As a social worker I have always valued the time I spent with children and families. Getting to know children better and finding out more about what was going on in their lives was always time well spent. It wasn’t always easy to find the time to do this but when there was space – it was always meaningful.
CoramVoice has recently published research as part of the Bright Spots programme which looks at the subjective wellbeing of children in care and care leavers. They found that 59% of children in care and 78% of care leavers trusted their social worker “all of the time” or “most of the time”. This shows the vital relationships that social workers form with the young people they work with. Developing a trusting relationship involves spending time not just focusing on that child’s needs or the meetings around them but getting to know the child or young person.
Lauren Parker, a care experienced young person, recently wrote about what was important for her in the relationships she had with her social workers. Core to that was knowing that her social worker actually cared about her. She wrote:
“Conversations with the children shouldn’t only focus on the serious stuff like education, upcoming review meetings and health needs. They should also be REAL conversations about how they’re feeling or what they did that week. Ask a child what was the last film they watched, ask them if they could visit anywhere in the world, where would it be?”
Laura, a Care Experienced Consultant at Coram Voice spoke about the positive impact some social workers made on her life at the recent launch of the County Councils Network Report into the future of Social Care. However, she also reflected on what she felt needed to change to make sure she had consistency from social workers and could invest in those relationships. Laura says of one of her social workers:
“She was always someone I can text whenever; someone I can always have an open discussion with without judgement and I never felt like I was just a case for her. I always had the feeling she deeply cared for me, and it was very emotional for us both when she had to leave.“
However, Laura also experienced a lot of change in workers and that was hard for her. She writes:
“I have had over 15 different social workers and PAs work with me since I entered foster care, possibly more but I can’t remember. But only two had made a direct incredible impact on me who I cherish and still remain in contact.”
There is still lots more to do in terms of making sure children have a stable social workforce that works for them. Hopefully the upcoming review of children’s social care will have some ideas about how to improve the situation.
As we celebrate International Social Work Day we should celebrate the powerful relationships that social workers build with children and young people. These relationships often develop against challenging backdrops for children and young people at a time when they need stability and support. Sometimes children need brave conversations, sometimes they just need someone who will reply to their text, always they want a social worker who they feel cares about them as an individual.
On this special day we want to recognize the social work practice that goes on and the dedication of the workforce to forming those caring relationships and those powerful connections with children and young people.
The chief Social worker, Isabelle Trowler has summed this up nicely in her blog when she says:
“Every social worker in every service should be proud of the outstanding contribution they have made to society through this pandemic. Each day through your dedication you show that social work is a profession that communities can depend upon. Communities have come to depend on you because of your resilience, kindness and calmness in profoundly stressful and challenging times. It’s this craft, the art of social work, that continues to support families and keep children safe.”
Happy International Social Work Day!
James Bury, Head of Policy, Research and Development, CoramBAAF