Friday, 23 May 2008

Developing social work practices for looked-after children

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It's clear that, despite the commitment and skill of social workers, looked-after children are poorly served, writes Cathie Williams. Social workers and children feel undervalued - and the fact that both groups feel this is no coincidence. Children and young people are clear about what they want from their social workers. This includes: consistency, someone they get on with, someone about whom they have some choice, and someone who is not so stressed that they leave to be replaced by agency staff.* While social work practices might not provide all the answers, it has to be worth piloting different ways of delivering social work. Four key themes emerge which sum up what social workers and managers like about the proposed practices. First, the idea of ownership, particularly co-ownership with trusted colleagues, is a key motivator. Second, the chance to develop social work practice and have the focus and space to do this. Third, most social workers do the job to make a difference, and joining a practice might be a way of achieving this. Finally, social workers can see that it works better for children and young people and for social workers themselves if decision-making is closer to both of them. And what might a practice look like? Imagine children and young people not going to the council offices, but to a building that is designed for them - perhaps one they have been involved in choosing or fitting out.

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