The Implications For Social Work Practice Social Work Essay
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Published: Mon, 5 Dec 2016
What are the implications for social work practice? What more can social work as a profession do to actively promote an education agenda for looked after children? What might an individual social worker do?
There is an inherent barrier between social workers and looked after children and young people. This has been formed over time because of a number of factors, firstly the turnover of staff makes it near impossible for children and young people to form relationships with the social worker, reducing their confidence in discussing issues that may be of a great concern to them. The status alone of a social worker’s can prevent some children from wanting to discuss matters because of the societal stigma attached to having a social worker. The stigma is not something that social workers alone as professionals can eliminate, society can and only when society accepts that social workers are doing positive work, and start to learn about the positive work they are doing, through the media and other resources. Then we can start to break down the stigma attached to social workers and enable all individuals to have the confidence of discussing issues with their social worker.
Staff turnovers within children services have been high and highlighted in the media on numerous occasions (ref). To reduce the turnover, staff need to feel confident in the work they are conducting and safe from media scrutiny when the problems lie out of their hands.
The caseload they have could also be investigated to ensure that the number of cases they have does not start to affect their practice. When there are particular cases that are quite complex and need lots of time allocated to, meaning other cases may be neglected.
In 2010, the Ofsted safeguarding and looked after children national results of the children’s social work practitioners survey stated that social workers caseloads are unmanageable and because of an underlying ethos of disciplinaries, those who were struggling with their workload were too frightened to say that they could not manage. To enable a change within this area of social work, management and Local Authorities need to look at a different approach to caseload work, and to facilitate their staff to have the confidence when they cannot manage the caseload they have (Children, Schools and Families Committee, looked after children third report, 2009).
Social workers who work with children and families also need the best possible training and support to meet the usual and complex demands of their work. Looked after children, their families and carers need to know that the social workers whom they are working with have the right skills, knowledge, and experience to help them through often complex situations. Since 2008 the Children’s workforce Development Council has focused on ensuring social workers have more support within their role in children’s services. Social workers can embrace this change to ensure that they can stay within this area of social work. The opportunities of training will enable more experienced social workers to remain in children’s services.
Looked after children have a number of needs that must be met to ensure their educational outcomes can be achieved. Recent legislation (Jackson et al, 2002) has attempted to address the factors that can contribute to successful educational outcomes including stable and consistent care, regular attendance at school, if they miss any school to catch up so they are at the same level as their peers. Research (Children, Schools and Families Committee, looked after children third report, 2009) has shown that looked after children and young people need support from their carers whether foster carers or carers within residential homes in all areas of their lives. The carers need to understand the importance of education so the child can have educational opportunities in the future. They also need to be informed by social workers about the financial support that is available for those children who are not reaching expected standards of attainment. The paper Care Matters: Transforming the Lives of Children and Young People in Care (2007) proposed new initiatives and recommendations including agency links between adults’ and children’s services to ensure that professionals within the departments ensure they see the family as a whole. To implement a tired framework of foster carers that work at different levels of need. To implement new recruitment changes of foster carers so those with more experience and higher qualifications are suitable for those children who have more needs to meet. Social workers are responsible for placing looked after children and young people within placements that match. Having more understanding of the importance of education both as individual social workers and as a profession will enable them to highlight how important it is to their possible carers.
The reasons why young people in care are in need of educational support are because the Local Authority is the corporate parent social workers should advocate for them like they would their own child. As Local Authorities have a legal duty to promote the education of children in care, specifically children in care because of the research (Jackson et al, 2002) that shows the number of looked after children who considerably underachieve at school. Research has shown that (Jackson et al, 2002) a good education can help provide a basis to enter adulthood successfully (Children, Schools and Families Committee, looked after children third report, 2009).
To ensure that young people in care attend school social workers must promote the value of a good education. Discuss with the young person their ambitions, expectations and achievements like any other “parent” would. The Children Act (2004) states that Local Authorities are required to ensure appropriate education provision can be provided before the young persons placement starts, unless in an emergency. Social workers are also required to support those care leavers who have entered higher education until they are 24, and until 21 otherwise. Social workers need to continue to promote the education of looked after children, be available to give advice and support to professionals as well as family, the child and their carers.
Social workers must also promote a stable environment for the young person in care. Jackson and Thomas (2000) maintain that stability is universally seen as a desirable goal in relation to looked after children. This is because staying in the same place lets children to recover from separation and adverse experiences, it provides them with the opportunity to make new attachments. Jackson and Thomas (2000) argue that if they are of school age, it will probably allow them to progress at the same school, enabling them to keep their friends and stay near to their usual environment.
