You’d be forgiven for thinking that suffering from an eating disorder (ED), is an inherently female condition. The media has certainly played a part in dictating what women should aspire to look like and what is deemed to be physically perfect has become more and more difficult to attain. While appearance has been pinpointed as a major factor in the onset of eating disorders, comfort eating to battle low self esteem or food providing a means of taking back control, for example, are also root causes.
Less frequently reported is the prevalence of eating disorders in males. In the 1960s and 70s, EDs were thought to be nonexistent in males. This number has steadily increased in the decades since and it is thought that at least 25% of all ED sufferers are male. This increase suggests insufficient research into the topic in the past, something that is still lacking today, despite strides to rectify this, but the increased media exposure to the perfect human in recent times has undoubtedly played its part.
Whether it is the ultra muscular action star or a more androgynous look, we see examples of the perfect human on every magazine page, blog site or tv show, which is only compounded by the vicious criticism of those celebrities that don’t conform to these ideals.
What is clear is that eating disorders in males does exist and is on the rise. EDs are often life threatening and always life altering, but people who are affected by them, whether it is anorexia, bulimia or binge eating, can be helped and can overcome their condition. Through the right support the underlying cause can also be pinpointed and treated.
Gaps within mental health knowledge generally are prevalent within our society and eating disorders are just one of the many forms of mental health issues that healthcare staff support people to cope with every day. We work with a variety of Mental Health services across Wales and England and we are looking for people who are passionate about helping support people within this sector. If that could be you, please register your details HERE, or call us on 02921 660880.
Every job requires a level of professionalism and while responsibilities will vary, there are certain standards that we are all held to in our respective roles. When it comes to working with people however, there is a enhanced expectation of care and responsibility that workers in these industries need to adhere to.
For the most part, those who are given these responsibilities will live up to the requirements of their role and may often exceed them. However, what happens when peoples’ behaviour falls well short of what is required? We all want to believe that our teachers, doctors, nurses or carers will always have our best interests at heart and undoubtedly the vast majority do. But sadly, there are cases where people take advantage of their situation.
People are given responsibilities and it is hoped that the recruitment process has been strong enough to fit the right person into the right job. If it comes to light that they are not and we witness an act in evidence of this, it is both critical and ethical to report it.
For cases where the wrongdoing in question is of public interest and affects other people, the person who reports it is a whistleblower and, as such, protected by law.
The case of staff mistreating patients at Winterbourne View, a residential care home near Bristol, was awful and was a huge knock on public confidence in the care industry. It was not helped by allegations that reports made to Care Quality Commission (CQC), the industry’s governing body, weren’t taken seriously and the abuse was allowed to continue. However, with the help of whistleblowers and an infamous program by Panorama, the case was brought to trial and 11 care workers were sentenced for their part in the tragic events. The program actively encouraged people to speak out about things which they deemed substandard and over 4,300 whistleblowers spoke out over the next 20 months.
Every one of us who works in education or healthcare has a duty of care. It’s vitally important that people feel supported when they are compelled to speak out. Equally, we have a duty not to undermine the public’s confidence in these services, so advice should be sought and considered strongly before allegations are made.
Vetro Recruitment is committed to keeping the quality of the education and healthcare industries high and will always support those who share our goals: www.vetrorecruitment.co.uk
Why agency work can be a good option for Newly Qualified Teachers
The school year is winding down and young people all over the country are getting ready to show off what they have learned over the last year. Whether they are in primary or secondary education, children have worked hard throughout the year and so have their teachers.
Schools are also in the re-evaluation phase and looking at what is the best direction going forward. So for newly qualified teachers, it is the perfect time to be looking at securing that perfect job and beginning a highly rewarding career in teaching.
There are opportunities in all sectors of education and now is the time for you to get your foot in the door. There are also some great opportunities for teachers to enter the industry via agency work, which will give them a chance to work in different schools.
Being a teacher is so much more than planning and conducting lessons. You’re responsible for the social and emotional development of children, as well as managing behaviour and preparing them for life. You’ll communicate with parents and carers to help them understand their child’s development. You’ll work with school boards and inspectors to ensure that high standards are always being met. Teaching is undoubtedly demanding, but undeniably rewarding.
If you have just graduated and would like some guidance and support, why not come and meet one of our specialist recruitment consultants. All our team have worked within the education sector as either Teachers or Teaching Assistants, they know the local market and can find you the best teaching opportunities in South Wales.
We are open throughout the summer holidays and would love to meet you.
To register, click HERE or call us on 02921 660880 and let us help you get the perfect start to your career in teaching.
Children with Mental Health needs.... now up to 1 in 10
It has taken a long time, but mental health finally seems to be getting the attention and support it needs. For the first time, people from celebrities to our peers on social media, are talking about their experiences of living with mental health conditions in the hopes of eradicating the stigma surrounding mental health and to help others get the support they need.
Mental health in adults isn’t a modern invention, but it has always been something that has been brushed under the carpet. Phrases like ‘snap out of it’ or ‘what have you got to be sad about’ are commonplace. However, our understanding is growing and more is being done to tackle these issues than ever before.
But what about our children? How do they cope with the demands of life today? Growing up has always been hard and is an uncertain time for any young person. Whilst they may have more than previous generations, they also have more pressures to live with. The benchmark is now everyone everywhere. Being connected all day, every day means that we are in constant competition with potentially anyone.
One in ten children are thought to suffer from a mental health condition, ranging from depression and anxiety to self harm, eating disorders and even post traumatic stress disorder. Many of these conditions stem from the environment they are brought up in or exposed to. Sadly, insufficient funding, long waiting lists and lack of understanding have all acted as barriers to prevention and the timely intervention that many children desperately need.
But awareness of mental health in children and young people is growing and being taken more seriously than ever before and, with this, there are more and more opportunities for dedicated support workers being created in this area.
Vetro Recruitment has been sourcing the best possible candidates for employers in the health, social care and education sectors for 25 years. We understand the importance of supplying the best, compliant workers first time. We pride ourselves in sharing our client’s goals and always strive to be open and honest.
There are some fantastic opportunities for those in South Wales and South West England looking to work in children’s mental health. If you’re passionate about helping young people receive the help they need, Vetro Recruitment want to help you find the perfect placement, click HERE to register with us today.
For all our latest blogs, jobs and industry specific news, follow us on social media by clicking the links in the bottom left footer.
Care professionals have to ask awkward questions for their clients sake.
In 2002, I was sat in a stuffy room at a child protection conference. I was one of 15 other professionals there that day to discuss a particular family. I was present in my capacity as the mother's substance misuse worker, yet out of the 15 others I was the only one who had seen the family on a regular basis prior to the meeting.
I watched and listened as the Chair went around the room asking for updates. I watched overworked, run down, tired professionals rustle through their papers and give an update about a family they had not made contact with for weeks.
When the Chair came to ask the attendees one by one if the child should remain in the register, I listened one by one, as each person agreed with the one before that yes they should.
It would have been so easy to agree with everyone else that day. What did I know? I was 22 and fresh out of my Master’s degree. It would have been so easy and I nearly did.
Then I looked up at the end of the table. I saw a young mum. The young mum I had been working with three times a week for the last six months. The young mum who I knew was working so hard on every aspect of her life to change her path and improve the quality of life for both herself and her child. I knew that what had been reported was both inaccurate and unfair and I had two choices. Agree with the majority and loose the trust of my client and potentially shatter her motivation and determination to change or, risk looking like a 22 year old know-it-all who thought she could take on the big kids in the playground.
I decided to risk the latter and explained as calmly and convincingly as I could why I thought everyone was wrong, backing up each point with evidence and praising the family for the positive change they had made.
