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ÂŁ3.25 Social Work News Magazine

April - June 2019 issue


The spotlight on your profession



Ashley John Baptiste

Digital Life Stories

Charity Spotlight

We interview BBC journalist, Ashley John Baptiste about growing up in the care system.

Find out about a new initiative which is digitising traditional life stories.

Our charity focus this month is Embrace, a children’s charity supporting victims of crime.

Social Work News

Contents April - June 2019 issue



Ashley John Baptiste

Digital Life Stories

This issue, we interview BBC journalist, Ashley John Baptiste. Ashley tells us of his experiences growing up in the care system.

Find out about a new initiative which is digitising traditional life stories – making them ideal for the Millennial generation.



Social Work Circle

Difficult Conversations

Our social worker explains why she thinks that working in adult social care is never an easy choice.

Dealing with end-of-life care is always difficult. In our exclusive feature, we find out how you can make these conversations easier.



Mental Health and Football

Chief Social Worker for a Day

Sport can play a big part in resolving mental health issues. We find out about a unique football project taking place in Wales.

You let us know what you would do if you were the Chief Social Worker for Children and Families for a day.



Charity Spotlight

Book Review

Our charity focus this month is upon Embrace, a children’s charity which supports child victims of crime.

We look at some of the latest social work textbooks which are available for social work students.



Have Your Say

Disguised Compliance

You let us know your thoughts and comments on social work topics in our regular column.

Jadwiga Leigh explains why it’s so important for social workers to move away from the term “disguised compliance”.

Social Work News - 02

Social Work News


foreword Welcome to the latest issue of Social Work News.

This month, we’re focusing upon ‘aspiration’ and ‘positivity’. There is much to be positive about within the social work profession. We want to use our magazine as a platform to share stories and initiatives which celebrate fantastic social work practice. This issue, we have an exclusive feature interview with Ashley John Baptiste, a BBC journalist who grew up within the care system. If you’ve seen any of his insightful interviews (and we highly recommend that you do), then you’ll know how passionate he is about ensuring that we give children and young people, hope and aspirations and encourage them to pursue their passions. Ashley’s story is hugely inspirational, and we hope that you enjoy our exclusive interview with him on page 06.

James Rook

Meet the team

As always, we like to bring you details of new initiatives and projects relating to the social care sector. This month, we’re highlighting how a new organisation is changing traditional life stories (page 10), as well as sharing information about how a dedicated mental health initiative is transforming lives through football (page 18). Our charity spotlight this month looks at “Embrace” a national children’s charity which supports child victims of crime. It’s an interesting concept and they explain more about how they are working with social work teams across the UK – you can find out more on page 22.

We are genuinely excited to hear about so many unique projects, and it’s always inspiring to hear case studies of how social work teams are using these resources to support and inform their practice. If you’re aware of any specific initiatives, or charity groups who are making a real difference to children or adults – please let us know. We’re always looking to cover stories relating to community projects. Simply email Finally, we’re thrilled to announce the launch of our brand-new social media platforms. We want to engage with our readers far beyond the magazine, so please join us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @myswnews where you can keep up to date with our news and articles.


James Rook,

CEO, Sanctuary Social Care

Andrew Pirie,

Owen Dye,

“We’re always working hard to bring you positive examples of great social work practice and it’s fantastic to see so many projects coming directly to us, letting us know how they are supporting their communities."

"This issue we have covered more projects than ever before and I hope that it sparks some inspiration and creativity amongst our readers to see just how dynamic the social work sector can be.”

Marketing Director

Art Director

Amy Dawson, Contributing Editor

“This issue is possibly our most inspiring one yet. Having the opportunity to speak with Ashley John Baptiste was a huge privilege and I’m sure that our readers will find his story hugely inspirational.”


0333 7000 040 |

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0333 7000 040 |

News bites Key news stories and announcements.

Deaf children are being failed as grades lag behind those of their peers

Schools set to teach children about the dangers of Female Genital Mutilation

The National Deaf Children's Society is warning of a ‘lost generation' as research has shown that those with hearing loss are falling a whole grade behind their peers.

