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


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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Maori Traditions, Restorative Practice and Family Conflict.

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Conflict. Due to our intrinsic differences as individuals, there will always be some level of conflict in human interactions. As a consequence of these differences though, conflict can also become a common occurrence in families. This doesn’t always have to be problematic, as personal growth can come from being challenged and having our ideas questioned; however, in the social work sector, most of the family conflict we come into contact with is excessive or damaging. When working with such issues, we think it’s important to always be willing to learn and adapt to new ideas that might help inform and improve your practice. The likelihood of one social worker knowing the perfect solution to every single case they encounter is incredibly low, so our sector relies heavily on the power of a community. This idea of working together to resolve issues has been developed steadily by New Zealand social workers, who in the mid-1980s took a leaf out of the Maori book and implement a policy of restorative practice, as a recent article in “The Ecologist” explains.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Maori are the indigenous people of New Zealand Aoteroa, whose cultures and traditions have helped shaped the whole country, but now are being recognised as applicable in a more international context. Traditionally, Maori communities resolved conflict in a very open and collaborative manner: opting to share ideas and concerns about the protection and care of children or working on conflict within families as a community. During the 1980s – a divisive period for social work in New Zealand – the Maori raised concerns about how the children of their community were being treated in care which led practitioners to adopt a more Maori-style process for family conflict resolution.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Restorative practice recognises that an individual’s actions affect others and enables people to reflect on how they interact with each other and what can be done to creative more positive interactions moving forward. “Restorative practice can be used anywhere to prevent conflict, build relationships and repair harm by enabling people to communicate effectively and positively.” It’s therefore a good tool to use during the child safeguarding process, to ensure that families, practitioners and carers are communicating effectively with a vulnerable child. This ties in greatly with the Maori way of resolving issues within their community, and so reflected a much more respectful approach for their culture to handle family conflict and child safeguarding in this manner. Practitioners began holding ‘family networking meetings’ where the Maori community could come together to discuss instances of family conflict and find resolutions as a collective.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]However, what began as a way to integrate the Maori culture in related cases became a precedent for social work across the country. In 1989, legislation was passed which meant that ‘family network meetings’ were mandatory across all communities; implementing a legislative push towards restorative practice. The solutions were noted to be more enduring and sustainable, as families came up with the solutions themselves. The core pillars of these family meetings as honesty, clarity, participation and empowerment; which led into more structured and positive communication across the board.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]While New Zealand is about as far from the UK as you can get, the principles of social work should still be the same. No matter where you are in the world, the end goal of facilitating change where needed and supporting the vulnerable members of a society is the same. Every country may go about it in a different way, but realistically we all want the same. So why not learn from other countries and cultures? In New Zealand, they integrated Maori traditions and found a way to rethink resolving family conflict, even in cases of abuse or neglect. Surely there’s got to be something good here, so why not consider integrating more restorative practice across our social work community? Involving the people who care about the child in the process of resolving conflict is a way that could keep the interests of the child and their family at the heart of the matter – which in my eyes, isn’t a terrible idea. Facilitating change requires strong communication, and New Zealand social workers have found a way to have more effective communication in the child protection process; so maybe it’s time we all became a bit more Maori?[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_cta h2=”Want to Learn More About Restorative Practice? ” txt_align=”center” add_button=”bottom” btn_title=”Writing Wrongs: Restorative Justice Toolkit” btn_color=”warning” btn_align=”center” btn_link=”||target:%20_blank|”]If you’re interested in the Maori style of approaching conflict resolution as a community and want to adopt more restorative practices in your work, then we have a range of resources available to develop your practice. For example, “Writing Wrongs: Restorative Justice Toolkit”, which is a framework for young people.

Check out our resources page for more information!