The child remained on the register that day but I did not see that as a failure. The client finally felt noticed and valued and the Chair insisted every member of the panel follow up their contact before the next meeting. At that meeting every person voted for the child to be removed based on the progress they had seen first-hand.
So what’s my point? My point is that whatever decisions we make in our roles, these directly affect another families’ life. This is a huge responsibility and therefore one that deserves our full attention.
So however difficult the decision, however overworked or under payed you feel, however tired you are and no matter what else is going on in your life, your clients deserve your considered decision.
Be brave, be bold and question when you need to. Have you ever had to stick your head above the parapet to make a difference?
As a Social Worker have you ever felt pressured to close a case before you would have ideally liked to? There was an interesting article in Community Care Live recently highlighting that many social workers do feel this sort of pressure and that support is being withdrawn before families are ready to go it alone. Pressure on resources seems to be at the crux of this and a staggering 70% of Social Workers reported that they did not feel they had enough resources to protect children, the article highlights. How does this compare with your experience and that of your colleagues? Have you ever felt the pressure to reclassify child protection cases as child in need cases?
A Social Worker said to me a couple of years back:
“I feel like I go into work every day with my hands tied behind my back, I know what I want to do, I know what would help but I don’t have the time to put that into action. For a while we were putting sticking plasters on situations but we don’t even have time for that now”.
Do you ever find yourself having to justify doing nothing because you don’t have the time to do something?
How much of your career in social care has been a case of too many cases, too much pressure and not enough time?
More importantly…what can be done about this?
Is it simply a case of needing more social workers or more social care staff in general to share the load or is it much more complex than that?
What is the level of participation of service like in the organisation you work at?
Do you consider the participation of service users or clients in service design, development and evaluation important? Does your organisation actively promote this? Do you yourself actively do anything to support this? Does it really matter?
Ultimately – the involvement of the people our services are designed to help, in the cycle of development and evaluation leads to more effective services, because facilities and programmes are established on the basis of actual and not presumed need.
Framework for building participation within an organisation
The overall goal of participation should be to make participation meaningful. That is to say that our goal should be to make participation something that is inherent to our day-to-day work. By establishing participation at the heart of daily practice, we can avoid the involvement of children and young people (families and carers) being an afterthought or particularly tokenistic. Ultimately this would mean that we may reach a point in the future when we have no functional need for participation working groups and champions, because participation will be firmly imbedded in daily practice. Participation events would, in this situation, become a celebration of participatory achievements, rather than a means of engagement to fulfil particular criteria.
The right not to participate should also be respected when working with children, young people and their families/carers. However, it is important that we do not presume that individuals are ‘opting-out’. We must consider the possibility that we have not yet created effective mechanisms to enable all.
STEPS REQUIRED IN ACHIEVING THE GO
Develop a culture of participation
This refers to the ethos of the organisation. A culture of participation should therefore demonstrate a commitment to the involvement of children, young people and their families – shared by managers, practitioners, children, young people and their families. This has been difficult to create within health and social welfare services, given their statutory responsibilities to safeguard children. In such cases the vulnerability of children is often emphasised and their capacity and resilience sometimes overlooked. It is therefore important to balance the right to a voice against the need for protection. Culture is not a static concept, rather, something which can change over time. There are however several areas of development to consider in the creation of a ‘culture of participation’, for example: establishing a shared understanding of participation; ensuring managers actively support and sustain the development of participation; ensuring all staff are committed to participation; developing a participation charter; showing evidence of participation in organisational policies and documents; publicising commitment to participation.
Develop a structure for participation
Once participation has been adopted as a central value within an organisation, the structures necessary to enable participation need to be planned and developed. An effective structure for participation will enable children, young people and their families to contribute to the life of the organisation. Without an effective structure, the shift in processes and systems required fails to occur. In this scenario, individuals may be committed to participation but are prevented from enacting change due to organisational barriers. Therefore an infrastructure is required to support the cultural shift in participatory practice. The following areas of service development should be considered when developing a structure for participation: the development of a participation strategy; partnership working; the identification of participation champions; and the provision of adequate resources for participation.
Develop effective practice for participation
For children, young people and their families to become involved, practitioners need to be able to work in a way that enables participation and ultimately effects change or improvement within the organisation. This involves the organisation developing the necessary skills, knowledge and experience to enable all children and young people to participate safely and effectively. Poor participatory practice is frequently cited as an obstacle to participation. A lack of effective practice from practitioners will result in little or no positive change. Furthermore, if children and young people have continued experiences of adults failing to involve them in the decision-making process in an effective and meaningful way, the principles of participation will be devalued. The following key practice points should be considered: the involvement of all children and young people; ensuring the safe participation of children and young people; creating an environment for participation; using flexible and creative approaches; understanding the different mechanisms for involving children and young people in both the operation of the strategic development of an organisation, as well as individual decision-making processes; providing opportunities for both practitioners and children and young people to develop the necessary skills, knowledge and experience.
Develop effective systems to review participation
This relates to the need to monitor and evaluate the participation of children, young people and their families within organisations. This is necessary in order to establish the extent to which the standards have been achieved. The absence of a review process would mean the absence of recorded evidence of participation. Whilst a great deal of literature exists on the importance of participation, there is a dearth of evidence around how participatory practice has helped to change and improve services for children, young people and their families. The following elements should be considered when reviewing participation: the identification of proposed outcomes; the involvement of children and young people; resourcing review systems; and the establishment of systems to provide evidence of the process of participation as well as the outcomes.
What is the level of participatory practice in your service or organisation like?
Should Support Workers get paid less than a supermarket shelf stackers?
Years ago when I worked for the NHS as a substance misuse worker, I was offered the chance to work as an outreach support worker to sex workers in Cheshire.
Cheshire has sex workers? “Surely not” came the cries of those I excitedly told of my new responsibilities. Yes, like every county, Cheshire has sex workers!
I was responsible for going to six massage parlours, and my role was to try and engage the women in conversation with a view to offering them support and facilitating their attendance at our health clinic. Sometimes it was very difficult to get passed the door, but the parlours that did let me in were, in the main, very welcoming and the girls seemed to be happy to discuss their support needs and concerns. They would frequently tell me how much talking to me helped them and would ask me to go more often. During one of my outreach sessions one girl disclosed that she had been bathing in bleach every night after work for six months. I was able to get her the help she needed quickly and because we had built up a relationship based on trust she was happy to attend everything I arranged for her.
Fast forward a couple of years and I had taken up a research post. I was interviewing families on a regular basis to establish how effective the services that they were receiving were and what they valued the most. They would frequently tell me things like: "Claire has been amazing, she really understands me, she doesn't patronise me and she does what she says she will" or, "Paul is wicked, he's just been a rock through everything over the last six months and he's the reason I've been able to stop drinking as he's helped and supported me every step of the way, most of all he believed in me so I could believe in myself ". These people were talking about the support workers who they had worked with. More often than not they attributed positive change in their life to the support these workers had given them.
When I was evaluating services as part of my role as commissioning and planning officer the same themes came up. The hands-on support that people were being given from support workers was often what was valued the most. I've seen this across child protection, leaving care, family support, learning disabilities, disabled children and young people’s services and mental health services. Often these are the people making the difference on a day-to-day basis.
I was once told "If Karen hadn't phoned me every day during that week I'd have killed myself, I'm still here because of her". I’ve never forgotten the impact that this person felt their support worker had on their life.
I'm not saying that other roles aren't important or valuable, of course they are. We are all cogs in a big system that aims to improve the outcomes of children and families; but I do feel that the role of, and certainly the potential impact of the support worker role is grossly undervalued.
