Newly Qualified: The earliest of interventions

Winston Morson took a degree to further his career and is now responsible for pre-birth assessments.

Winston Morson is a social worker in Hackney Council's hospital social work team, based in Homerton Hospital. He qualified at Brunel University last July.

How did you get into social work?

I first entered social care back in the mid-1990s. I was doing an economics degree but dropped out. It seemed so far removed from people's day-to-day lives and I wanted to be involved in something that made a tangible difference. So I decided to make the switch to social care.

I started off in a home for young people with physical disabilities. Then I worked in children's homes with young people who had difficult backgrounds. I decided a social work degree was a good way to progress my career.

I've been working for Hackney Council since July last year and moved to the hospital team in January.

What does your work involve?

Most of the work revolves around preparing "pre-birth assessments". I work with mothers while they're pregnant and experiencing difficulties, which might involve substance misuse or mental health problems. Many of them are mothers who are experiencing domestic violence. We also deal with adolescents who have taken overdoses and we do joint assessments with community and adolescent mental health services.

What are pre-birth assessments?

We're trying to predict what is going to happen to a child after it is born. We use a lot of different tools to examine how secure or how good will be the attachment that these parents have with them.

We look at the circumstances in which the pregnancy happened, and what kind of preparations they've made for the baby. For example, if a child is due in a couple of weeks but there are no items for them at home, that might raise concerns.

What's the procedure if you decide the mother isn't likely to look after the child properly?

It's very similar to the process that exists for children, so there's a child protection conference, which works in the same way. All the professionals would come together with the parents to decide whether this is a child who needs to be in child protection.

In terms of my experience so far, there isn't a high proportion who go through to child protection. What's really important is that families can be proactive enough to support themselves and be able to use their own networks, such as relatives or church groups.

What are the most challenging aspects of your work?

Working with a child who has not yet come into being. Most of my experience before qualifying was with adolescents, so there were lots of opportunities to build up a rapport and relationship with them and get a good understanding of what they actually want. But with this job, you have to really think about what the child's experience is going to be like and get the parent to think in that way as well.

Is it harder being a man in this job and do you get much support?

It's difficult to say whether it's harder being a man. I've certainly felt supported in terms of being newly qualified. One of the things that attracted me to Hackney was that it has very high expectations of their workers. You're given a lot of support, but there's also a lot of expectation in return.

Any tips for other men entering children's social work?

As well as my work in social care, I've had a lot of other work experience, such as in retail, working as a recruitment consultant and in business. So I'd say to men who are working in one of those areas that a lot of the skills they're gaining might be very useful in social work. These skills include being focused on the person you're working with and persuading people to look at their options.

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