Thank you Wayne Standish for your time in writing this blog!!
So, I’ve decided to write ‘yet another social work blog’.
What’s encouraged me to do so is that while working for a local authority in the South West a few years ago, I met someone who told me to be braver.
Every social worker reading this is likely to recall being asked in an interview ‘So why social work?’.
The reason this is asked is that when you talk to practitioners about their ‘why’, the answers are profound. People rarely enter social work for lack of a better idea.
Caroline has not forgotten her why, and my conversations with her mean I rarely forget mine.
I listen to a poetry podcast called the Poetry Exchange. It’s beautiful.
The premise is that guest speakers talk about poems that have been a ‘friend to them’. They describe what type of friend the poem is – a friend that makes them smile, that reminds them of something, or a friend that simply bears witness during the challenging times (my favourite type of friend).
Caroline Flynn, is the type of friend every social worker needs. It felt right that my first post should be focussed on something important to her.
Caroline has developed a resource that is a manifestation of her ‘why’.
This is not a sales pitch I promise, despite her being my mate and me being a fan.
Maybe some of you are part of a work group chat. Or maybe you’ve received the email – ‘Does anyone know a service that supports families with charity grant applications?’. Or ‘Does anyone have a direct working tool that would suit a shy six year old?’.
What Caroline has done has created a resource in which answers to a lot of these questions are in one place.
I am a frontline social worker. Most of my experience has been in a Child Protection setting.
I’ve worked for several local authorities, and rarely have I ever come home thinking I’ve had a quiet day.
I frequently write assessments and plans for young people and families. At worst I think I’m competent at this aspect of my job. I’m also of the view that most practitioners understand the issues facing the families and young people they work with, and get right more than they get wrong ‘what needs to happen’.
But what does happen?
We end up with caseloads pushing 50, and your main concern seems to be focussing on whether the children still have their limbs.
You turn up to the core group you’re chairing with a cold coffee in your hand, as your work mobile rings in the background. For the professionals and families you work with, this ringing has actually become your background theme tune as you enter rooms.
You sit down to talk through the plan, and realise that some actions (your actions) aren’t done. The review is next month. The concerns are the same. The risks haven’t been addressed, so can’t recommend case closure. That’s not the family’s fault – they want to progress things.
Everyone in the meeting rolls their eyes. They were only saying five minutes before your late arrival, they can never get hold of you. You leave not only with the legacy, but a new list.
You leave the meeting driving like Lewis Hamilton to try and pick your own kids up from school, knowing that it’s a miracle they haven’t been referred into your own you’ve been late that often.
You think to yourself ‘this really isn’t my why’. You feel like sending a mass email telling everyone in the organisation you’ve woken up cuddling your laptop every morning for the last three weeks, but you’re worried if you do someone may send you a resilience course that may put you further behind.
So I’m being facetious for impact. I also understand that a lot of social workers are very effective and implement very good plans of work. For some however, the above won’t be a million miles from how they’ve felt at times.
The magic of the LinkIndex is that as long as I or my clients have a smartphone then I am prepared to do direct work, and can signpost people to resources.
The LinkIndex has regularly updated categories of resources that are accessed with a QR code reader. You go to the category, scan it and a list of resources appear. If you like what you see, you click and either use the info yourself or send it to clients.
Colleagues have seen me using it, and have asked me what it is. What often happens when I explain is a glazed look comes over their face. Just like when someone from the IT Department tells me I need to do something.
I remember reading about the rise of laboratory science. Despite clear evidence of the efficacy of this practice, it reportedly took some time before this became fully integrated. It sometimes seems to take a while before good ideas get their moment.
I suppose I can only speak about my own experience. I’ve used the LinkIndex to try and support a young person whose parent sadly passed away from Covid-19. The young person had family willing to care for them in another country, and I helped signpost them to charities I didn’t know existed who help with imigration issues.
I have used the Sexual Abuse category to do preventative work with a non-abusing carer. I have used the Adverse Childhood Experience category to watch some of the educational videos with parents, and paused intermittently to discuss the impact of certain on children. I have also signposted several colleagues to organisations that give grants for vulnerable families.
It hardly needs me to point out, and greater minds than mine have already done so more eloquently, but Children’s Social Care Services in England are struggling and reform is desperately needed. The departing Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield claimed in November 2020 that many local authorities were ‘on the edge of a precipice’.
I’m sure most readers will have their opinions on the causes and contributing factors for the problem services face – it is not the intention of this blog to deal with this topic. Most social workers that I speak to agree however, that current working conditions impact on their ‘why’.
I am by no means stating that the LinkIndex is a panacea for the problems Children’s Social Care services face. But when I think about the LinkIndex I can’t help but think of Dave Brailsford’s idea of ‘marginal gains’. The idea being that if everything is improved by a single percentage, then the overall impact would be significant.
The LinkIndex at its core wants to inform, and help vulnerable people access resources that may make a difference between having capacity to manage the challenges, or not. It also offers a sector saturated with ever-increasing referrals and bureaucracy, an opportunity to save time and add quality. Part of any future reform in my opinion should be the formation of a platform where innovations such as this are championed.
Personally I think something that costs similar to most nurse’s fob watches, and gets me closer to my ‘why’ is a no brainer.