So here I am, a Consultant at Neuro Champions which is a slight change from my previous role as a social worker. Social Work is an amazing profession and all social workers at some point in their lives have set out to help people however, today in 2018, being able to help people is becoming really hard.
Let's look at why……. I worked in frontline Safeguarding which meant that I would often meet young people when they first become involved with social workers and work with them to get support that would meet their needs. Recent years has involved services that social workers use, such as domestic abuse programmes, mental health services and substance misuse services become increasingly strained due to financial resources.
I could no longer make a referral and have a parent or child be seen by another professional or agency that could meet their needs and reduce the requirement for intervention. All of a sudden I was having phone calls with services and agencies about the length of their waiting lists, groups were no longer running and their funding basis was so narrow that families had to be in complete crises before any intervention could be provided – what happened to prevention? What happened to using an emancipatory approach and empowering families and children to manage their lives with support, advice and guidance rather than a statutory intervention?
This was rapidly disappearing and amongst it, social workers were often left to balance situation with very little or no resources available. The biggest impact of this situation was the lack of provision for children and young people. They were often left in a state of panic, confusion and massive levels of uncertainty and referring to a provision that they could access would always involve another long and arduous process and another waiting list.
I wanted to help. To talk and support them, take them out for a walk and a chat. I couldn’t. Not because I didn’t want to but because my caseload was growing on a daily basis and I had to complete essential paperwork including Court statements to ensure that the children on my caseload were being kept safe. The irony being I chose to go into social work because I wanted to do direct work and champion the Voice of the Child. Instead, I was sitting at a computer. Every day.
It was at this point that working in partnership with schools did not just become essential and part of good practice, it was indispensable to providing the children and young people with someone to communicate their feelings with in an environment that was safe. Great, problem solved. Unfortunately not.
Not all children and young people have regular and stable attendance or a school place in some cases. The schools that I did work with were also facing the same challenges, they were fire fighting to support their pupils but their resources were being reduced despite already being stretched. Teaching staff were no longer teaching, they were providing essential support for children and young people to talk and manage their emotions.
Pastoral staff were continuously run off their feet trying to attend statutory meetings to advocate for the children and young people in their school. This was simply a situation that was ready to hit crisis point and continues to be difficult situation for all schools, educational establishments and supportive organisations. Staff are continuously finding their roles expanding, being asked to do more and more with less and less help available but they continue to stretch themselves to capacity.
Suddenly, I found myself sending other professionals ‘Get Well Cards’ and text messages/emails as I began to attend meetings and conferences to be told ‘oh they aren’t able to attend, they’re off sick’. The impact of pressurising professionals doesn’t simply extend to their work life. It impacts upon them as people, their families and friends and their lives outside work.
It began to impact on my life. On my husband and more importantly my children’s lives. They were upset that every time I came home I would be getting my laptop out to do even more work or making important calls and every time I did this, I’d say ‘I’ll just make a call, I just need to finish this report, I’ll just finish this statement’. Every piece of information I wrote or recorded highlighted that children and young people needed support, they needed intervention. There was nothing available to meet their needs. It wasn’t long before I received my first ‘Get Well Soon’ card and text messages of support.
So back to my role at Neuro Champions. A programme that provides children and young people with a twelve week programme that is a preventative programme. Neuro Champions teaches children and young people about the brain and mental health. It gives young people the opportunity to talk. To communicate and to use art, digital skills and technology to share their feelings if it is too difficult to do this verbally.
Neuro Champions is an inclusive programme, irrespective of children’s needs, skills and abilities, there’s a place for everyone to learn, have fun and be part of an innovative and inspiring programme. Children and young people begin to learn how to acknowledge their feelings and emotions and their origins. It creates the chance for children and young people to manage how they’re feeling and have ownership of their feelings. Suddenly, school and staff are not managing as many crises and children can record their voices to be heard, rather than simply tick boxes.