What do you think? Are you a support worker? Have you received similar feedback?
We would love to know what you think, let us know below or tweet us @vetrojob!
*Real names have been changed to protect identity*
1. To ensure that young people do not leave care until they are ready
2. To ensure that they receive more effective support once they have left
Let’s just stop for a moment and not think about young people who have been through the care system and think more generally about young people full stop.
How does this growing up and becoming independent business work for everyone else?
I’d like you to think for a moment about the following things:
How old were you when you left home?
Who decided you were ready to leave home?
If you have children, how old were they when they left home?
After you left home, did you ever return? For weekends? Holidays? Times when you were in trouble? Have your children done the same?
Did your parents help you out with your own children or do you help out with grandchildren perhaps? Do they come to stay with you?
If your child was in financial trouble after leaving home, how would you help them?
Do you know anyone who has been ill or perhaps broken a limb and returned to their parents’ house for a period of time? Perhaps you know people who have stayed with family whilst they are between homes?
I know lots of people who have been in all of these situations. I left home to go to university at the age of 18, but my parents financially supported me until I left education at the age of 22. They emigrated whilst I was at university so I never had anywhere to go ‘home’ to as such after that, but I know many people who still do that in their 30s and 40s, and those who rely heavily on their parents for a range of things including: advice; financial support; childcare; a holiday; a home from home; respite and so on.
How about you? What is your experience?
This brings me on to question if we are doing enough for young people leaving the care system? What does the concept of ‘keeping in touch’ really mean? It certainly doesn’t mean lots of the things that others rely on their parents for. Local Authorities have a duty to keep in touch with young people until the age of 21, 24 or 25 if the young person remains in education. The key areas of focus include: advice and support around education and training or employment; general advice, support and assistance. There are numerous aspects of financial support available for higher education, passports, living expenses and so on and depending on the area, there may be on-going mentoring or other services available.
Is it enough?
How do you think you would have coped in that situation? What about your children? Would it be enough for them?
With funding cuts, pressures on time and resources there may not be more we can give in terms of physical things or finances BUT is there something different we could do? How can we give young people leaving care the things that money can’t buy – the unconditional love and support many of us have had from our families? Any ideas?
If you think you have what it takes to effectively support those preparing to leave the care system, contact Vetro recruitment for job opportunities.
Are you aware that this week is anti-bullying week? Is bullying something that concerns you? Have you ever experienced this yourself? Have you witnessed it? What do you think we should be doing about it?
Edward Timpson MP, Minister of State said: “No child should face the fear of bullying – whether through violence, cyberbullying or name-calling. While the situation is improving, there is no place for bullying of any kind in our schools, and we are determined to help schools continue to tackle this issue so that all children can fulfil their potential.”
Of course, bullying doesn’t just take place in schools. Children and young people experience this at clubs, in the street, at home or even via their computers or phones.
We all have a role to play in protecting children and young people and eradicating bullying.
What are schools doing about bullying?
The Department for Education provides funding for schools to develop anti-bullying strategies and projects. These include training pupils to become anti-bullying ambassadors and specialised training focusing on tackling bullying among young people with SEN and/or disabilities
Teacher’s powers have been strengthened and they have the freedom to search for and delete inappropriate images from phones and devices. They are also able to discipline and investigate cases of bullying outside of the school gates
Schools have policies in place to deal with bullying so, when incidents do occur, they are dealt with quickly. They are encouraged to prevent bullying by foreseeing issues that may cause conflict and develop plans to prevent bullying happening in the first place
What else should schools and community groups be doing?
Top tips for parents or carers worried about bullying, from the Department for Education and Anti Bullying Alliance
If your child is being bullied don’t panic. Explain to your child that the bullying is not their fault and together you will sort this out
Bullying is never acceptable; and should always be taken seriously. It is never your child’s fault if they’ve been bullied
Try and establish the facts. It can be helpful to keep a diary of events. If the bullying is online, save or copy images and text
Find out what your child wants to happen. Help to identify steps you can take; and the skills they have to help sort out the situation. Make sure you always keep them informed about any actions you decide to take
You may be tempted to tell your child to retaliate but this can have unpredictable results. Your child might get into trouble or get even more hurt. Rather – role play non-violent ways they can respond to children that are bullying them (e.g. ‘I don’t like it when you say that to me / do that to me. Stop.’); show them how to block or unfriend people if the bullying is online and help them identify other friends or adults that can support them
Encourage your child to get involved in activities that build their confidence and esteem, and help them to form friendships outside of school (or wherever the bullying is taking place)
Top tips on how to protect your child from cyberbullying from the Department for Education
With an ever growing social media presence in our children’s lives the reality is that most children have been involved in cyberbullying in some way, either as a victim, perpetrator, or bystander. This is because it tends to involve a number of online bystanders and can quickly spiral out of control. Parents and carers have a challenging job. You need to know what your children are doing online and also help them to do it in a safe way.
1. Set boundaries
Supervise children’s internet access by setting boundaries and making an agreement on what they can and cannot do online. If the agreement is broken, restrict internet access for an agreed period of time.
2. Follow restrictions
Social Networks have a minimum age restriction, usually age thirteen. Explain to your children that these restrictions are in place for their safety.
3. Arm your children with advice:
Make sure you use the privacy settings on offer
Be careful what you say online. Respect others and do not retaliate or reply to offending e-mails, text messages or online conversations – leave the conversation
Be careful what pictures or videos you upload. Once a picture is shared online it cannot be taken back
Only add people you know and trust to friends/followers lists online. If talking to strangers, keep your personal information safe and location hidden
Block the bully –block someone who is behaving badly and report them to the service in use. Many services take bullying seriously and will either warn the individual or eliminate his or her account
Save the evidence. Always keep a copy of offending e-mails, text messages or a screen grab of online conversations and pass to a parent, a carer or a teacher
Make sure you tell an adult you trust, for example, a parent, a carer, a teacher, or the anti-bullying co-ordinator or call a helpline like Childline on 08001111 in confidence
4. Spot the signs of cyberbullying
Cyberbullying is typically hard to spot as it can happen at any time. Be alert to a change in your child’s behaviour, for example:
Being upset or withdrawn after using the internet or their mobile phone
Unwilling to talk or secretive about their online activities and mobile phone use
Spending much more or much less time texting, gaming or using social media
Not wanting to partake in previously enjoyable situations like going to school or meeting friends and school mates
Support for children who are bullied is available within schools, through Childline, and the Anti-Bullying Alliance – all whom help build confidence and a sense of emotional safety.
If you work with children and young people you also have a responsibility to ensure their safety and protection from bullying. Do you feel able to carry this out in your role? Do you feel more training in this area is needed? We would love to know your thoughts........
With Christmas fast approaching and 2016 only 5 weeks away, we wanted to say thanks to everyone for all your help and support this year.
2015 has been a life changing year for Alun and I. It was only 9 short months ago that we decided to set up Vetro Recruitment. We felt that with 23 years combined Health and Social Care recruitment experience, now was the time to create our own dream and build a recruitment business that supports some of the most dedicated and passionate individuals continue to make such a difference to the lives of the people they care for.
In the last 6 months since we setup, we have gone from strength to strength. Just this week we found work for our 100th care professional, yes that’s right, we have found work for 100 health and social care professionals in either temporary or permanent employment in 6 months!
With this growth, we have seen our team grow. We of course have Josie Murray specialising in Permanent Recruitment and Maya Maxwell who will be starting in January to support our temporary division. We also have our very own professional blogger, Charlotte Pearson who keeps us up to date with all the important Health and Social Care news. Plus how can we forget Opie, the office dog, who despite having a few not so shining moments; generally brings a smile to all our faces.