Understanding the Latest Report on Child Criminal Exploitation and County Lines

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]In 2016, a partnership which included the CQC, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services, Ofsted and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation published a report titled “Time to listen – a joined up response to child sexual exploitation and missing children”; a detailed look at the situation of child sexual exploitation within the UK. As a follow-up to that report, the partnership carried out a series of inspections in early 2018 with the purpose to examine “the multi-agency response to child exploitation and children missing from home, care or education”. These inspections were instigated as part of a review process for practice within children’s social care, education, health services, the police, youth offending services and probation services. The results of these investigations have been collated into a follow-up addendum to the 2016 report: “Protecting Children from Criminal Exploitation, human trafficking and modern slavery: an addendum”.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]There’s no denying this isn’t the easiest of subject matters, and with that comes a lot of specialist and complex terminology, but stay with us on this, it’s important material to understand. If you’d like to find out more, the full report can be found here.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Throughout this report, and thus by association this editorial, the Home Office defines child criminal exploitation as: “where an individual or group takes advantage of an imbalance of power to coerce, control, manipulate or deceive a child or young person under the age of 18. The victim may have been criminally exploited even if the activity appears consensual. Child Criminal Exploitation does not always involve physical contact; it can also occur through the use of technology.” There are variations of the specifics of child exploitation, but the core principle is that a child (someone under 18) is taken advantage of and acts in a way that negatively affects them or others. County lines on the other hand, looks at “modern slavery, human trafficking and exploitation, alongside drug supply and violent crime”. It’s “highly lucrative”, earning some who run county lines thousands of pounds a day. We’re not talking small amounts here for the adults in charge, but the cost is all the children who are put at high risk as they do the transporting and selling throughout the drug supply channel.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]The crux of the matter is that child sexual exploitation is a problem that has people trying to fix it, but that their current approach needs some work. As they put it “agencies [need] to learn the lessons of the past in responding to criminal exploitation for children and county lines”. Children are vulnerable to exploitation and we need to make sure that we all work in the best way to protect them from the new risks that appear. So, this 20-page addendum (and the programme of ‘joint targeted area inspections’ it covers) hopes to understand the current situation of multi-agency responses to child exploitation. While the sector does work tirelessly to protect children as best as we can, some agencies were found to be identifying risks too slowly which means the child is already far into an exploitative situation before agencies intervene. And in the case of child exploitation, this simply can’t happen. The report also covers positive stories, case studies where agencies are seen to respond quickly and effectively, but a large proportion focuses on where there is room for improvement.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]By looking into a series of case studies across Greenwich, Southend-On-Sea and Dorset – where some children are forced to carry the drugs in a way that’s physically harmful and potentially lethal to them – the investigative partnership found that there’s no distinction between different groups who are vulnerable or not to exploitation, all children are at risk. A key factor that is slowing down the response is the fact that some agencies aren’t sharing their information and “intelligence” to help identify and act upon the risks that children are facing. Agencies should also be more aware of successful cases and methods so that they can implement them, to improve the overall practice.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]The report highlights an occasional misconception, that it is only the most vulnerable children who are seen as susceptible to the influencers of exploiters. This needs to be corrected universally. It needs to be understood that any child could find themselves in this type of situation. Due to the dynamic nature of county lines action, new groups of children are being targeted, such as “affluent children in public schools” or those who are particularly vulnerable because of special educational needs, poor mental health or other similar factors. Older children are also not as risk-free as one would assume, since those who are neglected or less likely to be reported are becoming strong targets for gangs or drug operations who work across county lines. There’s no one background, family set-up or personal life that means a child will be exploited; the threat is always there.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]A key theme of the report is collaboration. Parents and children need to work with agencies and practitioners to understand the signs and how to spot them. And there needs to be a multi-agency coordinated approach in order to respond to the transient and fluid nature of county lines exploitation. Inefficiency and ineffectiveness comes from the mindset of “this does not happen in our area” or that working in partnership with another agency is a sign that you don’t know what you’re doing. The case studies (or JTAIs) shows that not every area has the capacity for the in-depth work needed in situations like these. That doesn’t mean that one local practice is worse or better than another, but simply that sharing knowledge is the way forward. By working together “strategically”, agencies can better track the geographical profile of criminal activities and identify whether there are patterns to successful child protection which could work in different regions. Collaboration brings new perspectives and specialist knowledge, which would open up the routes for better training for professionals – thereby improving the process for the future.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]This is obviously a very brief look at a detailed and informative document on a very complex and difficult topic, but we wanted to introduce you to some of the core messages from this new report. It’s no secret that working to prevent child criminal exploitation and sexual exploitation is a gargantuan challenge; but through studies like this one and analytical reports from multiple agencies, we learn about new and better ways to go about it. This addendum has not given us the magic solution to fix all, but it does show in an evidence-based way, that we need to be watching out for every child, and we need to be doing it together.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]If you suspect a child and/or young person is involved in CSE/county lines and don’t know what signs to look out for, here’s a few suggestions of indicators to be aware of. While these aren’t an extensive or exhaustive list of all signs, it’s a good place to start if you have concerns about a child or young person you know.

