Social work books – recommended reading list

as experienced social workers and practice educators, we’ve been asked by a number of student social workers to compile a list of recommended social work books.

Resource E-Pack for Adult Practitioners | Social Care Resources

This Resource E-Pack has been developed for Adult Practitioners and showcases an excellent list of free direct resources that can be used when working with vulnerable adults. 

Visit our direct resources, guides & assessment handouts centre

Over 400 direct resources you can download .

Active Listening Skills and Person Centred Approach in Social Work

Social workers practice not only in the traditional social care services (both Adults & Children & Young People), but also in schools; the military; third sector, voluntary services and local government agencies and legislative bodies. In fact, social workers can be found anywhere and everywhere there are people who need the help or assistance in addressing personal or social problems.

A ‘shared journey’; based on a positive working relationship

Social work practice seeks to help those assessed as in need to improve their situation through assessment, planning, intervention and supervision. However, effective delivery of support and services can only be done after the social worker manages to engage the individual (and family) and build a rapport with him or her as a ‘shared journey’; based on a positive working relationship (look at Systemic Practice).

As such in the ‘beginning process’, it is vital for the social worker to engage and secure an individual’s trust to bring the helping relationship to a greater height. But how can this be achieved and what do we need to demonstrated in practice?

Social work engagement skills

Two areas that social workers must be competent and demonstrate in practice on a day to day basis includes the ability to promote active listening skills and adopt a person centred approach (this includes when working in Child Protection or Safeguarding).

Below we have broken down these social work ‘buzz words’ and have offered guidance on how they can be adopted and promoted in front-line practice. We’ve also provided an excellent resource on ‘Social Work Engagement Skills’ that practitioners can download for free.

Active listening

Active listening is a communication technique that is used in social work, counselling, training and conflict resolution. It is a great (and essential) technique to promote empowerment and engagement. This document offers a good guide to help develop and understand active listening.

Person Centred Approach

The ‘person-centred’ approach was developed by Carl Rogers in the 1950s in the field of psychotherapy. It’s use emphasises the importance of creating a positive relationship and environment, focusing on:

  • Respect
  • Empathy
  • Genuineness (congruence)
  • Unconditional Positive Regard

Download resource

Anti-Discriminatory Practice – Rhetoric or Reality?

I trained a long time ago when Neil Thomson’s Anti-Discriminatory Practice was the buzzword in social work and Anti-Racist social work was very much at the fore. I was always uncomfortable with the emphasis being on obvious sources of oppression and discrimination and felt that other disenfranchised groups were frequently subject to oppression without recognition from within the profession. Awareness moved on and we were increasingly encouraged to think about other groups such as those with different belief systems based upon religion or culture. However, as a social worker in a Drug and Alcohol team we were frequently frustrated by the notion that all substance-using mothers were automatically bad mothers. Whilst no doubt the lifestyle associated often had a significant impact on parenting, there were many that were able to be “good enough parents” in the context of their own personal difficulties and with appropriate support. Likewise, my experience in learning disability services was that many parents were automatically under scrutiny from the moment of conception and primarily due to their label.

Anti-discriminatory practice becomes an intellectual activity.

As society becomes more diverse, it seems we have to question even more what this means and how we can be sure we really are engaged in anti-discriminatory practice. More and more people are opting to live in increasingly diverse ways and often as a result of societal inequalities, which we social workers have always ideologically sought to advocate for. For example, more and more people are choosing to adopt alternative approaches to health or opt out of mainstream education. An increasingly aging population and same sex marriages mean that care homes face the challenge of managing uncomfortable views around sexual orientation in that context, in the same way that many older adults have experienced oppression around expression of sexuality, as the home tries to balance that with fears around safeguarding in the context of capacity and consent. The assessment frameworks we use generally apply benchmarks based on norms deriving from the mainstream, by which not all can arguably be measured. There is a danger that we might succumb to the notion that by virtue of our social work status we never discriminate because and we are committed to this belief system by virtue of our training and practice code of ethics. Anti-discriminatory practice becomes an intellectual activity and not translated to practice.