Stability gives children the opportunity to learn, to feel they belong to someone and to be nurtured. When children cannot have stability in the place where they live, it is important for them to have consistency as far as possible (Jackson and Thomas 2000). For example maintaining the same school and social worker are very important.
There are many reasons why children change placements. There can be changes to the child and family’s circumstances. Sinclair (2005) suggests that when foster care breakdown has occurred lack of social work support may have contributed to placement breakdown. Unless looked after young people have the stability to form relationships, engage within school and have educational achievements how can social work as a profession promote entering tertiary education when the basics of meeting the child’s needs are not available. Within research (Children, Schools and Families Committee, looked after children third report, 2009) there seems to be a lack of focus on education and achievement of looked after children from the earliest point. Children do their best when there is stability and consistency. Giving education a priority seems too risky. Most social workers would place the child nearer to the family rather than to keep the stability of the child’s education. When making these decisions around placements social workers and management seem risk averse, they focus on the child’s present situation not taking account of the long term impact of how much a good education can offer.
There has often been a short sightedness within social work of looked after young people leaving care at an early age of 18 when legally the Local Authority is still responsible for them until 21 or until 24 if in higher education. In 2008, of the young people who left care aged 16 or over, 39% were aged 16 or 17, and 61% left on their 18th birthday (Department for education, 2008). The average age of young people not in care who leave home is 24 (Care matters, green paper, 2006). Some looked after young people may have chosen to leave care at the earliest possibility because the time spent in the placement has been so miserable. But they should still be given the option to stay within care until the Local Authority is no longer legally obliged to care for them. Do parents stop being parents at 21 or 24? Why should the Local Authority be able to stop and cut off their support that the young person has relied upon.
Consequently, those looked after young people who are particularly vulnerable who have been supported hopefully positively by social workers and carers who when the child turns 18 are no longer entitled to benefits to accommodate them, its only on their good will the young person is then expected to cope with life with very little help and support (Children, Schools and Families Committee, looked after children third report, 2009).
As a profession and individually social workers need to recognise that young people will transition into adulthood at different times and in different ways. Many may take to it easily and enjoy the independence it brings, some may find it harder and need extra support. Social workers should show more commitment to reducing the age gap of those leaving care and those young people whom leave their families homes independently (Children, Schools and Families Committee, looked after children, third report, 2009).
The White paper care matters (2007) introduced new schemes which addressed the number of looked after young people who were leaving care too early. These included the Right2BCared4 and Staying put. The right to be cared for allows the young person to make decisions around leaving their placement, with the Children and Young Persons Act (2008) a looked after child has to have a statutory review before they are moved from a care placement. The staying put scheme allows a looked after young person to stay in foster care until 21.
If young people in care have the desire to continue their education and enter higher education then social workers should support them as much as possible to help them achieve their goals. The main implication for social work practice is arguing for resources. If you help one young person in care get resources for extra tutoring, like most parents are now seen keen to do can we help all? Whether it is fair or not within different Local Authorities young people in care are now offering more than others, the postcode lottery could mean going onto further education, getting a better job or finishing care early and coping on the fringes of society. Some would argue that it is unfair to offer an assessment, but as long as the social worker can evidence the different needs then why should they not argue and advocate on behalf of the young person like any other parent would, especially when the young person is particularly bright, if not given the help these are the individuals who would be hurt the most.
When the young person in care has decided that further education is a goal they may find it difficult to enter University straight away because of their psychological state. Not everyone who has not in care enters University at 18, because of age limits and support available until a certain age young people in care are given a time limit of when they can enter University. As a profession social work can promote the possibility of entering University at an older age and highlighting to the Local Authorities and Governments that they can be available for support until the young person has finished their University course.
The practical arrangements of entering University can be that daunting that some young people in care may decide it’s too much. Unlike others who can go home when time term has ended, where can the young person in care go? Who takes the responsibility to provide accommodation during this time? Social workers should understand the benefits of further education. Therefore employ the role as advocates on behalf of all young people in care to highlight these potential problems and how to overcome them, for example work with foster carers to be able to provide accommodation on short term basis whilst not at University, Investigate into other young people in care within the Local Authority accessing tertiary education and see what voluntary organisations can provide if resources are low.
Social workers should also promote the approaches other countries use, as they have a higher amount of young people in care accessing tertiary education, it may be that the style of social work could change. Social work may have to employ more resources into residential care, some of the most vulnerable and challenging young people in care are accommodated within residential care, why should these individuals have fewer opportunities than those who are easier to place and care for. They may also have to be more involved with foster carers and families to ensure that they understand the importance of education, and its potential benefits if the young person has good educational achievements.
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