Ask the Experts: Youth centre social media policy

Colin Green, Jeanie Lynch, June O’Sullivan, Tracie Trimmer-Platman
Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Our expert panel offers advice on social networking for youth workers, social worker qualities, family support and safety at home.

Be professional and always use appropriate language, whatever the communication channel. Picture: Quka/
Be professional and always use appropriate language, whatever the communication channel. Picture: Quka/

Q. Our youth centre has a new policy that staff should not "friend" members on Facebook or any other social networking sites. However, an exception has been made for parents whose children attend the centre because they probably know some of the young people outside work. Does this make sense?

Tracie Trimmer-Platman: I can't see any professional reason why staff should maintain online, personal relationships with members. There are things about staff that members do not need to know and vice versa. A youth worker's relationship with young people must be strictly professional - they are not friends.

If there is a need for a social media connection then create a central page - one where everyone can contribute. This should be monitored and managed as a professional tool.

As for parents on Facebook - most probably prefer not to see what their own children and their friends get up to on social media. This is a management issue - the rules need to be clear and should apply to everyone.

Tracie Trimmer-Platman is senior lecturer in youth and community work at the University of East London

Q. I am leading a discussion with a group of social work students about the qualities of an effective social worker. What should I tell them?

One of the many reasons social work is such a demanding profession is the very wide range of skills, knowledge and personal qualities it requires. Social workers need to be compassionate, empathetic, friendly and helpful. Many service users have very difficult lives where they face discrimination and social exclusion so they need people in their lives who demonstrate these qualities.

Social workers need a strong sense of their own agency - a belief they can make a difference. They must also be resilient in the face of challenges including the adversities their clients face, hostility when difficult things need to be said and done, and when things go wrong being able to deal with this calmly and professionally.

There are many other personal qualities you could suggest but these should help get the discussion going.

Colin Green has been a social work practitioner, manager and leader, including director of children's services, in six local authorities

Q. I'm working with a family where there are multiple issues, including the risk of eviction, poor mental health and neglect. Mum is pregnant and desperate to support her children but is at her wits' end. How can I help?

Jeanie Lynch: This is where a multi-agency and joined-up approach, working with the whole family, is essential. A "team around the family" should be assembled by a lead professional and a common assessment framework process launched.

Who is the family in touch with at the moment? As well as gathering the views of family members, you need input from housing professionals, mental health representatives, schools and possibly even social care, depending on the level of neglect. Help mum to get support around her pregnancy via health visitors and her local children's centre, which will also provide a range of services for children under five.

Empowering the family to make decisions is key to supporting them into a more stable situation.

Jeanie Lynch has more than 20 years' experience working as a senior manager developing support for vulnerable children and young people

Q. We want to give parents whose children attend my nursery some tips on child safety. What do you suggest?

June O'Sullivan: Of all children, under-fives are the age group most likely to have accidents at home with falls, poisoning, burns and scalds the most common injuries. Most accidents can be avoided with vigilance and some good advice. However, you don't want to scare people too much.

Make a display that includes a diagram of a house, highlighting the risks in each area and sensible precautions such as locking away medicines and cleaning products and ensuring knives and sharp objects are out of reach.

Children should never be left alone in the bath. Also point out the dangers of wet floors, sharp corners, leaving things on the floor or stairs, and emphasise the importance of basic road safety.

Do activities about safety and risk with children at nursery such as teaching them what "hot" means and why hot and "don't touch" go together.

June O'Sullivan is chief executive of the childcare charity and social enterprise, the London Early Years Foundation

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