How do we as agents of the state balance the competing demands we face?

The question is, perhaps, how do we as agents of the state balance the competing demands we face? Many social workers have been increasingly uncomfortable with their role as agents of the state but justify their involvement by virtue of the role of advocating for the disenfranchised. At what point does this become untenable? Can we really truly engage in prejudice-free practice whilst hitting targets often based on research or outcomes of serious case enquiries which cannot always be appropriately extrapolated out?

Contributory Factors

Education is key, of course, so that misconceptions and prejudicial assumptions do not prevail within the profession. To that end, my guess is that we need to move on from the emphasis on anti-racist social work so as not to make assumptions about discrimination and oppression experienced by those that many be regarded as automatically privileged.

Good practice was reserved to whether we would be able to meet the budget…

I was fortunate in early practice to have a supervisor who adopted an eclectic approach to supervision, often employing psychodynamic models of supervision to reflective practice. This forum provided the opportunity to continue to discuss these issues and how they shaped my practice. However, by the end of my career, I was being supervised by an unqualified person whose remit was case management and ensuring the waiting list remained short. Therefore “good practice” was reserved to whether we would be able to meet the budget and work in such a way so as to avoid complaints. Ironically those who shouted the loudest often won and the drive at the time for personalisation meant that the younger disabled community were often able to write wish-lists about their desired lifestyle; whilst older people, from a different generation where self-advocation was less common and respect for the “cradle to grave” services, were very much oppressed. They had cultural needs and wants that played second fiddle to other more “worthy” groups.

As I recall from my practice, it was often down to the individual worker to be open minded to challenging oppression that might exist outside of other “isms” that were more easily recognised and challenged. Being out of practice and hearing more about how fringe groups within society experience prejudice and discriminatory practice first-hand tells me that sadly not much has changed. The opportunities for social workers’ assumptions to be tested increase and so our expertise at balancing advocating for the rights of the oppressed against our role as protector of the vulnerable needs to keep pace.

How can we ensure we do this?

Through education, a rethink of supervision, and less reactive practice, is my guess. The idea of user-consultation and participation needs to extend beyond those groups formally recognised as oppressed or discriminated against.  Increasingly we need to recognise that it might not just be poverty, religion, disability, or ethnicity, that renders someone disenfranchised in society but also those who are socially excluded in other ways. There are a variety of ways that people are judged for their choices as they don’t subscribe to the expected norms; arguably those needs are as valid and worthy of consideration as any other.

By an anonymous Social Worker

My Social Work Story Series: As a Social Work Manager I Let Staff Down

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]I’ve been a qualified Social Worker for just over six years, working primarily within Children’s Services. Throughout my career, it’s safe to say that I have experienced some fantastic highs and I’m a very proud practitioner; yes, the role is very challenging, but it is also very rewarding.

However, one of my most challenging periods arose after my first year of practice; I was ‘fast tracked’ into a management role.[/vc_column_text][vc_custom_heading text=”What happened?” font_container=”tag:h2|text_align:left|color:%23ef7e21″ use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_column_text]To be honest, I felt slightly pressurised in applying by my managers/senior managers. Yes, I was interested in a future in management, but I was very inexperienced as I had only been qualified for 12 months; I lacked relevant experience and had no previous experience of management or leadership roles. I hadn’t even supervised a Student Social Worker as a Practice Educator.

However, at the time I was made to feel that if I didn’t apply it would have a negative impact on my future career aspirations and would ‘look bad’ within the Service. Trust me when I say that I now view such thoughts as ridiculous and hugely regrettable. I also believe that it flies in the face of Social Work values, standards and conduct; particularly where we should challenge, where appropriate, and be accountable for our own practice/development.

