobile devices.

As you know, opportunities for using mobile technology have improved vastly over the last few years with the growing population of smartphone and tablet users in the UK, even among older age groups. Other notable developments are the availability of healthcare ‘bio sensing’ wearables, such as digital blood pressure monitors and glucose sensors and patient and provider access to real time healthcare data and information. Mobile technology can empower patients and carers by giving them more control over their health and making them less dependent on HCP’s for health information.

Just as you guessed, there are always going to be challenges arising. Overcoming staff reluctance to engage with technology is a tough one – HCP’s are often reluctant to engage with technology, partly due to the scale and pace of development and the proliferation and speed of development. As you can imagine, staff find it difficult with keeping up with the constant development and changes of technology. There are also concerns about quality, reliability; data, privacy and security- which will be discussed further in future blog posts!

Technology has the power to improve access to healthcare services, especially those with mobility problems.  Moving forward, technology will extend to more wearable, voice-controlled and implanted devices – we need to be ready for widespread availability of sensors and how we can make use of them without ethical or security worries. Health and care professionals also need a wide understanding of what is available and how it can be personalised.

We can come to the conclusion that;

  1. The digital shift is inevitable, a plan of action is needed to minimise disruption.
  2. The great opportunities of digital health care cannot be missed.
  3. Care services must keep up with consumer expectations and emerging technologies.
  4. Collaboration and alignment are vital
  5. Costs will be significant, but the investment is worth making.

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Sponsor:

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Who are we?

[/custom_heading][text delay=”” delay_duration=”” delay_offset=”” id=”” class=””]Log my Care are a UK based care management system provider focused on providing an easy and cost-effective way for residential care homes to move towards electronic care planning. We are proud to say that our newest system is ‘by carers, for carers’ and has been specifically designed to overcome the challenging amounts of admin and paperwork involved in day to day residential care.

We do this in two ways. The first is a smartphone app, in which carers can use to record at the point of care. This shows their daily to-do list, so they can keep on track of what to do and when. It also lets carers add a second signature for two-person activities and helps improve care by letting carers know if any of their tasks are overdue. The second part is ‘The Care Office’. This is a web portal created to give Managers and Owners the simplest way of organising the delivery of care across the whole home. It not only helps to set care standards, but it also provides an audit-trail and reduces repetitive admin tasks, freeing up time for more important activities.

We were inspired to create Log my Care following research into the challenges facing front-line carers every day. Log my Care is designed to empower carers, with user friendly hardware helping them to deliver better care.

Log my Care’s main features are free to use for all UK care homes. This, along with advantages such as the 2-factor authentication, mean that care homes don’t need to spend large amounts on hardware and can simply use a smartphone, saving costs from the get-go.[/text][callout type=”style_one” delay=”” delay_duration=”” delay_offset=”” title=”Featured Resources” message=”Download these fantastic free resources for social care practitioners.” title_color=”” text_color=”” bg_image=”” href=”” id=”” class=”” style=”” tutorials=””][button text=”Social Care Jargon Buster | Think Local Act Personal ” type=”” color_class=”” float=”start” target=”blank” lightbox=”” delay=”” delay_duration=”” delay_offset=”” href=”https://www.onestopsocial.co.uk//social-work-social-care-resources/resources-card/?dID=857″ title=”” popup_content=”” id=”” class=”” style=”” tutorials=””][clear by=”10px” id=”” class=””][button text=”Guide for line managers: Wellness Action Plans (WAPs) | Supporting Staff” type=”” color_class=”” float=”start” target=”blank” lightbox=”” delay=”” delay_duration=”” delay_offset=”” href=”https://www.onestopsocial.co.uk//social-work-social-care-resources/resources-card/?dID=5384″ title=”” popup_content=”” id=”” class=”” style=”” tutorials=””][/callout][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row bg_type=”” dima_canvas_style=”” translate_x=”0″ dima_z_index=”0″ delay=”” animate_item=”” delay_duration=”” delay_offset=””][vc_column bg_type=”” dima_canvas_style=”” min_height=”” translate_x=”0″ dima_z_index=”0″ delay=”” delay_duration=”” delay_offset=””][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row bg_type=”” dima_canvas_style=”” translate_x=”0″ dima_z_index=”0″ delay=”” animate_item=”” delay_duration=”” delay_offset=””][vc_column bg_type=”” dima_canvas_style=”” min_height=”” translate_x=”0″ dima_z_index=”0″ delay=”” delay_duration=”” delay_offset=””][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row bg_type=”” dima_canvas_style=”” translate_x=”0″ dima_z_index=”0″ delay=”” animate_item=”” delay_duration=”” delay_offset=””][vc_column bg_type=”” dima_canvas_style=”” min_height=”” translate_x=”0″ dima_z_index=”0″ delay=”” delay_duration=”” delay_offset=””][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row bg_type=”” dima_canvas_style=”” translate_x=”0″ dima_z_index=”0″ delay=”” animate_item=”” delay_duration=”” delay_offset=”” css=”.vc_custom_1561376691968{background-color: #ffffff !important;border: 3px initial !important;}”][vc_column bg_type=”” dima_canvas_style=”” min_height=”” translate_x=”0″ dima_z_index=”0″ delay=”” delay_duration=”” delay_offset=””][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row bg_type=”” dima_canvas_style=”” translate_x=”0″ dima_z_index=”0″ delay=”” animate_item=”” delay_duration=”” delay_offset=”” css=”.vc_custom_1561376486342{background-color: #848685 !important;border: 3px initial !important;}”][vc_column bg_type=”” dima_canvas_style=”” min_height=”” translate_x=”0″ dima_z_index=”0″ delay=”” delay_duration=”” delay_offset=””][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Child Protection: Moving Forward in Modern Social Work

