Practice Based Self Reflection
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During placement, I worked for a charitable, voluntary organisation that supports Asylum Seekers who were destitute. For the purpose of this essay, I will utilise a pseudonym for the client, which will be Sam, to ensure that her confidentiality is maintained. Sam has authorised consent and confirmed that I may use her experience as material for this essay. I have chosen to examine this intervention as it is based upon this service user's presenting issues upon point of contact. Firstly, I will explain the background of Sam's situation, to give you an idea of her story, and outline the agency involvement giving a brief description of the context and setting for their work, which will include relevant legislation and policies. Secondly, I shall discuss a substantial piece of work where I have met Sam on a number of occasions whilst working at the agency and demonstrate my theoretical understanding of critical reflection that took place during this intervention. Finally, I will discuss how my own values informed the work I undertook with Sam and will demonstrate critical reflection and the skills applied during this intervention and what I had learnt through this process. Furthermore, I will discuss how this had impacted on my own identity in practice and the effectiveness and the outcomes from this intervention.
Sam is a 31-year-old woman who entered the United Kingdom (UK) on a work-visa in May 2009 from South Africa. She is of a South-African ethnicity and has faith in Christianity. She is an intelligent, resourceful woman who has more of an advantage in terms of communicating articulately in English over some of the other clients I have met; who do not acquire the basic English language. This made communication effective and according to the National Association of Social Workers (NASW, 2000) it has been stated that "Cultural competence is a set of congruent behaviours, attitudes and polices that come together in a system or agency or among professionals and enable the system, agency or processionals to work effectively in cross-cultural situations" (NASW, 2000). Sam entered the UK with leave to remain until May 2010 on her work-visa, with no recourse to public funds, which means that people who are under this bracket are not entitled to receive help from the Government.
Furthermore, at point of contact Sam was pregnant and was in receipt of Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP). SMP is a contributory benefit based upon National Insurance contributions that Sam had prior paid whilst engaged in full-time remunerative employment. As such, it is not classified as a public fund as Sam was therefore at liberty to claim and receive this benefit irrespective of not being a UK citizen. According to the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP,2009) SMP is paid for a maximum period of 39 weeks, and unfortunately remaining Social Security benefits and associated support such as Housing and Council tax benefit were not available to her as they are classed as public funds. I was concerned from a safeguarding perspective as to Sam's welfare, especially keeping mindful that she was pregnant and that the weekly rate of SMP, £123.06, would be insufficient for her to meet priority needs such as rent, Council Tax and subsistence/living costs (DWP, 2009).
The initial referral came from a caseworker who works for the agency and at the Children's Centre. The agencies work in partnership. He approached me and raised concerns with safeguarding issues as mentioned above. However, a referral had to be made before the agency would accept Sam as destitute. It was essential that the referral was made as the agencies policies stated that they could only accommodate 4 people at one given time in the houses they owned across the City. The agency I worked for worked across two settings and worked in partnership in the City. It provides short-term respite accommodation for homeless and destitute women and men. Sam's circumstances were unique as unlike other residents, she did have a source of financial income, whereas many women did not have a fixed income and had to rely on charitable donations. However, in recognition of the fact that Sam was imminent to give birth and was homeless, the agency agreed to admit her in the short-term in the first instance, thus offering her security, shelter, food, water and safety temporarily. In the longer term, she was afforded a short-term licence agreement that ran until the 2nd December 2009. The agency was of the view that Sam would have to explore other avenues of support and accommodation. I advocated this procedure to Sam in a house meeting and found that she had yet to find alternative accommodation. I understood she was pregnant and that she was not sure where to start looking or what resources were available. I went back to the office and explained this to the agency. I researched and made phone calls on how I could advocate further help for Sam and made the support worker and colleagues aware that she was concerned about her well-being and from this knowledge, a panel meeting was arranged and the licence agreement was later extended until the 12th January 2010 due to the birth of Sam's daughter.
According to Cohen (2004) he states, "All persons have a right to well-being, to fulfilment and to as much control over their own lives as is consistent with the rights of others" which means that as every human being has fundamental values that they should be treated with respect and as individuals regardless of their circumstances. At point of contact, Sam was destitute, as she had separated from her boyfriend, who resides in Ireland. Sam had been residing as 'hidden homeless' which means that there is no accommodation that she is entitled to reside in or it is not reasonable for her to continue residing in that accommodation (www.crisis.org.uk, 2008). She was living in the City on a friend's couch, but had been asked to leave due to objections with the friend's landlord and overcrowding. It became apparent that Sam would require her own accommodation to return to following discharge from hospital once her baby had been born, and tenable longer-term accommodation thereafter. I met with Sam and built up a good working with her following the referral to the agency. I felt this because Sam would contact me at the office if she had any queries about the house and would ask for me if she wanted help or advice. We negotiated convenient times to attend house meetings and I felt she trusted me as she opened up about her personal experiences such as her experience with her ex-partner.