From the bottom of our hearts, we would like to thank everyone for all your support. Without you we would not have been able to make this kind of difference. This hard work has also been noticed. Our team has been shortlisted for The Cardiff Regional Awards in the category of ‘Recruitment Agency Award’.
This award would mean the world to us and reflect all the hard work that every single person associated with Vetro Recruitment has put in.
If you would like to vote for us, please click here and vote for team Vetro!! In advance, thank you for your support – it is very much appreciated.
When your work is about more than just getting paid each month, it can be hard to switch off. For the majority of us in the health and social care sector, there is a desire to make a difference, which makes not being around a difficult situation, even if we do feel in need of the break.
Are you one of these people who takes their work home or do you leave it at the door?
When I began working in the health and social care sector years ago I found weekends really hard and holiday periods even worse. Christmas was the hardest of all of these.
How would my clients cope without me? What would happen to them? What if something awful happened and they needed me?
The reality was of course that whilst I hope I made a positive impact on the people I worked with, they managed before me and would equally manage after me.
That didn't stop my concern though. The first Christmas after I had started my job was awful. I was a wreck and spent much of it worrying about my clients and feeling I should contact them.
By the second Christmas, I'd had a good word with myself, as had my wonderful line manager at the time, and I was able to leave work at the door.
In some ways this made it worse as the guilt on returning to work as I heard all the horror stories of clients’ far from perfect Christmas was awful. I was a horrible person for not thinking about them during my time off work. There must be a balance right? Have you been able to find one? It took me a few years I must admit, but I was able to at least reach some sort of peace with myself.
Here are some ideas for helping you to walk out of the door feeling as if you have done your best and that you can now spend time with your own family and friends:
Prepare your clients for how provision and care will be changing over the festive period - make sure they are informed and have any information they might need
Make up an information card with Christmas opening times of services and who they should contact out of those times
Talk to your clients about coping mechanisms or strategies and try to make sure they feel positive and empowered
Ensure any staff taking over from you have all the information they need and that you have at least had a conversation or sent an email to 'handover' the case
Don't assume or expect things to be exactly the same when you return - things may be worse or may be better but no doubt something will have changed and you will need to adapt to that
Find out what clients plans ae over the festive period and help them to make arrangements beforehand
Tie up any loose ends
Identify any potential issues
Decide what can be left until you return – as much as we’d all love to have superpowers we need to be realistic
None of this is easy to do if you care about your job and your clients, but taking a break is vital for your health and well-being, not to mention your relationships with friends and family.
The other important thing about taking a break is that it can actually help you come back fresh with new strategies and perspective, which in turn can progress a particular case.
Christmas is supposed to be a time for joy and happiness and celebrations with friends and family, as workers in this field, we know all too well that this doesn’t apply across the board. We are NOT however single-handedly responsible for everyone else, so be kind to yourself, do you best before you leave, do your best when you return but TRY to enjoy yourself a little in between!
What are your tips for preparing for the holiday period? We would love to know!
The New Year can signal the start of some sort of change for many of us. A time for resolutions for some people and for others it often brings a new sense of determination or the desire to try something new.
In our home life this might mean:
Taking up a new sport or hobby
A determination to lose weight
Giving something up – smoking, alcohol, chocolate, meat perhaps
Changing your hair
Starting a new regime like making daily smoothies or taking a packed lunch to work perhaps
Sometimes these are big changes and sometimes only small, but there is certainly something about the New Year which makes this a time to start ‘something’.
This can equally apply to our work life.
Sometimes when we are working with clients we can get bogged down in paperwork and meetings. Sometimes we feel as if we have been using one approach forever and haven’t made any real measurable progress. Sometimes we wake up one day and realise we are just part of a system which isn’t making any bold attempts to think outside the box and try something new.
If you feel like this it might be a good time to make a change, even if it only starts as a small change, and there’s no better time than January to make that change.
Last month I talked about the issues we can have taking a break from work (link previous article to keyword) but, how taking that break can mean you come back more focussed and determined than ever and ready to try something new.
You don’t have to be a manager to create change - we can all do this.
You don’t need extra funding to try something new - just a new way of thinking. So where do you start?
Here are a few things to think about:
Your desk-based tasks:
Organise your desk
Clear it of papers
Work out a system e.g. in/out/file for future papers
File lose paperwork and deal with anything outstanding
Organise your inbox, create folders and stick with the filing system, flag anything you need to keep your eye on
Give some thought as to how you can work smarter, can you come up with any time saving mechanisms?
Get you diary organised – set reminders for tasks to ensure you complete them on time and aren’t distracted
Effective communication is vital in this field, we know that poor communication can cause a domino effect and can result in neglect, injury or even death, you only need to read a child abuse inquiry report to realise this – can you improve the way you communicate?
Instead of 20 emails with bits of information, aim for one or two informative emails
Are your lone worker communication policies effective? If not, revise them
Think about the way you speak to your colleagues, other professionals and your clients – do you need to alter the way you communicate, the method you use or the frequency of that communication?
Are your meetings effective and productive? If not, how can you change them to ensure time is not wasted?
Have you thought about trying a new approach with a client? Is what you are currently doing facilitating change or progress?
Is group work appropriate? Have you considered this?
Have you helped the client to identify other sources of support locally?
Are you helping the client to reach their full potential? What could you do differently?
Are you following a care plan that is appropriate or do changes need to be made?
Is there a concern you wish to voice?
What about working in pairs? Can you work smarter by working more closely with a colleague?
Your working day:
Could you bike or walk to work?
Could you car share?
What about changing what you eat for lunch…or even just trying to eat some lunch for once!
Can you take a break at lunchtime and go for a walk or swim?
Can you look into flexible working?
Can you try to leave on time for at least two days per week?
If you are a Support Worker, you may be working with a variety of clients including:
People with Learning Disabilities
Children with Emotional Behavioural Difficulties
People with Mental Health problems
Families under stress
Older people with a range of complex issues
What could you change about the way you work? Do you know enough about the client group you are working with or the individuals themselves? Can you find out more? Can you improve your knowledge in an area that will benefit your clients?
Give yourself the once over with regards to your approach. Are you tactful, sensitive and positive? Maybe the change you need to make is something like trying to turn up on time for appointments, or your organisational skills?
One of the key skills needed to be a successful support worker is your ability to relate to and understand people from all backgrounds. If you can’t do this yet, there may be some areas you need to make changes.
Even if you can only make one small change, it is an important start to the process. Sometimes we get so caught up in a system or a routine that we don’t realise there is a much better one out there that we haven’t tried yet! Let’s make January a time for positive change – let us know how you get on!
When supporting families, there can often be a discrepancy between the type of support we think they need and in reality what they actually need. Sadly, and rather frustratingly, this can mean that services are developed on the basis of presumed, rather than actual need. This is likely to affect outcomes for families and consequently have an effect on the perceived success of an intervention, so it is really important we get this right in the first place. It can be easily done, thinking we know what people need. We do this with our own families, with partners, with relatives. It is important however to establish what is really needed in a situation, even if that takes some time and a few wrong turns along the way. When we get it right, small things can make big things happen. What might seem quite insignificant to one person, could spark something life changing. Never underestimate the power of the little things you can do. They can make a big difference.