  • Returning home late, staying out all night or going missing
  • Being found in areas away from home
  • Increasing drug use, or being found to have large amounts of drugs on them
  • Being secretive about who they are talking to and where they are going
  • Unexplained absences from school, college, training or work
  • Unexplained money, phone(s), clothes or jewellery
  • Increasingly disruptive or aggressive behaviour
  • Using sexual, drug-related or violent language you wouldn’t expect them to know
  • Coming home with injuries or looking particularly dishevelled
  • Having hotel cards or keys to unknown places.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]This flowchart is a great way to visualise the process of what should happen when you raise a concern about a child and/or young person potentially being a victim of criminal exploitation.[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image=”3548″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_cta h2=”Want to Learn More? ” txt_align=”center” add_button=”bottom” btn_title=”Get your free ticket for Work and Care Together in London here! ” btn_color=”warning” btn_align=”center” btn_link=”||target:%20_blank|”]Social Worker & Director of One Stop Social Matt Hughes will be running a workshop on Gangs, County Lines and Criminal Exploitation at the upcoming convention in London “Work and Care Together: Educate. Collaborate. Innovate.“.

The whole event (including 25 training sessions) is completely free to attend and this specific workshop from Matt Hughes will include a more detailed review of the addendum covered in this news piece. It’s set to be a really insightful look at child criminal exploitation, where practitioners can learn about the different ways to respond as well as contributing your own thoughts on the subject matter.

Tickets are available for the event as a whole and then the workshops will be filled on a first come, first served basis on the day.[/vc_cta][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Mind your language – what’s the problem with ‘disclosure’?

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]I first wrote about this on my website in February 2018. Online discussion re-ignited again following the publication of D (A child – parental alienation) (Rev 1) [2018] EWFC B64 (19 October 2018).

HHJ Bellamy said at paragraph 212 of his judgment about the social worker in the case:[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]“Another significant criticism of Miss S’s report is that it appears to be her approach not that a child’s disclosures should be heard and taken seriously but that they should always be believed and action taken on the assumption that they are true. She made the point that D has been consistent in his disclosures. It is clear that she has not considered the possibility that what she regards as consistency could, in fact, simply be rehearsed. In her oral evidence Miss S was very open about the fact that she has not considered whether D is being untruthful….”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]In the following online discussions this was universally criticised. However, such criticism is not reflected in my day to day practice. My most recent case involving allegations made by a child, involved cross examination of a teacher and a social worker where both told me they were ‘trained’ to ‘always believe the child’.

This is extremely concerning. If it really is part of the training of front line professionals who record children’s allegations, such training is dangerously defective and must cease immediately.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]‘Disclosure’ means ‘the secret fact that is made known’. Therefore, to call what a child says or alleges a ‘disclosure’ is to assume the truth of what is said at the outset. Any investigation which begins from an assumption that was is said is true, risks corruption and failure.

The Cleveland and Orkneys scandals of 1987 and 1991 respectively, illustrate the consequences of pursuing allegations of sexual abuse from a starting point of truth – children sobbing in interviews, being told they would be allowed to go ‘when you tell us what daddy did to you’.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]So why now forget the lessons of history? The passage of time may have dimmed the historical warnings. Further, the recent policy imposed upon the police; that they should ‘believe the account given’ when someone makes an allegation.

In October 2016 Sir Richard Henriques reviewed the Metropolitan Police investigations into historical allegations of child sexual abuse against ‘persons of public prominence’ . He recommended the word ‘victim’ to describe a complainant should cease. How can any investigation that follows a commitment to ‘believe’ a ‘victim’ be fearless or impartial?

The 2015 Guidance about interviewing children is clear and sensible “If a child reports, following a conversation you have initiated or otherwise, that they are being abused and neglected, you should listen to them, take their allegation seriously, and reassure them that you will take action to keep them safe.” [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Legal Twitter noted with concern the February 2018 survey from the NSPCC to ‘inform a new resource to help professionals deal with disclosure’. Family lawyer David Burrows reminded us of paragraph 33 of the judgment in AS v TH (False Allegations of Abuse) (Rev 1) [2016] EWHC 532 (Fam) (11 March 2016):

“I have in this case heard extensive evidence from those professionals to whom the children made allegations and from those professionals who subsequently assessed the children and/or investigated those allegations (I pause to note that despite the fact that the use of the term “disclosure” to describe a statement or allegation of abuse made by a child has been deprecated since the Cleveland Report due to it precluding the notion that the abuse might not have occurred (see para 12.34(1)), every professional who gave evidence in this case (except the Children’s Guardian) used the term “disclosure” to describe what the children had said to them).”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Investigations begin with the first recording of a child’s allegations – so teachers and social workers are often the first people outside the family to hear them. The interventions made at this stage can set the whole course of an investigation. Establishing what actually happened to a child can become dangerously obscured when interviews of a child become no more than a forum for getting the child to repeat ‘the truth’. Children, just like adults, can be subject to outside pressure, can get confused, make mistakes, exaggerate, or deliberately lie. Children are more susceptible than most adults to pressure from an interviewer and often have more desire to ‘please’ their interrogator by saying what they believe the adult wants to hear.