But I was relatively inexperienced and felt I needed to please others. I initially thought I had no chance in getting the job. But little did I know I was the only applicant.

Whilst the interview didn’t go particularly well, I received a phone call later that day offering me the management role. I accepted and began within a three week turn around. As a manager I was accountable and responsible for a group of seven Social Workers and four Support Workers; the longest serving practitioner in my group had only 18 months of front-line work under her belt.[/vc_column_text][vc_custom_heading text=”I was way out of my depth” font_container=”tag:h2|text_align:left|color:%23ef7e21″ use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_column_text]What followed for the next six months can only be described as the most difficult period of my Social Work career. I felt I was only ever one step ahead of my staff and in some cases several steps behind. Rightly so, this did not instil them with confidence in my ability to offer informed decision making.

How could I possibly offer them guidance or advice, without the relevant experience or knowledge? To address this, I spent most evenings and weekends working; reading and learning the latest policies, procedures, guidance and legislation on how best to support Social Work Practitioners. This only contributed to the demise of my personal relationships. For the first time, I began to feel depressed; I would often get anxious on Saturday evenings for the following Monday.[/vc_column_text][vc_custom_heading text=”I started to burn out” font_container=”tag:h2|text_align:left|color:%23ef7e21″ use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_column_text]However, at the time I believed that these feelings were a small price to pay as I tried frantically to develop my management skills and knowledge. I constantly felt I was letting them down but instead of being honest with them, I felt I needed to portray a sense of invincibility.

During my personal supervision, I attempted to highlight my deficiencies and that I was struggling both professionally and personally. My managers response came as a surprise; I was told that me being in the role was better than having a vacancy to fill. This only further contributed to my anxiety and for the first time I had doubts about Social Work.

I started to burn out…This couldn’t go on. Subsequently, I was signed off on sick leave due to work related stress. I let everyone down, including myself![/vc_column_text][vc_custom_heading text=”Road to recovery” font_container=”tag:h2|text_align:left|color:%23ef7e21″ use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_column_text]Whilst I was off, I saw a friend who happened to be a therapist. Initially I found opening up tough. But, through the process of critical self-awareness and reflection, I began to feel a growing sense of power in my decision making and control over my actions. This was something that had previously been lacking in my role as a manager. I started to understand the importance of self-care and work-life balance. This gave me energy; my passion for social work started to burn once more.[/vc_column_text][vc_custom_heading text=”Returning to work” font_container=”tag:h2|text_align:left|color:%23ef7e21″ use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_column_text]After four weeks on sick leave, I took the decision to return to front-line practice. My Service was hugely supportive in my return. They understood the reasons for me leaving in the first place and had developed ‘internal mechanisms’ to address concerns raised and made sure that they wouldn’t reoccur.  I was given a new manager and started to practice in a different area within the County… and I have never looked back!

I’m really pleased to say that I now feel hugely supported in my role (now a Senior Practitioner). Also, I am now undertaking a management and leadership course and I’ve had a number of Student Social Workers (I’m also a Stage 2 Practice Educator) that I helped develop.[/vc_column_text][vc_custom_heading text=”Social Work Progression Pathways” font_container=”tag:h2|text_align:left|color:%23ef7e21″ use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_column_text]I am now reconsidering a role into management as I feel I have the right amount of experience both in practice and supporting staff development. However, no matter what happens I will forever feel as though I let staff down in my first management role.

My final thought about my experience is that I should’ve challenged those that wanted to ‘fast track’ my career. It is right to say that not all Social Workers can be good or effective managers. But I felt that, with limited experience and little support, I was contributing to staff anxiety and made complex situations worse.