According to Howe (2008) 'relationship based practice is when relationship-gifted workers are interpersonally skilled and they make the most effective and human practitioners, whether the basis of their practice is behavioural, cognitive, task orientated, psychodynamic or person-centred'. Moreover, Trevithick (2003) argues 'relationship-based practice is at the heart of social work'. I felt working with Sam in a crisis intervention enabled me to engage with her as I aimed to reduce her stress by communicating effectively the next steps and open and honest with how long she would be able to reside at the accommodation the agency provided her with. I was genuine with her in terms of stating what the agency could provide her with and what resources were available. For example, Sam needed a pram, so we organised one for her and I reminded the support worker to drop this item off at the house as she had access to a vehicle. I also made her aware of the challenges she may face by living independently once the Social Services department provide her with an assessment and if accepted, I discussed the benefits that may be available to her, so she was aware of the process. This demonstrated significant levels of emotional intelligence, which means, "having self-awareness, emotional resilience, motivation of self and to instil in others. It also recognises the skill to have empathy and sensitivity, to be conscientious and intuitive regarding decision-making and also to know how influences and building up rapport with service users are important" (Goleman, 1996,p.2).
As cited in the British Journal of Social Work, it also underpins requirements for practitioners "to develop and maintain effective working relationships, to be able to reflect on my own background experiences and practice that may have an impact on the relationship" (Morrison, 2007, p.2). For example, recognising to self-disclose about my own independency only when it was necessary as I did not want to project or share my own values unnecessary as Sam's circumstances were unique to her and I understood that I could empathise with her however, only she would know how she feels in this situation. We discussed her feelings and she stated she was concerned about herself and her daughter, so I reassured her by getting in touch with the caseworker who had made the appointment with the social services for an assessment and to re-confirm when this would be conducted in order to see if she is eligible for the resources available. I explained the procedures to Sam, and she understood. She expressed her gratitude to myself and the agency.
As I met Sam on several occasions at the agency and on the day that she was accommodated into the house. I began to analyse her situation in greater detail because we needed to get her involved in the decision-making process. This means that service users are informed and involved in the decision that are made in partnership (O'Sullivan, 2005,p 135-136) and the effective way to do this, was to hold house meetings and discuss her accommodation situation in a comfortable setting. Saleebey, (2006,p.108) informed my practice in this intervention as he supports an empowering approach to social work practice as it focuses on clients strengths and potential rather than on the disadvantages and the misfortunes of their circumstances. He also recognises that the social worker is viewed as the 'expert' and that service users are viewed as the 'victim' of their own disadvantage. However, as his strengths perspective challenges the traditional anti-discriminatory and anti-oppressive practice it identifies aspects of structural inequalities as the significant element of clients situations.
Furthermore, Saleeby (2006, p.108) states the strengths perspective challenges clients to acknowledge that the social worker will represent them in the assessment and the intervention process as the social worker is viewed as the expert, however it also attempts to work in partnership with service users to support and gain services to meet their identified needs. The strengths perspective also focuses on the resilience of service users and aims to provide strategies to empower and promote positive outcomes for them. Furthermore, Beresford (2000, p.108) argues this perspective as viewing the service user in a one-dimensional aspect, which reduces their identity to essential categories such as 'elderly, disabled or black service users', thus resulting in the support of universal services to meet their needs. He also argues that service user's and oppressed groups should be involved in the design and delivery of their services to meet their identified needs and that service user's voices should be used in structure of theory and practice.
I felt that the strengths perspective engages with Sam's circumstances as the agency and I were the expert in providing the assessments and advice for Sam and worked in partnership with her to find her a possible outcome because the caseworker had contacted the Social Services and had an assessment booked in for her. He informed me about this and I contacted Sam and made her aware of the appointment and the assessment procedures.
Criticise the above and get evidence to state that another theorist states the su is the expert.
Concerning critical reflection, it is an integral part of social work as it is a route to provide efficient performance and enhances social work expertise (Adams, et al,. 2002, p. 1). They also critique that it enables social workers to question the knowledge and involvement with clients. During this intervention with Sam there were many occasions that professionals and I had to critically analyse Sam's circumstances in order to develop a plan of action that would meet her identified needs such as creating opportunities for her to take herself and her baby to groups so she could interact with other mothers at the Children Centre.