I have often seen lengthy ABE interviews of small children who are required to remember what they told mummy or the social worker some time before. This is a clear breach of the ABE guidelines and requirement for free narrative recall. The ABE interview is not the place to get the child to repeat ‘the truth’ on film.

The saddest part of one ABE interview I have seen was to witness the child sternly told that she ‘must not lie’ when the child gave an account that was clearly part of some imaginative play. It was not a ‘lie’ – she was doing what children delight in doing; playing by making up stories.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Another case involved two siblings who offered various accounts. These accounts were not only often inconsistent when compared with each other, they were internally inconsistent. I asked the social worker who said she proceeded from position that she believed what children told her was true – which child did she chose to believe? And which account of which child? For only one of them could be ‘true’. Her answer – when eventually it came – was ‘I believe both’.

All of us involved in cases involving allegations of child abuse will have similar horror stories to tell of the botched ABE interview, or the assumptions that were made at the very outset of investigations that destroyed any chance of obtaining secure evidence.

If your investigator can ‘believe’ you – they can also ‘disbelieve’ you. The dangers are apparent. Children rely on us to keep them safe. And to be kept safe they need to be listened to, taken seriously and given the gift of efficient and effective investigation into the behaviour of adults who have hurt them.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]By Sarah Phillimore. Visit Child Protection Resource for more fantasic blogs, resources and news.[/vc_column_text][vc_btn title=”Visit website” color=”warning” align=”center” link=”||target:%20_blank|rel:nofollow”][/vc_column][/vc_row]

How to Keep Children Safe Online

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]How many friends do you have? No, not actual friends. No-one cares about that statistic. What we all really want to know is your online life, your Facebook friends, how many followers you have on Twitter, whether you’re “insta-famous” or not. As a society we have become obsessed with developing extensive and fabulous online personas, and that seems to be skewering the example we are setting for our children and putting them at risk. Kids watch the way we all act online and the way we value social media, and they pay attention. The problem is children (like some adults) don’t have the emotional maturity and experience to understand the danger they could be putting themselves in. Predators hide behind screen names, waiting in the shadows for a victim they can exploit. It’s of the utmost importance therefore to understand how we can try to keep children safe online.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]No-one really enjoys thinking about how children can be exploited in some of the most depraved ways, but the issue is, it happens. A part of our reality is that children are not always safe, and the growth of the online world has only made this more complicated. Sure, technology has meant parents can call, text or instant message their kids to make sure they are okay and know where they are; but that level of communication can also be infiltrated by people with less than honourable morals. The villains of these stories now have the ability to exploit and abuse children without even leaving their homes, making it harder to identify and stop them.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]But what can we do? The good news is no villain is invincible. As the fairy tales and superhero movies teach us: good eventually wins. (For the purpose of this conversation, Avengers: Infinity War never happened. We’re forgetting the name Thanos.) With the right battle plans in place, the good guys always end up unmasking the bad guys and foiling their terrible plans. This is what we can do to keep children safe, if we work together. With children making up 1 in every 3 internet users, it’s clear we can’t just pretend the internet is something for adults. Children are infiltrating the online world and we need to protect them as they do. Admittedly, this isn’t as easy as a movie, because instead of 1 baddie, we’re looking at 80,000 people in the UK posing some kind of sexual threat to children, but we’re like the Scooby Doo gang, we always succeed.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]With child abuse becoming more and more of a dominant problem, it can feel like there’s no way to stop it but realistically there is. Tech companies can help protect children from going onto sites that are too mature for them; and also search for those who may seek to exploit children. There’s so much data out there, let’s use it to help keep children safe! Another angle to explore is the idea of body image and confidence, because some predators can exploit children by playing on insecurities that exist, encouraging them to send inappropriate pictures in exchange for compliments and emotional gratification the child may think they’re missing. 1 in 50 schoolchildren has sent a nude or semi-nude image to an adult. One in fifty. We’re obviously failing somewhere in educating our children about respecting their bodies. Whether these images are sent due to low self esteem about their bodies or a misguided belief that a body is only worth something if it is naked, either way, this is unacceptable. Why not lead by example then, and start respecting our own bodies. Children imitate, so if we are seen to be acting in respectful ways towards ourselves (whether that’s eating healthily, wearing clothes that cover up more or glorifying celebrities for their talent not their looks) those principles will feed down to the younger generations.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Social media also plays a key role in online safety, as 1 in 4 of 8-11 year olds and 3 in 4 of 12-15 year olds has a social media account so we need to make sure they are behaving responsibly with their social personas. 1 in 4 children have reported experiencing something upsetting on a social networking site, when all they should be doing is talking to their school friends about their homework, planning their next football match or fangirling over the Jonas Brothers… (are the Jonas Brothers still the thing to fangirl over? McFly? Hannah Montana? My point still stands though.) Children shouldn’t have to deal with any form of negative experience online, and this can be online bullying or the more extreme, online sexual exploitation and abuse. By “friending” the wrong people, children can open up their lives and vulnerable selves to uncomfortable, exploitative or illegal activities. This stems from potentially not being aware of why you shouldn’t accept a friend request from someone you don’t know. Twitter and Instagram are also platforms for people who are less than responsible with the way their share their data, feelings and ‘selfies’ to gain millions of followers. Is it time we start holding those people accountable for the way they are changing what it means to be online? The role models for children are becoming people who pose in practically no clothes, talk more about the importance of having a relationship than succeeding academically and share intimate portraits of their personal lives. It’s no wonder children are exploited, because we’re setting the example that exploitative actions aren’t that different from the norm. We’re showing them it’s okay to send nude pictures, because who knows, it could get you famous.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]So, talk to your kids about using the internet safely. Run sessions in schools about social media accounts, how to keep them private and why they should be just for your friends in the real world. Call out celebrities who you think are setting inappropriate examples. It may seem unfair to make children aware of these dangers so young, but if they are going to be going online then they need to be aware of how dangerous that can be. The trade-off between not wanting to teach them about predators at a young age and keeping them safe is an easy one. Education is key here. We need to be more open with our children in order to protect them. Protecting their innocence about the risks should not be prioritised. Let’s educate, respect and inspire our way forward. Let’s keep children safe.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