However, I do believe that services now understand the importance of investing in the professional development; Specifically, Social Work Progression Pathways, which significantly limits or reduces the feelings of being ‘thrown in at the deep end’. Long may this trend continue to develop.[/vc_column_text][vc_custom_heading text=”So, what learning can others take from my experiences?” font_container=”tag:h2|text_align:left|color:%23ef7e21″ use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_column_text]

  • Never feel you need to apply for a role as a result of being pressurised by others.
  • You cannot know everything – I’ve learnt that the best staff are not those who think they know everything. It is those who understand their weaknesses as well as their strengths.
  • We are all humans – We will make mistakes. Learn from me, accept it, you are not invincible… Use Peer support and develop self-care.

This was completed by a Senior Social Worker, who wishes to remain anonymous. This is part of our Social Work Stories Series, if you’d like to contribute, please contact us at central@onestopsocial.co.uk[/vc_column_text][vc_custom_heading text=”Related Articles” font_container=”tag:h3|text_align:left|color:%23848685″ use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_btn title=”How To Be A Social Work Manager Practitioners Value” style=”outline-custom” outline_custom_color=”#ef7e21″ outline_custom_hover_background=”#ef7e21″ outline_custom_hover_text=”#ffffff” shape=”round” align=”center” link=”url:https%3A%2F%2Fwww.onestopsocial.co.uk%2Fsocial-work-manager-value%2F||target:%20_blank|rel:nofollow”][vc_btn title=”Top Tips: How To Be A Good Social Work Manager” style=”outline-custom” outline_custom_color=”#ef7e21″ outline_custom_hover_background=”#ef7e21″ outline_custom_hover_text=”#ffffff” shape=”round” align=”center” link=”url:https%3A%2F%2Fwww.onestopsocial.co.uk%2Ftop-tips-good-social-work-manager%2F||target:%20_blank|rel:nofollow”][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Top Tips: How To Be A Good Social Work Manager

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As practitioners, what qualities do you look out for and value in a manager? Below we’ve put a few ‘top tips’ that we hope will help assist managers in developing their skills and support for practitioners within the social work and care sectors.

[/vc_column_text][vc_custom_heading text=”Honesty” font_container=”tag:h2|text_align:left|color:%23ef7e21″ use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_column_text]

If a staff member has asked you for help on a certain task and/or your opinion, be honest. Sounds simple, right? But you’d be surprised at how many managers try to ‘wing it’ or misinform their staff. Honesty really is the best policy… so lets practice in line with the correct social work values and ethics we’ve been taught.

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The difference between being a good manager and an average one is that a good manager will be the first to admit that they don’t know everything. But, what they will do is help you find out the answer (as a shared journey). By being open about not being all knowing will break down barriers and show that you are human after all. This will help create a far better working relationship with your staff/practitioners.

[/vc_column_text][vc_custom_heading text=”Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty” font_container=”tag:h2|text_align:left|color:%23ef7e21″ use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_column_text]

One of the most common themes when highlighting the difference between a boss and a leader is that the latter is not afraid to get down and dirty in completing work with staff. Whereas the former is more than happy to sit back and ‘bark’ orders (usually to hide their own incompetence) even when there are staff shortages… A good leader will not be afraid to do as well as say.

[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image=”4908″ img_size=”large” alignment=”center”][vc_custom_heading text=”Don’t punish good practice” font_container=”tag:h2|text_align:left|color:%23ef7e21″ use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_column_text]

As managers we can often become reliant on our most skilled and experienced practitioners to complete the majority of work. We often allocate and inundate them with the most complex cases and do this because we know that the work will get completed to a good standard. However, think about it, this isn’t good practice. In doing so, you are likely to increase staff burn due to them managing unworkable caseloads. It can also create feelings of resentment within a team, which can be toxic. So, make sure cases are evenly distributed between the teams. Yes, you may need to offer one practitioner more support, but this helps professional development and will strengthen the team and their practice.

