Additions to our toolkit

Edwina Grant
Tuesday, October 13, 2020

I am sure we all agree that we are currently living in unprecedented times, impacting on our vulnerable families, children, and young people possibly more than any other group of people.

I am so proud of the way our social workers, and all of our children’s services workforce, have risen to the challenge of supporting our vulnerable families during this unusual time.

With the restrictions placed up us, we have been able to learn valuable information, for example many staff have enjoyed the opportunity to work remotely. Colleagues have commented that greater flexibility, balance in their lives, less travel, and the trust and positive support received from managers has been greatly appreciated.

Some staff have taken the opportunity to access more training opportunities, now available virtually, which often fit their lives in a more flexible way. Colleagues have also reported health benefits and greater productivity. However, we remain mindful that this is not the case for everyone, and have made sure that wellbeing, and emotional wellbeing in particular, is always on the agenda.

Working from home can be isolating. It has been more stressful for some dealing with situations in different ways. People who have had to balance childcare and work, experienced IT issues, or those who live alone, have particularly found the new ways of working difficult.

Our local government staff have felt the challenges just like everyone else, but they have mainly remained motivated and positive, however hard this has been. From virtual brew breaks, to quizzes and newsletters, they have been aware of their colleague’s ups and downs and have really looked out for each other. Sometimes just picking up the phone instead of sending an email can really help.

We have seen the impact of less face-to-face contact with our children, young people, and their families. Children’s social workers and others who support families across all the regions are working creatively within the current restrictions to find new ways of keeping in touch. Physically distanced meetings in parks and gardens have worked really well and have often been a necessary link for some struggling families and young people.

The virtual experience of meetings, visits, direct work and supervision has been positive and provided efficiencies, more focused work, improved engagement from partner agencies, and increased our contact with some families.

Family support workers have been keeping in touch, visiting in person (as much as they safely can) and virtually, to maintain contact and provide support to the families that have clearly needed it.

It has been lovely to see staff develop their confidence and skills, embracing new ways of engaging children and young people and learning what works for different groups. For example, sometimes older young people may not have credit on their phones, but if they can get a WiFi connection (and they often can!) they can receive calls and messages through WhatsApp, with many preferring this increased virtual engagement.

Some of the younger children struggle to engage with video calls, so practitioners have grown their ‘toolkit’ of questions and games to keep them engaged and develop these relationships.

There is no doubt that Covid-19 has had an impact on us all. It has allowed a degree of connection to our common humanity which has helped in our interactions. Even the most challenging of families can appreciate the efforts and work our staff have been making to maintain a relationship, keep in touch and provide support. These new and innovative ways to connect are welcome additions to our toolkit.

Edwina Grant is executive director of education and children’s services at Lancashire County Council and chair of the ADCS health, care and additional needs policy committee.

This blog first appeared on the ADCS website

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