North East Lincolnshire Council: A Social Worker’s Perspective (Part 2)

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Following on from the first part of this insight into North East Lincolnshire Council by the brilliant Aimee Jones, we’re now hearing from a NQSW – John Taylor – whose time at NELC has been part of his introduction into the world of social work. Getting this sort of feedback about front-line services is vital for our team at One Stop Social as it helps us understand the realities facing social workers across the UK, and we can then adapt and support them in a more effective way. [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]What was your background and introduction into social work?

In 2015 I took on what I considered the biggest challenge of my adult life. I accepted the offer to study for a B.A. in social work at the University of Hull. I had left school at the age of 15 and started work on a building site and stayed in the construction industry for 25 years. However, in 2013/14 through personal experience with children’s and adult services, losing family and friends to substance misuse and being born and bred on one of the largest housing estates’ in Europe, I decided to train to become a social worker.

I left the construction industry and I formulated a 5-year plan that would lead me to become a Social Worker. Therefore, I signed up to Hull College to undertake my GCSE’s in maths and English and undertake an access to higher education course which at the time of completion was one of the biggest achievements of my life so far.

My first placement was at a criminal justice Drugs and Alcohol treatment service, the second was split into two parts. For the first part I was placed at the Family Assessment and Support Unit (FASU) which was based at the University of Hull. However, due to austerity and the current economic and issues it was decided that FASU was not financially feasible to keep running. Thus, FASU closed midway through my placement; however, when it was explained that I would be placed at one of the local authority teams in Hull. I remember thinking that I will be having three placements overall; however, I embraced the opportunity to experience as much as I could. I finished my last University placement in June 2018, just as I started looking and applying for jobs.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]How did you get involved with North East Lincolnshire?

I initially applied to both Hull City Council and North East Lincolnshire Council Children’s Social Services; however, whilst on placement in Hull I did genuinely have reservations about practicing as a social Worker in Hull. For example, whilst I was based at the North locality in Hull I did know several of the children and families I can into contact with. I was subsequently offered an interview at NELC and I and I gladly accepted. The interview process was a full day that was split into several parts; I personally felt that this gave me an opportunity to give the interview panel a holistic view of who are am and what I could bring to role of a Social Worker. Several days after the interview, I received a phone call explaining that I had been successful in the interview and that they were offering a job in the Children’s Assessment and Support Service (CASS) team at North East Lincolnshire (NEL). I accepted it with a mixture of emotions, ranging from amazement, excitement, joy, fear and relief and I started working as a social worker for NEL on the 6th August 2018.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]What do you value about working with North East Lincolnshire?

At NEL they have an excellent four-week induction process for Newly Qualified Social Workers (NQSW) who are in the Assessed and Supported Year in Employment (ASYE), which I found very good and to the highest standard. For example, during the four week induction process as a NQSW I did not hold any cases myself; however, there is a great emphasis on relevant training, gaining a good knowledge of local agencies and services, team building, and many shadowing and networking opportunities. At NEL’s there are three Advanced Practitioners (AP’s) that assist with the induction process. The role of the AP’s in the four week induction period is to mentor and encourage the NQSW’s, explain the process of the induction, answer any questions and undertake the first four supervisions of NQSW’s. As a NQSW I did feel that having the AP’s was an invaluable part to the induction and aided all of the NQSW’s including myself to form a bond and feel that we were all part of a one big team.