I’ve interviewed many parents over the years in my different roles and they often tell me it is the small things that can have the biggest impact. Here are some examples: Mediation “I think just knowing that they are there to support you is the main thing that helps, knowing that you aren’t on your own is a real source of strength. They are great mediators for families and it helps to get other services on board, they speed things up.” Talking “One of the main things is the ideas that we throw around between each other in the meetings. We do our research and [worker] will come up with ideas as well and then we pool all our thoughts together and give things a go. Having someone else to help us think things through and come up with strategies and hear our own thoughts has been really valuable.” Navigating “They showed us the way through the maze of services and how to get what we needed, because they were involved things happened faster which made a huge impact.” Organising “They helped me with how to get organised around the house, helped me to cope better and helped me get my head around how I organise my life with the kids.” Back up “They just make me feel like I have some back up, like I’m not in this on my own.” These ‘small’ things can often have profound effects on families, like in the examples below: Home life “I think my attitude towards the children has changed the most. Also we have put together some house rules and the children’s behaviour has then changed as a result of this.” Confidence “Just not having to battle on my own I think. Having someone, or lots of people in this case in my corner for a change. That has changed things the most. They have made me more confident and able to deal with things now, I’m not the nervous person I once was and that gives my daughter confidence in me. I am more able to cope so she has been able to disclose things she couldn’t before about her dad and we have been able to move forward. She is more confident in me as a parent and that feels great.” Parenting “The way I deal with things and how I cope has changed a lot but also my son’s behaviour is now under control, he is less angry than before. All of that has had a knock on effect on the rest of the family. Things are much calmer these days.” Coping mechanisms “I think just my ability to cope and juggle a family and work and all the other general stuff you have to get through in a day. They have taken some of the pressure off by doing some of the chasing of services for me which really helps and of course they can get things moving faster as well.” Sometimes, that one person working effectively with a family can be all that is needed to make progress. Below are examples of things families have said about their support workers. “He is amazing, I worry what will happen when we don’t have him though as I feel as though it is this worker who has made the difference and without him things will go back to how they were.” “She has helped a lot she would take our daughter after school on a one-to-one and work with her on a range of things but basically helping her to cope better with everything.” “She has really helped us – she has been amazing to be honest with you. I just can’t fault her, she’s been a tower of strength at a really bad time for us.” “She helped with boosting confidence and improving social skills but when she took him out it also gave us some respite so if helped our relationship and emotional health in the long run as well. We could parent more effectively with that little break.” “My son worked with a worker [and] quite honestly he was an utter god! Our son has autism and he is bipolar so it takes a special person to understand what he needs, how to speak to him etc. [Worker] was an expert, he genuinely cared and we really felt that. He knew how to handle him and that was very reassuring for us as parents. He came every week and when they closed the case he kept coming for another 6 weeks so the contact was phased out gradually and our son didn’t just feel dropped by him.” What is your process for establishing what families really need? How effective is this? Are you aware what a life-changing result effective support work can have?
Policy makers and health and social care professionals have been working tirelessly for many years to actively improve outcomes for children and their families. There have been many improvements and developments in services and many success stories along the way. However, sadly many developments have occurred in response to a tragedy of abuse or neglect by parents or the services designed to support them in their parenting role. The benefits of multi-agency working are well documented in the literature and supported by developments in social policy. It would in fact, be rare to find a health or social care agency in the public, private or voluntary sector who did not consider themselves to be involved in a multi-agency approach. Some of the specific benefits of multi-agency workinginclude: less overlap of service provision; more cohesive services; cost saving measures; improved outcomes for children and families; and easier or quicker access to services. Effective multi-agency working is also thought to safeguard children from abuse and neglect.
Often, when parents are asked about what specific support has helped them to change or to seek further support, the answer relates to a specific individual who they have developed a relationship with. This may be a teacher, a social worker, a support worker, a health visitor, or indeed any other professional with whom the family have connected with. The importance of these relationships in effecting change is often underestimated – qualifications and training of these professionals should be reviewed to include specific work on challenging people’s attitudes, morals and beliefs, to ensure that professionals are able to make these connections with families and therefore be the architects of change. When a family has a supportive and trusting relationship with a professional and when this professional in surrounded by and interlinked with a group of equally committed professionals all working to achieve change for that family, great things can happen. Obviously a range of services, supported by adequate funding are needed to assist children and their families, but many improvements can be made by merely challenging the styles of working and adopting a more customerfocussed approach to care. Have you thought about how you treat the families that you work with? How effective is multi-agency working in your area? What do you think works well and what needs improving? Depending on your area, you may be familiar with:
Multi agency panels
Common Assessment Framework (CAF)
Team Around the Child (TAC)
Although language might vary, and the specific approach may differ, the goal is the same – to work effectively together to safeguard children and improve outcomes. You can read more about the different ways we can work together here.
14th -18th March will be Schools Autism Awareness Week. If you are a teacher, don’t worry as all the work has been done for you. You can download resource packs and a handy guide here. There are resources available to suit all age groups as well, so it doesn’t matter how old pupils are, they can still join in. These packs are also available in Welsh and come with power point presentations already done. All you need to do is have a fun-packed and informative week with the pupils!
Of course, the resources don’t just need to be limited to use in school, so if you work with children and young people in another capacity then you can also access the information and join in. The more awareness raising and information sharing, the better.
This is the first official Schools Autism Awareness Week, so let’s make it a great one, and consider it a warm up for the huge World Autism Awareness Week from 2nd-8th April 2016.
Part of the process of raising awareness involves considering the language we use to talk about autism. Language is so important because the language we use conveys a particular attitude and way of thinking. If you are concerned about the use of particular language in relation to autism why not have a listen to this podcast for some guidance.
Over the years, I have interviewed various children on the autistic spectrum as part of various research projects I have been involved in, I want to share with you a few of their frustrations.
What young people say about being autistic
One young man wanted people to stop “confusing” him by “saying silly rhymes or sayings”. He was able to highlight that he takes things people say literally, so if someone said something would take two seconds he would count “one, two” and expect them to have finished. In reality we know that when we say things like this we don’t really mean that something will take two seconds. Another example he gave was when someone once said to him not to cry over spilt milk. He didn’t understand the saying and was upset because he hadn’t spilt any milk. Another young person I interviewed told me how she struggled to understand other people’s feelings and to recognise when they were happy or sad unless they actually told her. She also described how it helped her to watch how something was done because if someone just told her how to do something, she wasn’t able to follow that on.
Over the years the main theme of the children and young people I have spoken to has been that they have felt misunderstood. They were tired of being thought of as the naughty children who didn’t listen or the sad ones that didn’t have any friends. They wanted people to spend more time ‘hearing’ what they had to say and they wanted people to be more sensitive to the triggers to their negative behaviour.
Most of all though, they wanted to be treated equally and for everyone to understand that being on the autistic spectrum is not all about deficits. One boy highlighted that for him being autistic was a good thing because he didn’t cheat or lie like other young people he knew.
When asked how they would describe themselves in one word, some of the responses were: cross, bossy, lonely, angry, frightened, and frustrated, although, many just responded with their name or age when asked this question.
What is your experience of working with autistic spectrum disorders?
What can you do to raise awareness and improve the overall understanding of this disability?
Sunday 6th March was Mother’s Day in the UK. Thousands of flowers and chocolates were purchased and given to mums; cards were written; various handmade items were produced at schools and nurseries all over the UK to give to special mums on the big day.
Some may have had breakfast in bed; some might have been cooked for; some might have been taken out for a meal; or even treated to a grand gift like a spa day. As a mum, for me it’s the handmade bits and bobs that the children are so proud of and the gorgeous little drawings they do each year at school that get put in the local paper with a little message, that always mean the most.