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One Stop Social is unashamedly passionate about social work, and therefore, we’re driven by an enthusiasm to show the rest of the world just how brilliant social work is. While we don’t look at the sector through rose tinted glasses, we know there are some fantastic examples of good practice and innovation across the country. Nevertheless, areas of social work like child protection make the headlines on a regular basis for less than positive reasons.

The press is filled with child abuse scandals, stories about neglected young people or examples of councils stretched too thin; but are these just the cases which catch the media’s eye? Sensationalised stories sell papers, so is it just that the countless admirable practitioners and examples of good practice are ignored in favour of the few cases that will make a catchy headline. On the other hand, do a limited number of cases imply that the whole system is in need of change? Are the issues with the current child protection really so serious that we should consider reform?

When you look at the key factors which can cause issues with child protection teams, there isn’t a need for revolution or a complete overhaul of the system. The foundations are not broken; however, they’re not being given the trust and support they need to thrive. We’d like to take a chance to examine some of these elements and make the case against reform, and in favour of implementing the correct structures to support social work in the UK.

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Fragmented approach

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Child protection is about ensuring the safety of at risk and vulnerable children across the UK. Each of the UK’s 4 nations have their own child protection system, as a result they utilise different techniques and laws to help protect children from abuse and neglect. But is this separation of powers and styles contributing to a fragmented system? We see on a regular basis how gangs utilise county lines to exploit young people, partly facilitated by a lack of communication and collaboration between different local authorities; so, is the same happening across nations? The UK is built on the idea of partnership between England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland; but if we’re not upholding this ethos across child protection services, then it could be easy for children to be missed.

In order to allow child protection to truly succeed, it’s essential that we recognise that we need to work together. Political differences, historical grudges or individuality should have no place in child protection. It’s about looking after a child deemed to be at risk or in need. So perhaps we need to train each other in the different approaches and systems, so that there is a universal understanding of how to safeguard those who are vulnerable. There should also be a policy of openness with regards to sharing information about vulnerable service users who could benefit from the support from teams in different regions and nations. Let’s trust in each other more and recognise the strength in working as 1 overall team for child protection.

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Financial troubles

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While many areas of social work don’t require super-high-tech systems or the latest gadgets which put a strain on budgets, councils do need sufficient money to maintain social care avenues and to fund enough practitioners to effectively cover an area. However, councils across the UK are regularly commenting on the issues they face due to the lack of funding. The government has been recently criticised for having an “appalling” level of ignorance about the pressure child protection teams find themselves under – a large part of which is due to council budgets being cut 30% since 2010. Even when funding is announced, as it was in the latest Budget, there’s immense scepticism that the promise will be followed through, which impacts a council’s confidence to invest. So, we need to ensure that councils have the resources they need to succeed; and if the central government can’t guarantee it, a stable alternative should be developed. We’re seeing a rise of teaching partnerships across the country, like the Greater Manchester Social Work Academy, so is the future of social work pooling resources together? Yes, a more collaborative approach would definitely promote better outcomes for those deemed in need and we are seeing greater emphasis on supporting practitioner development.

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Increasing Demand

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Research over the past few years have shown us that the demand for child protection services is on the rise exponentially. Technology has made it easier for predators to exploit children from behind a screen. High rates of drug and alcohol abuse makes families more volatile, leaving more children needing to be taken into care. Insufficient support for those with mental health issues and the lack of protection for domestic abuse victims leaves thousands of children in need of safeguarding. However, what doesn’t make the headlines as regularly, is that the number of social workers is also on the rise too. With the correct funding to councils, training opportunities and practitioner support, we can band together to meet every challenge. One Stop Social are keen to aid councils where we can, which is why we’re developing high-quality, cost-effective training workshops which can be implemented nationally.

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Recruitment & Retention Issues

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Across almost every council in the UK there is an issue with recruitment and retention – leaving front-line services with insufficient practitioners for their caseloads. Social workers can pick and choose where they work due to the vast demand; making it harder for councils to retain staff. This regular turnover affects dynamics and gives inconsistency to child protection teams. Councils need to recognise that by making it more desirable to stay in a role, social workers can develop their skills more effectively and overall protect more vulnerable children. Leadership training and clear progression routes are important, but a key element is building a sense of enjoyment by being in a particular role. We offer corporate licences of our OSS Membership to help councils develop retention packages, and demonstrate that they’re willing to reward their teams as both practitioners and people. Employee engagement drives enthusiasm for a role and efficiency: the key to success is making professionals happier.