In the social work sector professionals can often struggle to cope with high caseloads of complex cases leading to Social Workers to become stressed and experience burnout and also for the children and families that they support to receive inappropriate support. However, at NEL’s there is currently a drive towards maintaining appropriate caseloads and promoting self-care; therefore, enabling practitioners to engage with and build good working relationships with other professionals and the individuals that they are supporting.  In all, working in the CASS team has been a very positive one so far; therefore, I am very excited and looking forward to the next phase of my social work journey and ongoing professional learning and development here at NEL.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_cta h2=”Find out more. ” txt_align=”center” color=”grey” add_button=”bottom” btn_title=”North East Lincolnshire Council ” btn_link=”||target:%20_blank|”]If you want to find out more about the North East Lincolnshire Council and their social work team, then check out the website for details, job vacancies and more.[/vc_cta][/vc_column][/vc_row]

North East Lincolnshire Council: A Social Workers Perspective (Part 1)

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]We always look forward to contributions from members of our social work community, as we value hearing the opinions of social workers across the country. It’s so important to hear honest thoughts from front-line social workers about their day-to-day lives and their places of work, as it helps build a clear picture about how we can support social work throughout the UK. 

This is the first of a 2-part contribution from social workers at North East Lincolnshire Council, detailing their passion for social work and how NELC has helped them develop as practitioners. Part 1 is from Aimee Jones, an established social worker within North East Lincolnshire, who explains why she has chosen to stay and what value she feels NELC offers her professional life:[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]What’s your involvement with North East Lincolnshire?

I have been a qualified social worker within the Children’s Assessment and Safeguarding Service (CASS) at North East Lincolnshire for 7 years. I first began my time in what was Family Support Service as a student in January 2011, and then secured a job whilst on placement. I then started working for the service in July 2011. During this time, we have had a few changes, a new name, new team and a new building as well as a few restructures.

CASS is a front-line child protection team, working with families from the point of referral through to the end, whether this is adoption, long term fostering or closing to no service or universal services. We hold cases at CIN, Child Protection, LAC and private law. Therefore, there is plenty of variety, plenty of experiences and no time for getting bored.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Why have you chosen to stay at North East Lincolnshire?

As with all jobs, especially in front line child protection, it is hard, and it is an emotionally draining job, some days you have that odd quiet day where you can get things done and other days it is back to back and crazy! So why stay? The reason why I have decided to stay in the job and more importantly in North East Lincolnshire is for both professional and personal reasons.

Personally, being in North East Lincolnshire, is ideal for me, it is within a 40minute drive for me to get to and from work each day. This gives me the perfect amount of time to separate work from being a Mummy. It allows me to have switch of time and try and box things off in my head on the way, of course music turned up loud always helps! It also means that I can go out and spend time being a Mummy or at a weekend and work isn’t on the door step and isn’t a constant reminder, I don’t have that worry of bumping into people that I work with when I am being me at the weekend.

Professionally, I have chosen to stay for a number of reasons, one of these being training. Since being here I have had a number of training opportunities to develop myself and have been able to attend training that follows my interests. I started before the ASYE programme commenced so training was not as formally structured as it is for new workers now. Despite this I still had a number of opportunities to explore further training that is outside of the local authority training offer. I have had the opportunity to do ABE training, as well as attending training sessions from outside speakers and professionals. We work through Signs of Safety in North East Lincolnshire and I was able to undertake the 5-day training on this as well. This is to name a very few. I have recently had the opportunity to engage in the first talent and leadership academy held within the council. This was open to all members of staff within the council at all levels to explore different leadership styles and different ways of working across a number of sectors. This again has provided me with a number of experiences. We have the SWAT (social worker action team) within the local authority, which I have had the chance to be a current chair. This is an action group who sit within the children’s social care teams to assist in the trialling of and creating different policies and implementing changes across the board to make improvements to the well-being and practical support for social workers within these areas.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]What is special about working at North East Lincolnshire Council?

As with all front-line child protection social work, it is stressful, hard work and demanding. However, within North East Lincolnshire, there is always someone around to listen, off load to and talk difficult situations through with, as well as those there to share the positives with. This can be a fellow colleague, or manager all the way up the management team. There are also other teams within the building such as fostering and adoption, through care, contact service, Children’s Disability Services, Housing and Family Group Conferencing, all of which will offer help support and guidance on any issues that crop up within the working day. People are always prepared to help and if this isn’t at the time they will find time to do so. If you put in the hard work it is recognised even when you don’t think it is being all the time. There is an element of flexibility within working in that you manage your own diary and we have compressed days. These are a bonus as once per fortnight you get a day off – giving you much needed time to chill out and recharge the batteries. Mangers at North East Lincolnshire are understanding of those with young families and children that there are times that the best made plans don’t pull through which definitely makes it easier when difficulties arise as you aren’t made to feel guilty or pressured.