Many cuddles and kisses will have been received all over the UK on Sunday, from children wanting to show their mums just how much they love them.
Not all children will have been given the opportunity to show their mums how much they love them though and many will have spent Sunday without their mothers.
For children in the care system in Britain, Mother’s Day will have been very different. No kisses, no cuddles, no one to give a card or a gift to. Just a nothing day.
There are enough children in care in Britain to fill 3,095 classrooms (First News: March 2016), that is around 93,000 children. Can you even imagine how many that would look like if they were all stood together?
We know that there are all sorts of reasons that children end up in care but figures are steadily rising across Britain, without showing any signs of slowing down.
Alongside this, is a shortage of both fosters carers and those willing to adopt, meaning that too many children are going through childhood and then into young adulthood without that feeling of ‘family’ and without being nurtured in a loving environment.
The world is a scary and challenging place and having a caring adult to look after you is so important. Families come in different shapes and sizes but it’s the unconditional love that really matters to children.
There are a particular shortage of families willing to adopt children over the age of four and also a severe lack of families willing to adopt black and minority ethnic children, those with a disability and sibling groups (First News: March 2016). Are you aware of the particular pressures in your area? Do they mirror the ones mentioned here?
During Fostering and Adoption week back in January, Barnardo’s, the children’s charity put out a special plea for more foster carers, where they asked ordinary people to do something extraordinary and give a child a loving home.
Do you have any initiatives locally supporting this?
What are local authorities in your area doing to ensure more children can be given a loving home? We would love to know!
So here we are in April and the National Living Wage is here, it’s real and it’s now law. You can find out if you are eligible by completing the calculator here.
In terms of the figures, what does this actually look like? All workers aged 25 and over are now legally entitled to at least £7.50 per hour, a rise of 30 pence and the Government have committed to increasing this every year.
The Prime Minister has vowed to give those employers who fail to pay the new rate severe penalties of up to £20,000 and has placed this new wage at the centre of his “one nation” agenda. It certainly seems that this is being taken very seriously.
What do you think? If you are an employer in the Health and Social Care sector you might be starting to feel the financial pressure of these changes. Whilst this might be great news for employees, like with most things there is a potential downside and losers as well as winners. Financial forecasters are predicting that employers will have to cut back on the numbers they are recruiting which long term could have a negative impact on the jobs market.
As an employer have you had to start cutting hours and benefits packages to help pay for these changes in other ways? It seems that the Government are not going to tolerate changes like these and are stating that there are “no excuses” for responding in such a way.
What is the reality though? How is this working day-to-day? Although it is early days, as employers are you seeing complications of the National Living Wage develop already?
In many areas of employment is seems that employers are already having to try and offset the costs of the new National Living wage by clawing back the spending elsewhere. In jobs across the country, workers are losing paid breaks, overtime and other ‘perks’ as employers try to balance the books on the back of the latest budget.
The Government standpoint seems to be that employers are not entering into the ‘spirit’ of the National Living Wage but surely they would have known that businesses would adopt the approach of making cuts elsewhere to fund this new law?
Is this about wanting to ‘help’ and support people on a lower wage or just about generating more taxable income?
These changes might be also regarded as great news for low paid workers, at least those over 25 of course, as it will mean a pay rise of about £20 per week.
Do you work in the Health and Social Care sectors? Have you noticed a difference in pay or equally any cuts in benefits? Do you regard the National Living Wage as a positive or negative law overall?
The reality is that in the Health and Social Care sector, many of the people on a low wage are those we rely on to be hands-on with clients in a supportive role. From what service users have told me over the years, these are the people that have often made the biggest difference in their lives and helped them the most. The key to improving outcomes for families can often be found in finding the right match of worker to make a difference. We want to be able to ensure these jobs still exist but equally, surely we want those people providing care and support to feel valued and be rewarded for the work they do on the frontline, work that is often difficult and stressful and work that requires both physical and emotional resilience.
However, by forcing employers to pay more in an already fragile and stretched sector, will this have a negative impact on the level of care that can actually be offered and afforded? Social Care has always been an underfunded and undervalued service which I personally struggle to get my head around, but how will these changes help those in need of support?
With the NHS also looking rather messy perhaps merging health and social care funding and aligning services is the way forward?
What do you think?
Does the National Living wage affect you directly? Perhaps it also affects clients you work with? Do you support this new law?
There is no doubt in my mind that proposing and then passing any new law must be a huge headache for those involved. Whilst many people will no doubt support this new law, many will consider it to have a negative impact on care, business, and things like the availability of overtime.
How do we recognise and reward employees without causing a negative impact at the same time? Where do you stand?
If you are anything like me, this time of year is the only time you get a bit excited, OK, maybe not excited, enthusiastic perhaps, about cleaning.
What is it about Spring that sparks the urge to clean?
I’ve been going through a rather radical decluttering process at home recently, having a huge sort out of everything and looking at what can either be sold, donated, recycled or just skipped! Although it is a big job, I’ve come up with an easy approach that means it doesn’t feel overwhelming but still achieves results.
In short, one task a day, every day for a month – before I know it, the whole house will be decluttered, which I know will not only feel hugely satisfying, but will also allow me to focus on other things. Being tidy and losing the clutter I find brings clarity.
What on earth has this got to do with work life though you might ask?
Simple really, spring cleaning isn’t just about home life. I’m not suggesting that you take a duster to the office or anything, although a good way to start would be to ensure your work space is tidy and clear.
I’m really talking about spring cleaning your approach to work and regaining your focus if you have lost your way a little. This happens to us all. We get bogged down in things and we feel like we are on a treadmill we can’t get off, or fighting a fire we can’t put out. It’s time to go back to basics. Here are a few things you can try:
Clear your workspace, tidy up and get things organised
Sort out your inbox – file things in folders and try to keep the inbox only for those things you are dealing with at that moment, this alone can revitalise you
Polish up your CV, even if you aren’t applying for anything at the moment, add in the skills you’ve developed, courses you have been on and set yourself a reminder to update it monthly
Make things happen – set yourself a list of tasks each day, or each week (whatever works best for you) and try to tick off as many as possible – do make it a manageable list though so you don’t feel too deflated when things don’t go to plan
Help someone out – as busy as our days are, try to make time to help a colleague each day, however small a task that is. Deeds like this do wonders for job satisfaction, help others and also mean that you are gaining important skills to support an application for a more senior position in the future
Take some initiative – if you have a good idea or suggestion, act on it, you might be an important catalyst for change
Be enthusiastic – although sometimes this is the last thing we feel in our job, try to remember why you do what you do. Sometimes enthusiasm can help with another persons’ motivation
Happy spring cleaning and let us know how you get on!
Of course it is! Women are naturally more caring and historically have done the bulk of the ‘caring role’ so they are therefore naturally more suited to these types of jobs.
I’m playing with you of course! Whilst sadly that is still the view of many, it isn’t a view I share, and it seems that more and more others are also choosing to ignore this viewpoint and venture into a career in social care.
Now before I continue, let me just put it out there that I don’t think men are better in social care roles, or equally vice versa. I personally feel and have always had the opinion that, much of the success in social care is down to a good match of worker to client, irrespective of that person’s gender.
What’s your view?
What I will say though is that I have seen over the years how a specific match of worker to client has been of benefit and also where a particular match has been a disaster. I don’t think there are any specific gender rules or age rules for that matter BUT I have interviewed a number of boys and young men over the years who tell me they have benefitted from working with other males, who they felt were not that much older than them and who they could therefore relate to.