Put in values/reflect on self/what I learnt from this process/impact on own identity
Furthermore, I had arranged appointments for her to seek assistance with her receiving help and advice in relation to her visa options with a caseworker who worked for the partnership agency. The partner agency dealt with all persons from abroad and people who required legal advice regarding their visas. The outcome was that she should return South Africa and then re-apply on another work-visa and or commence work again in the UK and then apply for the visa to be extended. Sam did not want to take up any of these options, as she did not have the money to leave her new born in a child care facility. She also stated she did not want to return to South Africa because her parents were not aware that she had a baby and because she is of a strict religious background. She stated that her parents were likely to arrange her marriage to an old man that she had said "no" to on several occasions when she was living in South Africa. It seemed her parents had power and control over her life.
Put in power and anti-oppressive practice theories hereâ€¦ Values, non-judgemental, empathic
I discussed and arranging convenient house meetings to discuss her options in taking the next step. Therefore, I asked her to contact Right Move estate agents and private property owners to see if she can find herself long-term accommodation for her and her daughter. Adams et al (2002, p.1) states critical reflection can sometimes be transformed in our own understanding, thus changing the part of the situation by enabling the client and the professional to reflect on what has occurred. For instance regarding Sam, she did not want to call and arrange appointments because she stated when she initially looked for a room in a house share, that the landlord of the property stated that the tenants already residing in the house did not want a mother with a baby living at the property. Therefore, this disempowered her in seeking other properties. At the house meeting, after Sam and I had further discussions we looked online for flats and we found several studio flats she could rent. She did not want to make the phone calls, so in order to empower and enable her in doing this herself for today and future reference. I made the first phone call and then handed her the telephone as she did not have credits on her phone and encouraged her to query about the properties in the same manner I had done. She queried the availability of these properties, however after finding that the landlord wanted a deposit, one as to Sam could not afford, the only solution was to seek refuge from the Neighbourhood Office and present herself homeless. She would then be put up in a shelter. I learnt that this process was going to be challenging and more reflection on this matter would be necessary.
What is more, critical reflection can be 'deconstructed and reconstructed' to give us access in advancing our practice. Therefore, this continuous process provides good practice and development. Yip (2005) "encourages social work students to undergo self-reflection as it is a process for self-observation, self-evaluation, self-dialogue and self-analysis". Furthermore, he states, "under the appropriate conditions social workers can reflect constructively which, results in enhancement". Whereas, he also critics on the basis that if "social workers were under inappropriate conditions such as lack of supervisory sessions, hostile environments, then social workers would not be able to reflect constructively and this can create problems for the professional and personal development of the social worker".
However, Schon, (1983) describes 'reflective practice as a non technical, non rational process which means that he is keen to make sense of the relationship between professional knowledge and practice by knowing-in-action. This is when thinking is understood in what we do, also he states 'reflective in action is where thinking is conscious but does not interrupt or actions' and reflection on action is where thinking takes place after the event in order to understand our actions, predominantly in why we acted and what we learnt from this action'. Eraut (1995) critiques Schon's theory as he states that "a practitioner cannot reflect in action as you leave the space, if not physically, certainly cognitively" Furthermore, Fook and Gardener (2007,p364) argue that critical reflection is the reflective practice which focuses on the power dimensions of assumptive thinking and therefore how practice might change social situations'. Although, Ixer (1999, p.513) argues this concept of critical reflection and argues whether social work programmes should be assessing reflection at all".
Overall, reflecting on this intervention allowed me to assess and analyse Sam's situation thoroughly because of her uniqueness to the agency as she had no recourse to public funds, which made it challenging in assisting her find her own solution. However, communicating effectively and working in partnership with her and the agency employees empowered Sam in coming up with a resolution for her to follow through. As social work, values have unique contributions to social work practice and assessing critically ensures that social work perspective and social work values contribute fully to the provisions of care. Furthermore, the ability of social work will depend on more than knowledge and skills; it is also about recognising practice that is mutually required in negotiating
work with various organisations and professionals. Moreover, the ability to effectively communicate and contribute will also depend on the self-esteem and the status of the social worker. In addition to this, being able to effectively research and apply effective education will be found more reliably in the ability to improve the quality of the service users and carer's experience of assessment and it's outcomes. This is because professional competence in assessment requires critical analysis of self in practice and these development of skills and knowledge base are required to become an emotionally capable, objective practitioner.
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