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It’s not a “crisis”

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Given that there are so many facets of child protection that need work, it can feel like we’re on the edge of the cliff, about to fall into chaos. And until we can be secure in the knowledge that every child is in a safe, healthy environment, we’ll always need to look for changes and improvements.  However, on a national scale, the core foundation of child protection in the UK is sound. It’s on a local level that we need to build on it. Child protection should not be a postcode lottery system. We need to ensure councils everywhere can give practitioners the correct reimbursement, employment structures and rewards packages. By working on a local level, we can give child protection as a whole the room it needs to thrive.

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Supporting Young People in Care

There seems to be an unspoken assumption that when we talk about children in care on a day to day basis, we’re picturing a very young child. It’s the image we see in films and tv shows, of a child usually under the age of 10 being placed in a foster home or being removed from the care of their parents. You can understand how this develops. Sensationalised and dramatized storylines about toddlers who are in need of “rescue” from negative environments makes for great plot points in TV. It’s the type of thing that keep people tuning into soap operas every day. And thanks to the high rates of good practice across the UK, real-life practitioners are able to recognise a vulnerable child earlier on, meaning they’re placed in care at a younger age. Nevertheless, we need to ensure that older children who find themselves in care get the full breadth of our attention; whether or not they fit into a prejudiced stereotype that the media has constructed for us. Young people can be just as vulnerable as children, and they face a whole range of struggles that need practitioner (and societal) support.

Young people are growing up, they’re starting to understand the world a bit more and they’re more aware of their surroundings. While this can be a great time in your life, when you’re learning who you are and the defining features of your personality; many children enter this stage with a very real risk of neglect, abuse and trauma. If a young person is in an unsafe environment at home (for whatever reason) then their development will be inherently defined by this situation. To minimise the risk posed to them and to attempt to provide them with the most stable environment while they grow up; some young people will be removed from their home and placed in care. These looked-after young adults will then either be in foster care or residential care, with aid from social workers and members of the social care community, preparing them for when they will be independent.

Whether in foster care or residential, young people face a period in their lives of great emotional upheaval and distress, and being in a foster home, residential home or other residential setting away from their homes does not simplify things. Young people are aware enough to understand what is happening and can recognise that moving into care is the right move; however, they require personalised support to manoeuvre their way through this period.

For many, moving into the social care system is a positive step in their childhood and adolescence, as they are removed from a situation where they were vulnerable and now have the potential to grow and thrive. Each case is always different, but overall, the social care services in the UK do an excellent job to be there for vulnerable young people who need them. However, it’s no secret that the services are stretched thin. The number of children in care is rising all the time, and with shocking statistics like 836 children in care in Stoke-on-Trent alone, it can be easy to feel like the sector is overwhelmed.

Currently, it’s hard for practitioners to provide this fully personalised support that young people need, no matter how hard they try. The constant battle for funding in social care means that the resources practitioners need to help young people develop their independence are simply unavailable. As with any matter in social work and care, staffing issues also come into play, as teams are stretched thin trying to meet all the demand for their help without the necessary manpower. Such a vital part of supporting young people who are being looked after is to prepare them for life after care. It’s about developing their skills, confidence and capabilities so that when the time comes, they can lead fulfilling independent lives. As with any other young person, someone in care is preparing to be an adult. And it’s up to us to make sure they are given the tools they need to grow into positive contributors to society. As a result there are dozens of services nationwide who work to be there for every child; but is this part of the problem? Is it too easy to develop a reliance on the services that exist and so young people do not have the opportunity to build up their skill sets? Front-line services provide invaluable help, however, should practitioners work to wean young people, and themselves, off the safety net that they give us? If social workers had the necessary resources to care for vulnerable young people in an effective way, then this direct work would build more confident and capable adults when they left care.

The Guardian commented in 2015 that “having a cut-off in England that deprives many care leavers of statutory support after the age of 18 means that many are left to fend for themselves in a way that sets them up to fail”; and that rings completely true. While the people who work to support children and young people in care and afterwards, the system itself is flawed. It’s too easy currently for children in care to not receive effective guidance as they grow up, leading them to situations where they remain vulnerable and at risk. Young people are tough, resilient and capable of great things – no matter what background they’re from. And if anything, those who have been through the care system have learnt to adapt and handle pressure from an early age, making them almost more likely to be able to handle curveballs in life. Despite all this, having to do all this on your own is nearly impossible. This is why young people who are lacking stable family environments really need a system that will be there for them and foster their skills while they grow. As it stands, we’re failing young people in care. Not by any fault of individual practitioners, but because overall, we need to rethink how we’re doing this. Care isn’t just about protecting the youngest of our citizens from harm, it’s also about ensuring their growth isn’t hindered and preparing them for a bright and positive future.