During two of my pregnancies I was cared for by a male midwife. Very unusual. He was the senior member of the team and very knowledgeable. I know that other women asked to be removed from his caseload. However, from my point of view I had the most experienced member of the team in charge of my care and that felt reassuring. When there was a problem during one of the pregnancies he was superb. It was not his gender that was the issue, it was his knowledge and the way he approached his work that was the important factor.
This suggests that there are no rules but also demonstrates that we should be able to offer choice and options to clients. Some people do feel more able to communicate with someone of the same gender and we can’t ignore that as a need.
Women currently make up 82% of the care workforce . There are clearly strong views in society about whose job this is but more and more men are starting to find care work fulfilling and trying to slowly change these views. One thing is for sure, the need for care workers is not going away, especially at the older end of the lifespan in things like dementia care. Along with new graduate schemes trying to attract more men into frontline social work, things are moving forward.
Can you help?
Are you a male who can make a positive difference to the lives of others? Do you have ideas about how you could make a difference? Are you looking for a change in direction? Do you have transferrable skills?
The concepts of research and evidence and the importance in linking these with developments in social care practice have been gaining momentum since the early 1990s. In 1996, Directors of Social Services initiated a research implementation project known as Research in Practice. This was the largest children and families research implementation project in England and Wales, with a mission to promote positive outcomes for children and families through the use of research evidence. As a consequence of development like this, evidence-based practice has significantly contributed to the direction of social care practice in recent years.
Evidence-based practice can be thought to comprise of a combination of factors: the available evidence on a specific issue at a particular time; the preferences of clients; and the experience and skills of professionals. All these are as important as each other to the process and should be utilised together to inform learning and ultimately practice.
There are many definitions of research, and many varying styles of research which I will not labour on for the purpose of this post. It is enough to say that any type of research aims to enrich our understanding of, or increase our questions of a particular topic. Therefore, we can see the immediate link with evidence-based practice, in that this research can contribute both to the ‘evidence’ but also act as a critical friend when practitioners are engaged in a process of analysing, questioning and developing a particular area or style of working.
Research and evidence are vital to promoting good social work and social care practice. An acknowledgement of this and the use of the material produced means that practitioners can not only inform and enrich their understanding, but they can also intervene in peoples’ lives on the basis of the best available evidence regarding the likely consequence of that intervention, and in such a case can be confident that they will bring about positive change. Evidence-based practice can therefore be regarded as being more transparent and accountable than approaches of the past.
In addition to this, a greater focus on research can generate new ideas and create an organic development process, allowing practitioners to make comparisons and trial approaches in their area. This means that although research and evidence are informing practice, there remain decisions to be made regarding the available resources and priority groups in particular areas of the country.
Furthermore, at present, there is no other known method within social work and social care of linking research and evidence with the day-to-day practice and profession. Research and evidence in this field allow us to question existing practice, highlight ‘what works’ and utilise ideas and developments in thinking to constantly strive to improve services for social care clients and the job satisfaction of those providing the services.
The problems with research and evidenced-based practice
Some have argued that there is no ‘evidence’ that evidence-based practice actually works and that it can have a detrimental effect on professional decision-making because it often acts a constraint. It has been dismissed by those who have been in the profession for many years as moving away from the importance of professional judgement. Social care practitioners should be aware of all of the debates in their particular field, this may include their specific area of social care practice and their organisation, department or team. There may be particular professional sensitivities which will need to be balanced with the significance of the research and evidence at any one time.
Others have argued that research can be confusing because it serves to highlight a number of often conflicting views on one subject. Despite this, the number of theories, concepts and approaches should be regarded as enriching understanding and assisting the practitioner to raise questions. Questioning research should be considered an essential part of this learning process and practitioners should always cast a critical eye over what they read.
Research implementation projects such as Research In Practice are vital, but further work will need to be done with local authorities, health services and the voluntary sector to ensure this research evidence translates into the decision-making process at a local level. This can only be achieved through the commitment of organisations to the research process and an engagement in further interpretive work.
There are inevitably going to be gaps in research and evidence from which practitioners can draw on, one example of this is research around the participation of service users in the development of social care services. Although this has improved in recent years, it is still often treated as an after-thought, or a rather tokenistic approach is adopted. Furthermore, progress towards this way of working varies across the UK.
Service users hold the keys to where practice should develop next, they are the ‘customers’ of social care and further research both nationally and locally is required to drill down the detail of what works for people in what circumstances. The challenge for social care practitioners is to find a balance between professional knowledge and judgement and the views and wishes of service users. Where do you stand on this? How much weight do you give to research in your day-to-day practice? To what degree does this influence your thinking?
1. To ensure that young people do not leave care until they are ready 2. To ensure that they receive more effective support once they have left
Here, I talk to a care leaver about his personal experiences.
Can you tell us a bit about how you came into the care system?
"Of course, it's sad but I guess there are loads of kids with sad stories aren't there? Basically, mum left us and my dad and we didn't hear anything from her. We still don't know where she is now. My dad lost it and although he tried to keep it all together for a while we were all too much for him. He got into all sorts and ended up going to prison. We don't have any other family around so that was that basically.
The three youngest got this really nice foster family. I've met them and they seem like good people. Me and my sister ended up in a residential unit.
She got pregnant not long after that and went to this mother and baby unit so it was just me left on my own.
I hated it to be honest and I didn't behave well because I was just so fed up and lost."
Have you maintained your relationship with your siblings?
"I don't see my sister. I can't stand her boyfriend to be honest. I try to keep in touch with the younger ones but they are so settled I don’t want to ruin that for them. I'm happy they have a nice family and they are settled in school and stuff. One of them is even swimming in competitions and stuff. I'm really proud of him because life has been tough and he also has health issues."
How did you find the support from social services?
"It was mixed to be honest. If you'd asked me a year ago I would have told you it was rubbish, but I’ve had time to think now and I know I wasn't the easiest to work with.
I do think it's partly luck who you get though and it's also about who you connect with. As a lad I preferred a bloke and I had this young bloke for a while who just got me. I really felt he was going out of his way to help me and every day now I remind myself if some of the things he told me. Things like choosing the best path and to never give up have really stuck with me.
It wasn’t all good. The support that is. There were times when I couldn't get any answers and people didn't get back to me and times when I just felt people had no clue what they were doing. I was cross with them at the time, but now I think I feel sorry for them, as they had no support and needed more guidance from somewhere. I feel bad now that I was such a nightmare."
How has the ‘keeping in touch’ element worked for you since leaving care?
"I’m sorry. I don’t like to be negative but I have to saying ‘keeping in touch’ is a total joke. I’ve had an email and a phone call in two years. Both were from someone I didn’t even know and who didn’t seem to have even looked at my file. That annoyed me really.
They asked if I was ok and if I needed support with anything. I listed off a few things I was struggling with at the time and was told someone would get back to me. They didn’t. I rang back and left a message but never heard anything again."
How is life now?
"Actually, life is surprisingly ok. I managed to get a free pass to a local gym a few months back and I started spending all my time there. I met this fitness instructor and he sort of coached me a bit. Anyway, basically he’s helped me to get on this personal trainers course which I’m so excited about. It’s great to find something I love that can be my job as well.
I’ve got a great group of friends from the gym as well and things are going well at the moment, but I feel like I did most of that on my own so I feel quite lucky and quite pleased with myself at the moment."
How would you change the support for care leavers?
"I think they need some way to match workers and young people, you know, so people actually get what you are about. Then they need to actually keep in touch!
There’s a few online networks I’ve found but I found them myself so some more information would help.
I think mostly its common sense really. If you had your own child, you’d expect them to still need you well into their twenties wouldn’t you? Some of my mates still live with their parents now. I don’t have that option."