[/vc_column_text][vc_custom_heading text=”Good communication skills are essential” font_container=”tag:h2|text_align:left|color:%23ef7e21″ use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_column_text]

To manage effectively, it is wrong to assume that you can communicate with all staff at the same level or way. If staff are to fully process information, communication must be tailored to their own individual needs. Remember learning styles when working with service users/customers? Well, the same applies here… Some learn best by doing and others by watching or following. As managers, you need to adapt to these variants and engage with your staff differently.

[/vc_column_text][vc_custom_heading text=”Compliment staff work” font_container=”tag:h2|text_align:left|color:%23ef7e21″ use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_column_text]

All too often managers only comment on staff work if it’s not of the expected level or standard. This can create an atmosphere of hostility and one that will be counter-productive. Whilst it sounds a bit cheesy, positivity really does breed positivity. So, the next time a practitioner does something well, tell them… It doesn’t hurt.

[/vc_column_text][vc_custom_heading text=”Be careful not to create anxiety” font_container=”tag:h2|text_align:left|color:%23ef7e21″ use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_column_text]

Sometimes it’s difficult as managers not to feel the stress of the job. Whilst this will always (to some extent) be a part of our role, it’s essential that your anxieties are not passed onto your practitioners. Yeah, we want to promote professional autonomy, but we need to do this in a supportive and ‘save’ environment. If we don’t safeguard staff from manager anxiety, this will increase the likelihood of panicked decision making; which will fall under defensive rather than defensible practice.

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Related article:

[/vc_column_text][vc_custom_heading text=”How To Be A Social Work Manager Practitioners Value” font_container=”tag:h2|text_align:center|color:%23ef7e21″ use_theme_fonts=”yes” link=”url:https%3A%2F%2Fwww.onestopsocial.co.uk%2Fsocial-work-manager-value%2F||target:%20_blank|rel:nofollow”][vc_empty_space][vc_separator color=”custom” accent_color=”#ef7e21″][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Free Resource Packs on Self Harm, Forced Marriage, Trafficking & FGM

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_custom_heading text=”Self-harm Awareness Resource Pack” font_container=”tag:h2|text_align:left|color:%23ef7e21″ use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_column_text]Virtual College have completed these free resource packs on self harm in young people, forced marriage & FGM. Download copies for free now.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]To help parents & practitioners to understand the scale of self-harm and raise awareness of the issue, we have created a free resource pack.

The Resource Pack includes:

  • A poster
  • An infographic
  • An email footer
  • Images to share on social media
  • A website banner

[/vc_column_text][vc_btn title=”Download Self-harm Awareness Resource Pack” style=”outline-custom” outline_custom_color=”#ef7e21″ outline_custom_hover_background=”#666666″ outline_custom_hover_text=”#ffffff” shape=”round” align=”center” link=”url:http%3A%2F%2Fwww.onestopsocial.co.uk%2Fsocial-work-social-care-resources%2Fresources-card%2F%3FdID%3D1310%26title%3DSelf-harm%2520awareness%2520resource%2520pack%2520%7C%2520Understanding%2520Young%2520Minds|||rel:nofollow”][vc_custom_heading text=”Human Trafficking Resource Pack” font_container=”tag:h2|text_align:left|color:%23ef7e21″ use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_column_text]An estimated 36 million people are being used, bought, sold or transported for exploitation worldwide, yet awareness of the issue remains low. Download this resource pack by filling out the form below to help raise awareness across your organisation.

This resource pack contains:

  • A poster for your staff
  • A flowchart of actions to take should you suspect trafficking
  • Modern Slavery Act 2015 legislation

[/vc_column_text][vc_btn title=”Download Human Trafficking Resource Pack” style=”outline-custom” outline_custom_color=”#ef7e21″ outline_custom_hover_background=”#666666″ outline_custom_hover_text=”#ffffff” shape=”round” align=”center” link=”url:http%3A%2F%2Fwww.onestopsocial.co.uk%2Fsocial-work-social-care-resources%2Fresources-card%2F%3FdID%3D1311%26title%3DHuman%2520Trafficking%2520Resource%2520Pack||target:%20_blank|rel:nofollow”][vc_custom_heading text=”Recognising and Preventing FGM Resource Pack” font_container=”tag:h2|text_align:left|color:%23ef7e21″ use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_column_text]A recent study revealed that 137,000 women in England and Wales are estimated to be living with the consequences of FGM. We worked with the Home Office to combat this by creating a resource pack which aims to increase awareness of the issue.

