Social work in difficult times
Monday, March 23, 2020
In the midst of what has been a very difficult few weeks, Covid-19 promises to impact us all both in our daily working lives and personally over the coming months.
I want to wish you all the very best in the work you are doing to continue supporting the most vulnerable children in our communities, and our education system being at the heart of keeping the country running. It’s encouraging to see so many people keen to share ideas and best practice and I would encourage all of you to keep an eye on the ADCS website that is hosting a range of useful resources.
Here in Essex, we enjoyed World Social Work Day, on 17 March, celebrating with a day of team activities embracing the theme of the importance of human relationships! The ‘Hundred Acts of Random Kindness’ posters sent to each team were well received. Indeed, in just one afternoon, last week, one team raised £220 for the Chelmsford foodbank!
Social Workers do vital work to support our children and families through building strong and positive relationships, but they rely on good IT systems to back-up and report the outcomes of this work. So, for the past few years we have been advocating for government to take a fresh look at the system and recording standards for social workers, and now with so much remote working being required, IT will have grabbed everyone’s attention.
Recording, in some shape or form, is necessary in most professions, but in social work it’s essential to keep children safe and help them understand their history. That said, if social workers are spending too much of their time on recording it reduces the amount of time they can spend working directly with children and families, so the quality of any case management system, and its implementation, can have a significant impact on the quality of social work.
Even before Eileen Munro’s review of child protection in 2011, the difficulties and limitations of the Integrated Children’s System requirements were well known, and it was no surprise that we, like BASW, have found that more social work time is spent servicing that information monster than is spent on direct work with children and their families.
Despite the impact of austerity, which has halved our budgets since 2010 while at the same time the level of need in our communities has risen significantly, I know that many local authorities are doing a range of things to better support social workers and to make sure they aren’t overly burdened with administration, including investing in their IT systems and in dedicated administrative support teams. So, it was good to find that when Vicky Ford, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Children and Families, visited Essex recently, that she shares a keen interest in technology.
In my last ADCS blog, I wrote about how the latest developments in technology might have an impact on social work and in November last year, along with a handful of other local authorities, we were contacted regarding helping DfE Digital get involved - the pace of progress has been staggering. This work sits alongside other cross-government projects and now that we have the directive for staff to work from home if they can, we should see a new levelling of platforms focused on the needs of our users.
Finally, please continue to follow the government guidance available and keep well.
Helen Lincoln, executive director, children, families and education, Essex County Council. This blog first appeared on the ADCS website