How effective do you think support for care leavers is in your area? We’d love to know.
Something that I have been interested in since my A-level sociology days began nearly twenty years ago, is how societies treat their most vulnerable and disadvantaged ‘groups’. It’s a theme that I pursued throughout my studies at university and then into employment.
Often society is judged by how its most vulnerable members are treated and you can read a range of stories, anecdotes, policies, action plans and strategies about how specific groups deemed to be disadvantage have been supported or about plans to improve the support for these groups in the future.
It’s not difficult to find these references and local authorities and well as central government frequently pledge to improve the life chances of key groups of people.
For the last twenty years I’ve heard phrases like “we are committed to tackling poverty and disadvantage for the most vulnerable groups in society” and pledges to “improve the life chances of the most vulnerable”, if you’ve worked in this field for a while, or even just had an interest in social care, you will do doubt have heard the same.
These are great lines, and don’t get me wrong, this is absolutely what needs to happen but why am I still hearing the same things said over and over? Where’s the progression? Where’s the dynamic action plan? Why are people in positions of power and influence not using that power and influence to shake things up a bit, and why are these phrases still being used like they are radical and forward thinking? They aren’t – we know that’s what needs to happen, what we want to know is how!
In the most recent Queen’s Speech a commitment was outlined that the government would tackle “poverty” and “deprivation” to “increase life chances for the most disadvantaged”. Yet it contained no mention of one of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged groups in our society: adults with learning disabilities.
Care providers have faced huge cuts in local government funding, despite wages rising, amounting to40% since 2010. This has meant packages of care have been withdrawn, services have ceased and families’ lives are of course directly affected in a negative way.
These services have been a lifeline to many individuals and their families. Having the right package of care in place to support, encourage and protect can mean the difference between living an exciting and fulfilling life as an active member of a community and simply, well, existing.
No one should have to go through life just existing. That’s simply not enough for anyone.
Now whilst I wouldn’t like to be the one balancing the books and I am acutely aware that giving funding in one area is likely to mean another ‘suffers’, surely the government can address the growing funding gap in social care and ensure there exists a quality pool of care and supported housing that can enable SOME of the UK’s most vulnerable people to live happy and fulfilled lives with the support they require to be active members of their community.
What is happening to Learning Disability services in your area? Have you observed this funding gap first hand? What has been the local impact?
Why compassion is so important in Health and Social Care delivery.... A service users perspective
I’ve always considered that compassion is a vital quality of anyone working in this sector. I’ve seen amazing work carried out by compassionate workers and I’ve seen significant disengagement from services users and clients in services where this is lacking. I’d like to share with you an interview carried out with a service user who was involved with both health and social care services for many years.
Can you tell me a bit of background around your involvement with health and social care services? In all honesty, I don’t remember a time when I haven’t had some form of ‘service’ in my life. When I was young it was the norm to have a social worker where I lived. You’d go somewhere and someone would ask your name, date of birth and social worker. It was a standard question.
I wouldn’t be unfair in saying that I don’t think any benefit was gained from just having a social worker at this time. I don’t recall any positive change.
I remember loads of different social workers as my mum fell out with them or they couldn’t handle her anymore. There was also a probation officer around for my dad for a while and we also used to have lots of health visitor home visits for my youngest brother who had really poor behaviour. They tried everything with him but to me it was obvious that he was just reacting to the turbulence that he was born into and that continued to exist at home. I left home quite young and had six months probably free of any services. I had a really destructive relationship with someone I met and ended up with a heroin habit. Not my finest hour. A school friend encouraged me to go to this NHS place and I basically walked into the reception when I was withdrawing and demanded a methadone prescription. Again, something that makes me cringe now but I was so desperate for help.
It seemed to take forever to get in there with an appointment but I eventually did and saw this drugs worker who was about the same age as my mum.
I’ve managed to avoid any other services since then, although after my baby was born the hospital tried to get social services involved.
During this time were there particular high or low points in terms of the support that you received?
The low point was the amount of change in social workers when I was growing up. There was no consistency, they didn’t seem interested when I tried to talk to them and it just added to the chaos.
The high point was meeting my drugs workers. I didn’t think it was going to go well as I thought she would try and behave like my mum but she didn’t at all. We didn’t even talk about drugs for the first session and she never made me feel as if I was being told off.
Are you able to reflect on the hardest part of this period in your life? What made this time especially hard?
The hardest part was probably being on my own before I met my drugs worker. I was scared more than anything. I felt so alone and things felt so desperate.
What support did you receive during this time from family, friends or any services you were involved with at the time?
I distanced myself from my family as they weren’t helpful. My boyfriend at the time ‘helped’ by giving me more heroin, so clearly that wasn’t the best. The only real help and support was my school friend who told me about the drug clinic.
What do you think is the most important quality that a health or social care worker can have?
Without a doubt compassion is the most important quality. It’s just vital, and to be compassionate from the start because those first impressions are crucial and set the tone for the relationship and how well things go.
Someone who is non-judgemental and just takes the time to listen to your story with a level of understanding that makes you feel you aren’t hopeless, or a lost cause is so important.
You need to be around people who can inspire you to change, not make you feel you are stupid for getting into that situation to begin with.
If you could change the way health and social care support was delivered what would you change and why?
I’d make sure that workers were better matched to service users. That is crucial I think. Give people choice.
There are so many overlaps, that I also think health and social care need to come together. I’m sure there is a lot of waste in terms of time and resources and communication between staff is really poor.
I also think that I’d encourage more work in the community, make services and staff more visible, less taboo. Again, it’s about choice and opportunity, but so many people can’t face going to a service and so don’t seek help.
I think I’d also make sure that every worker had training around how to treat people. You can’t teach compassion, but there needs to be some basic knowledge of what NOT to say and do at least.
I’d also make sure there was lots of work done in schools to change the perception of social workers as there is so much negativity and the cycle has to stop somewhere. Do you consider yourself a compassionate worker? How much importance do you and your colleagues place on this element of service delivery? Let us know!
Christmas has now officially started – the Coca Cola advert has just been on TV. Christmas is unlike any other time of year. For many, it’s magical, mysterious and joyful, a time for sharing and spending time with loved ones. It’s all too easy to forget that, for others, Christmas represents something altogether different.
The festive period can be a very challenging time of mixed emotions for children who will spend Christmas in a care home. Every child in care has their own story, a journey unique to themselves, and will respond to Christmas in their own way. It’s likely that the memories and sense of loss are heightened and harder to deal with at Christmas time.
But there is often a sense of camaraderie and a ‘we’re in this together’ attitude that can bring the children together and enable them to get through the season in a familiar way. A child’s joy can be infectious and even though they may wish that they could spend the day with their family, they come together to help each other through.
The care staff are so important in promoting this attitude. They have to be open to the fact that there is no norm when it comes to the way a child in care will cope with Christmas. The loneliness brought about by Christmas means that actually being there for the children as an emotional outlet, while not forcing things, is more important than ever.
The challenges for care staff are very real, but also very rewarding. Gone are the days when staff could invite children to their own family Christmas, but even if the festive period highlights the fact that these children aren’t living in the ‘normal’, pop culture ideal image of Christmas, the staff and the other children being there to listen and share with one another can be rewarding for all.
Despite the difficulties that Christmas can present to some children in care, many foster carers and children’s homes will be working tirelessly again this year to ensure these children are as happy and secure as possible. This is a tough time of year for them too as many of their regular staff take holidays and they are stretched to their limits. The sector needs passionate people, now, more than ever, if you would like to help children like this over Christmas, get in touch and we can get you ready for work in time for the holiday season.