To help you raise awareness of FGM, this pack includes:

  • A poster for your staff
  • An email to send to your colleagues
  • A banner to put in your email signature

[/vc_column_text][vc_btn title=”Download Recognising and Preventing FGM Resource Pack” style=”outline-custom” outline_custom_color=”#ef7e21″ outline_custom_hover_background=”#666666″ outline_custom_hover_text=”#ffffff” shape=”round” align=”center” link=”url:http%3A%2F%2Fwww.onestopsocial.co.uk%2Fsocial-work-social-care-resources%2Fresources-card%2F%3FdID%3D1312%26title%3DRecognising%2520and%2520Preventing%2520FGM%2520Resource%2520Pack||target:%20_blank|rel:nofollow”][vc_custom_heading text=”Awareness of Forced Marriage Resource Pack” font_container=”tag:h2|text_align:left|color:%23ef7e21″ use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_column_text]Help in the fight against forced marriage by downloading this resource pack and raise awareness across your organisation.

This free resource pack contains:

  • A poster for your staff
  • A footer for your email
  • A facts and figures infographic
  • A guide to Forced Marriage legislation

[/vc_column_text][vc_btn title=”Download Awareness of Forced Marriage Resource Pack” style=”outline-custom” outline_custom_color=”#ef7e21″ outline_custom_hover_background=”#666666″ outline_custom_hover_text=”#ffffff” shape=”round” align=”center” link=”url:http%3A%2F%2Fwww.onestopsocial.co.uk%2Fsocial-work-social-care-resources%2Fresources-card%2F%3FdID%3D1313%26title%3DAwareness%2520of%2520Forced%2520Marriage%2520Resource%2520Pack||target:%20_blank|rel:nofollow”][vc_column_text]Virtual College also run a number of free online courses. Follow the link below for further information.[/vc_column_text][vc_btn title=”Free Online Courses” style=”outline-custom” outline_custom_color=”#666666″ outline_custom_hover_background=”#666666″ outline_custom_hover_text=”#ffffff” shape=”round” align=”center” link=”url:http%3A%2F%2Fwww.onestopsocial.co.uk%2Fvirtual-college-free-online-courses-social-workers-care-staff%2F||target:%20_blank|rel:nofollow”][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Add your front-line service to our Social Care Directory for free!

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_custom_heading text=”Add your front-line service to our Social Care Directory today for free” font_container=”tag:h2|text_align:left|color:%23ef7e21″ use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_column_text]

We are continuing to expand our social care directory database on a National level and we’re inviting all front-line social care service providers to join us. Whether 3rd sector, charity, voluntary, private or local council services, our social care directory is completely FREE to register and list.

All you need to do is register for a free ‘advertiser’ account via our sign-in/register page. Once your email has been validated, you’ll be able to list any service you offer under the ‘social care directory’ listing package. It takes five minutes and it’s a great cost effective way to help promote the fantastic services you offer.

[/vc_column_text][vc_btn title=”Set up listing” style=”outline-custom” outline_custom_color=”#ef7e21″ outline_custom_hover_background=”#ef7e21″ outline_custom_hover_text=”#ffffff” shape=”round” align=”center” link=”url:https%3A%2F%2Fwww.onestopsocial.co.uk%2Fmy-account%2Fregister%2F||target:%20_blank|rel:nofollow”][vc_custom_heading text=”How it began” font_container=”tag:h2|text_align:left|color:%23ef7e21″ use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_column_text]

One Stop Social was created by Matt Hughes when he was managing a local Children’s Team. What he found was that front-line services and social care practitioners needed a better way to help improve referrals and communications, so that the right services could be found to help those in need of them. He understood that time is precious due to work pressures. As such, One Stop Social’s aims isto be a single point of access or ‘one stop shop’ where practitioners can search, find and refer to local social care services.