Teams go through their ups and downs and I have experienced plenty within the last 7years. However, things feel good, there is more stability around, there is a real push to support social workers in reducing caseloads and getting those cases ready to close shut down, and by readjusting teams there has been an increase in quality and quantity of supervision. All in all, it’s a good place to work, I love my job and have no plans of moving any time soon.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_cta h2=”Find out more” txt_align=”center” color=”grey” add_button=”bottom” btn_title=”North East Lincolnshire Council” btn_color=”warning” btn_align=”center” btn_link=”|||”]If you want to find out more about the North East Lincolnshire Council and their social work team, then check out the website for details, job vacancies and more.[/vc_cta][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Learn From Neil Thompson

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]“Writer. Educator. Adviser.” These are what Neil Thompson identifies and promotes as the key pillars of his professional identity, and with over 25 years of published works under his belt as well as an incredibly respectable reputation in social work, he can back up those claims. It’s clear this is someone you want on your team, guiding you in the right direction. Now, Neil is turning his attention to e-books and manuals to help further support social workers in new ways.

As one of the founding partners of One Stop Social Membership, we wanted to find out more about Neil Thompson and what exciting projects he’s working on.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_text_separator title=”“For those who may be unfamiliar, what’s your background in social work?””][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]I started off in residential child care, working at an assessment centre. After three years I was seconded to undertake my social work training at Liverpool University. After several years as a social worker and two periods of secondment as a social work tutor. I became a team manager. Next came a stint as a training officer before entering the academic world. 21 years ago I branched out to become an independent writer, educator and adviser and I have never looked back. I tell the story of my career more fully in my e-book, A Career in Social Work.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_text_separator title=”“How does the Social Worker’s Practice Manual support the development of students and qualified social workers?””][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]I regularly meet social workers (on training courses I run, for example) who tell me that they found my books useful when they were a student. I usually thank them for the compliment and then ask them: But, what about finding them useful as a practitioner? It bothers me that so often people stop reading when they qualify; they tend to see books as being for students, rather than important elements of our professional knowledge base. So, with this in mind, what I decided to do was to write a practice manual that encourages the people reading it to think in terms of how the ideas being discussed can not just be useful for quoting in a student essay, but can actually make a positive difference to the quality of our practice – and therefore to the quality of life of the people we serve.

The manual is divided into 30 sections and each one covers an important aspect of practice, outlining some key ideas and offering a perspective on how they can be used in actual practice.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_text_separator title=”“Why was it important for you to make sure the Social Worker’s Practice Manual was an ‘unconventional’ textbook?””][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]I don’t like to think of it as a textbook at all, as that implies that it is geared towards a particular module on a course and will be used primarily as a means of writing essays. What this manual is all about is helping people realise that our professional knowledge base should be the foundation of our practice, not just something that gets focused on in university and then gets forgotten about. I do a lot of expert witness work these days in legal proceedings, and what I often find is that cases have gone wrong because the social work staff involved did not use their knowledge base. For example, I recently dealt with a case where a child had clearly been traumatised, but the two social workers involved seemed oblivious to this. It was actually a teacher that raised the issue of the potential impact of trauma – but, even then, neither social worker picked up on the issue. So, in a very real sense, the manual is about knowledge for use in practice, not just knowledge for use in essays. [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_text_separator title=”“Tell us a bit more about your new e-learning course: So you want to be a social worker””][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]In my training and consultancy work and at conferences I speak at I regularly come across people who are working in the social care sector, but who are not qualified social workers. So, a question I get asked very frequently is: What is involved in becoming a social worker? I found myself giving the same answer over and over again, so I decided to make that answer more widely available, partly so that I did not have to keep repeating myself and partly so that people I didn’t meet could know the answer too. Because I have been involved in developing a range of e-learning courses, it was quite easy for me to create a course around the process of becoming a social worker. And, that’s what I did. It should prove very helpful for anyone interested in pursuing a career in social work by giving them a clear picture of some of the DOs and DON’Ts involved.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_text_separator title=”“Why do you think e-learning courses like: ‘So you want to be a social worker’ are becoming more and more popular?””][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]E-learning offers many advantages, but probably the two main ones are flexibility and cost-effectiveness. An e-learning course means that you can do it where and when you like, whatever suits you and your circumstances. You are not limited to attending a particular course on a particular day at a particular venue. And, in terms of cost-effectiveness, it can save on travel, venue and refreshment costs and, of course, travel time.

