Drive to recruit more social workers for children in care

Published Thursday, 4th May 2017
Rebecca Brooks
Rebecca Stocks

Being a child or young person can be hard - but being in care brings a whole new dimension to having it tough,

Imagine not having a mum or dad to come home to; someone to share experiences with, to have fun with and make memories with, someone who can provide unconditional love, comfort and encouragement when it is needed.

Luckily for most children and young people having someone who cares about them is something which they rightly take for granted.

For some however, their experience of childhood is just not the same.

Despite attempts by social workers and other professionals to focus on family strengths to build safety, stability and success, some children and young people are not able to remain with their birth family and will need to come into care.

This can happen as part of an agreed plan but it can also occur in a crisis, without agreement and requires the intervention of the police and the court.

So, when children come into care it is often following neglect, abuse or family breakdown which represents significant harm, disruption, loss and separation. This can be very a very scary, confusing and traumatic ordeal which can haunt them for life.

It is vital therefore that any social worker assigned to support children and young people in care have the skills to establish a rapport and build a trusting relationship that demonstrates empathy and understanding, in order to help them settle, have a sense of belonging, thrive and reach their full potential despite the issues they have to face.

Now Rotherham Council is looking for more permanent staff to join its Looked After Children’s (LAC) Social Work Teams in order to help these children.

Rebecca Stocks has worked for the Council for many years as a social worker, spending the last three of them in a LAC Team before being recently promoted to an Advanced Practitioner.

She said: “When I worked in other areas of social work I found it frustrating that I never really got to know the children for longer and to build up proper relationships. That’s why I applied to work in the LAC Team when a vacancy came up.

“Now I really get to know the children I work with and share experiences with them that I never had the opportunity to do before and this is a really rewarding experience. It is essential for social workers in the LAC Teams to build relationships with each child as this is central to being able to ensure they are safe, well and getting the best they can out of life.

“You get to see the child’s journey and are able to progress, develop and shape this. You get a chance to play a key role in influencing that child’s life as you work directly with them and the other important people in their life.”

Rebecca is now working with a 13-year-old boy who she first met when he was just 11. He had learning difficulties and as a result he had been placed in a specialist residential school. “When I met him it was like he had been in a bubble. He had no experience of real life and he had limited contact with different people. His school was out of the local area and so this limited the contact that he had with his family too,” said Rebecca.

“He was desperate to do things other children do, including going to a mainstream school and living with a family. So, I listened to his views, wishes and feelings and consulted with his family and other professionals to find him a local foster family who could meet his needs, both emotionally and behaviourally. He is now in a local special school, but I am hopeful he will be able to attend a mainstream school soon. The changes I have seen in him are just phenomenal. From a child who barely said anything he now regularly attends dance and drama groups and has become an army cadet.

“I am so pleased for him and his family as he has been able to get a much better chance in life, and this has without doubt transformed his future chances. It is children like him which makes me love my job so much. I can’t recommend working in a LAC Team highly enough. It really is amazing.”

Looked after children and young people who are leaving care, remain some of the most vulnerable people in society. Nationally, the number of children subject to care proceedings has increased over recent years with the majority entering care due to abuse or neglect.

Compared with their peers, looked after children often have poorer outcomes in relation to education and their emotional and psychological well-being. Many experience enduring isolation, instability and continued vulnerability whilst in care. Despite improvements in the care system, many young people go on to have poor experiences when they leave care including in relation to poverty, housing and employment.

Due to the promotion of existing social workers taking up new Advanced Practitioner positions, Rotherham Council now needs to secure more permanent LAC Social Workers to help give the borough's looked after children and young people better life chances.

Ian Thomas, Director for Children and Young People’s Services at Rotherham Council said: “In the last year we have successfully recruited a number of permanent staff to our social work teams. While our agency staff play a crucial role, there is no doubt that permanent staff help to maintain stability within a service and ultimately this leads to more stability in terms of relationships with our looked after children.

“That is why we want our children to get the best service possible from our staff. At the end of the day we are the corporate parents for all our children in care, so like any parent we want all of our children to have the best possible start in life, despite the broken backgrounds they may have come from. So come and join us here at Rotherham Council at this pivotal time in our journey towards excellence.“

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