[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image=”4646″ img_size=”large” alignment=”center” onclick=”custom_link” img_link_target=”_blank” link=”https://www.onestopsocial.co.uk/social-work-membership/”][vc_btn title=”Set up listing” style=”outline-custom” outline_custom_color=”#ef7e21″ outline_custom_hover_background=”#ef7e21″ outline_custom_hover_text=”#ffffff” shape=”round” align=”center” link=”url:https%3A%2F%2Fwww.onestopsocial.co.uk%2Fmy-account%2Fregister%2F||target:%20_blank|rel:nofollow”][vc_custom_heading text=”Our Philosophy” font_container=”tag:h2|text_align:left|color:%23ef7e21″ use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_column_text]

For 3 years, we’ve been supporting the lives of thousands of UK social workers by assisting with interview skills, practice education, CPD sessions, legal training, access to relevant jobs and resources to build good practice. Our Work and Care Together events unite our community for innovative discussions and valuable training, continuing our mission to advocate good practice nationwide.

[/vc_column_text][vc_btn title=”Set up listing” style=”outline-custom” outline_custom_color=”#ef7e21″ outline_custom_hover_background=”#ef7e21″ outline_custom_hover_text=”#ffffff” shape=”round” align=”center” link=”url:https%3A%2F%2Fwww.onestopsocial.co.uk%2Fmy-account%2Fregister%2F||target:%20_blank|rel:nofollow”][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Don’t Let Your Past Define Your Future: Care Leaver’s Story & Advice

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Paul is a young man who is confident and charming. He tells me, he lives life to the full and feels lucky to be where he is. Paul has his own business (hairstylist) and is surrounded by friends and family members who love and care for him dearly. Life seems good.

However, Paul says that life hasn’t always been good. There is a distinctive tattoo on his left wrist with the date 4th December 2000. Paul tells me that this was the day when he and his brother were removed from his mother’s care and placed into the care of his Aunty.

Early years.

 “Brother was hit with a hammer.”

Paul is very open and honest about his past childhood exposures. He tells me that since he can remember, his mother would often physically and emotionally abuse them, he would go to school in dirty clothes and was bullied because of it. Paul’s school attendance was sporadic, which included a number of moves and up to three years of non-attendance, all before he was 9 years old. Paul says that he would often be hit across the face by his mother and was always in fear of retribution. She had a sense of control over them both and would regularly threaten them so as they would not disclose any of the abusive incidents.

Paul tells me of a further incident whereby his brother was hit with a hammer. He tells me that such experiences were a regular occurrence at home and he is remarkably reflective in detail. I would hazard a guess that once witnessed, such events are not easy to forget. However, Paul does not resent his mother. He says that his mother had her own issues within life, such as learning difficulties and was later diagnosed with having a personality disorder.

It wasn’t until 4th December 2000 that things started to change for Paul. After a weekend away with his Aunty, Paul remembers returning home to get his things for school. However, after being home only a short while, he says that his mother had hit his brother over the head with a shower-head and pushed him down a flight of stairs. Following the incident, Paul remembers hearing his mother call his Aunty. She admitted that she could no longer cope or care for them and to ‘come and take them away’. Paul remembers running out of his mother’s home address with only a handful of pants and socks, and a pink hair dryer – Paul admits that this was perhaps an early sign of his eventual choice of career.

This prompted a referral to children social care. Paul never returned home.

Living with my Aunty – life in Care.

“The Pink Hairdryer was a positive omen.”