But, interestingly, what is happening more and more is that people are using ‘blended’ learning, which means combining elements of e-learning with face-to-face training. For example, a group of staff may be asked to do an online course on, say, risk assessment and management by a certain date and then come together for a discussion about it on a particular day for a couple of hours. That way you get the best of both worlds. You get the expert input without having to pay the expert’s daily fee and expenses, but you also get the opportunity for discussion, to ask questions and so on. It can work really well.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_text_separator title=”“Considering your experience, what’s the one piece of advice you can offer to social workers who are just starting out?” “][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]That’s an easy one to answer. What it comes down to is: Don’t lose focus! Time and again I have come across people who have lost focus on what they are trying to achieve with a particular individual or family – they have ‘lost the plot’ – and got bogged down in the complexities, losing sight of why they are there. At other times, I have come across social workers who have lost sight of their values. They get bogged down in bureaucracy and forget that they are professionals governed by a key set of values. And, as I was suggesting before, some people lose sight of their knowledge base; it is as if they have forgotten that they were taught lots of important things for a reason – and that reason was not to pass an essay, it was to be an effective social worker trying to make a positive difference to some of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged members of our communities. So, that’s it in a nutshell: Stay focused![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Dr Neil Thompson has endless nuggets of widsom but encouraging social workers to stay focused is by far our favourite. Studying towards a qualification or working in social work can be a tough journey, but by not losing focus, you can find your way to incredibly worthwhile and rewarding work. If you’re interested in learning more from Neil, then make sure to check out One Stop Social Membership where Members get 10% off his books, as well as a whole range of other benefits![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_btn title=”Learn About One Stop Social Membership” color=”warning” align=”center” link=”|||”][/vc_column][/vc_row]

The Magic of Music Therapy for Autistic Children

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Music has an incredible power over us as a species. It can transform our mood, break our hearts and transport us to a particular memory in a way that little else can. Whether you’re a die-hard Queen fan or cry every time you hear Mozart’s Requiem Mass in D minor, music as a collective sensory trigger has a similar effect on us all. If the financial success of the musical industry shows us anything, it’s that sometimes we can communicate things better in song. With this in mind, we are turning to music in recent years to help people who sometimes struggle with communicating normally: those on the autistic spectrum. While music has recorded benefits across multiple age ranges, music therapy for autistic children in particular has shown to have a dramatic impact which is worth shining a spotlight on.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]The NHS uses the name Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) for ‘a range of similar conditions, including Asperger syndrome, that affect a person’s social interaction, communication, interests and behaviour.’ It’s a condition that affects more boys than girls, with an estimated 1 out of every 100 people in the UK having ASD. People with ASD will usually have fewer social skills and will have difficulties communicating; with the extent to which they are non-verbal varying child to child.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]For someone with a diagnosis on the autistic spectrum, life will be more complicated and so their loved ones will usually professional help and guidance to ensure the quality of life is as good as possible. This brings many to consider how music could play a part in helping the child. Music therapy in autistic children has been proven to help both stimulate and relax, thereby giving the child a means to cope with unwelcome changes to their routine and also provide them with a route to communication. By connecting with someone through music, an autistic child finds a comfortable way to build relationships; and can even work on their language skills through song lyrics. A music-filled environment is more relaxed, with ‘looser social demands’ which allows autistic children to feel less pressurised and to use the fluency of music to motivate their conversation.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Since autism can be diagnosed within the first 3 years of a child’s life, benefitting from music therapy early can be a way to help the child have a relatively easier childhood, as music stimulates the imagination and creativity, giving them a way to connect with other children. Autistic children sometimes are reluctant to play with others their own age, so by giving them a medium to feel more engaged (music) from a young age, it becomes an easier activity for them to embrace. Music therapy works well due to the fact that music has been proven to stimulate both hemispheres of our brains, so therapists can help children build relationships with others while also supporting cognitive activity that develops self-awareness.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Autism and music have been linked for a while, with studies noticing that those with ASD were more likely to do better at tasks that involved paying attention to or recollection of simple sensory stimuli, such as ‘perfect pitch’ or copying a melody they hear on a musical instrument. However, using music as more than just a creative outlet, but a tool for positive development brings more possibilities to light for the ASD community. It’s clear that music therapy for autistic children is one of the better discoveries over the past few years, and we should all be promoting and supporting it much more. If we have found a way to help autistic children have a simpler and more relaxed childhood where they can make friends and be more comfortable with their family, then surely, we should be shouting from the rooftops about it![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]By Elena Jones, Marketing Executive at One Stop Social. [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]