Paul speaks with his upmost respect and admiration for his Aunty, who stepped in during his time of need and that he will be forever thankful for her support. However, he admits that initially, it was difficult for him as he struggled to readjust to life. His behaviour deteriorated as all he wanted to do was to go back home. After all, he knew no different – this was his ‘norm’, he tells me. During this time, he would often break or smash items within his Aunty’s home, be disruptive and eventually turned to regular drug use. Paul admits that it was a very difficult and challenging time for him, which lasted for a period of three/four years.

However, slowly but surely things started to change for the better. Through the continued support, love and attention from his Aunty and his support networks (including his Social Worker), things started to settle and Paul’s confidence increased considerably. His attendance at school increased as he began to value education, learning the importance in gaining qualifications so as to achieve future employment aspirations. He stopped misusing drugs.

After a short spell on a plumbing course, where he achieved NVQ L2, Paul decided to move abroad for work. This lasted for a few years and is another example of his increased confidence and self-worth. He eventually returned home to complete a qualification in Hairdressing, a profession which he both loves and feels passionate about. Paul says the Pink Hairdryer was a positive omen.

Having met Paul, and now knowing his background, you could be forgiven for not knowing what he had witnessed as a child. This is further testament to his character and resilience and the support he has received over the years.

My amazing Social Worker – Alex.

“Alex went above and beyond”

After going into care, Paul was allocated a Social Worker called Alex. Like most Social Workers, Alex went above and beyond to support him. Paul speaks very highly of Alex, admitting that he could not fault her. Paul said that she helped support him and his brother at their time in need. He always felt listened too, was central to her decision making and believed she wanted the best for him. Whenever he needed advice, support or just someone to talk to, Alex was there. He felt like her only case – she was there when they did good things and not just when things didn’t go so well.

Paul is still in touch with Alex today.

Paul’s advice and guidance.

What advice would you give to anyone that is going through or has been through the Care System?  

“Don’t let you past define your future. Life is a journey and you are the master of your destiny. Yes, you will need help along the way, but the great thing about the future is that it’s not happened yet. Also, surround yourself with a positive support network. For me this was my Aunty. My brother and I were lucky to have such great support. My Aunty taught me right from wrong and I have a very special relationship with her now.”

What advice would you give Social Workers? 

“It’s all about the Child – please, never lose sight of this! My Social Worker was amazing and that’s because she was all about my brother and I. We felt central to what was going on around us. Also, make those that are in the care system, feel like they’re not in care and talk at a level so as it can be understood by them.”

What advice would you give to any Foster Carers?

“It’s not about the money. Foster Care is a difficult job and, yes, you should receive payment for it. But remember the best foster carers are those that go above and beyond to help others at their time in need. Also, you need to have patience. It won’t happen overnight and often there will be challenges and difficulties along the way. You need to be their rock!”

What would be you message to anyone reading this?

“Everyone is on a journey in this life. Some bad paths and some good paths, but it’s your choice which path you take. Things can get hard and things can be amazing but that’s life – it’s all about the ups and downs and how you deal with them. In other words, don’t let your past define your future. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for the support I received especially from my Aunty.”

We would like to thank Paul for his time in meeting with us here at One Stop Social. It was a hugely humbling experience and one that we shall never forget. There are many positive stories like this that start with some bad life experiences. Paul is a fantastic example of how you can achieve happiness through strong will and a loving and supportive network.

If you have a story you would like to share with us, please feel free to get in touch with us.

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Free downloadable direct resources, assessment and guidance handouts.

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Children Social Work Resources, Assessment & Guides | Practitioner Support


We have put together a list of free to download children social work resources, assessment handouts and guides for practitioners. It has been created to help support practitioners engage with children and young people accessing services and support.

From assessment to intervention delivery below is a list that offers guidance and workable resources to use when gathering information, assessing or working with those assessed or requiring support as in need, welfare or safeguarding/protection.

Free Practice Guides

Recommended Books & Resouces