Secondary school pupils in England will be educated about the dangers of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in a radical shake-up of relationship and sex education classes.

The research found that the average GCSE grade for deaf children is 3.9, which used to be known as a grade D. For a child without special educational needs or a disability, the average grade is 5 – previously known as a grade C.

Education secretary Damian Hinds has said that he believes it is important that children and young people are taught about the support that is available and that FGM is against the law.

The falling grades are in part due to the lack of SEND funding available to each local authority and Susan Daniels, the NDCS Chief Executive, has warned that it could take “up to two decades to address the gap.” If you are a regular reader of Social Work News, you’ll know that in our July/September 2018 issue, we ran an exclusive feature with the National Deaf Children’s Society. In our interview, we delved into the many issues faced by deaf children and explored how social workers can provide effective support. To re-read the previous interview, simply visit

He says: “We know that FGM can have a catastrophic effect on the lives of those affected, causing life-long physical and psychological damage. Everyone must do all they can to protect women and girls from this extreme form of gendered violence." The NSPCC estimates that 137,000 women and girls are affected by FGM in England and Wales, whilst 296 FGM protection orders have been made since July 2015. As well as FGM, secondary school pupils will also be taught about other forms of honour-based abuse, as well as grooming, forced marriage, and domestic abuse.

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News bites

Virtual Reality could provide professionals with a “deeper understanding of trauma”

The training involved participants using VR headsets to visually experience the common scenes that could lead to children entering the care system.

Research has shown that the introduction of Virtual Reality (VR) technology could improve the support that social work professionals offer to children in care.

When questioned, 91% of participants stated that they felt the virtual training could change the perspective of both carers and adopters. 84% of participants felt that the VR training could help them to make decisions more quickly.

Analysis of a research pilot led by Cornerstone Partnership across 30 councils discovered that training using VR headsets could help solve complex problems. More than 500 professionals took part in the pilot, including social workers who focused their perspective on carers and adopters.

Additionally, 60% of social workers who took part in the pilot said they felt it had boosted their understanding of the experiences children have gone through. Read more about Cornerstone’s VR technology,

New Chief Inspector of Adult Social Care, Kate Terroni, announced at CQC

New pilot scheme will see Mental Health checks for Looked-After Children

Kate Terroni has been unveiled as the new Chief Inspector of Adult Social Care at CQC.

A new Department for Education pilot scheme will see mental health assessments take place for Looked-After Children as they enter the care system.

Her appointment follows the interim appointment of Debbie Westhead, who had been in the role following the departure of Andrea Sutcliffe in December 2018. Kate has had a long career within social services and joins the CQC after working as Director of Adult Social Care at Oxfordshire County Council. She is also co-chair of the ADASS workforce network. “I am passionate about putting people who use services and their families at the heart of everything we do. I believe that we can improve outcomes for people through ensuring the availability of good quality care and that we regulate in a way which encourages services to integrate around the individual.” Kate will start her new role in May 2019. For more information, simply visit

The new initiative will run over the next two years and is designed to spot any mental health problems at an earlier stage. The assessment will focus on building trust between the professional and the child. A common barrier within current tests is the difficulty in engaging young children to talk openly about their feelings. The pilot is led by a consortium consisting of the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families (AFNCCF), Action for Children, Child Outcomes Research Consortium and Research in Practice. The project will initially run in nine locations across the UK: Brighton and Hove, Devon, Doncaster, the London Borough of Merton, North Yorkshire, North Tyneside, Salford, Staffordshire, and West Berkshire.

Share your news! Simply email if you have a story you wish to share with us. Social Work News - 05

"We need to make sure that every person who leaves the care system has a high sense of self-worth" As a BBC journalist, Ashley John Baptiste regularly provides detailed insights and commentary on all aspects relating to the care system. As someone who grew up within the care system himself, Ashley understands the importance of working with Looked-After Children to give them the same opportunities as their peers. We speak exclusively with Ashley to find out his thoughts on the care system, and how social workers can effectively support young people to achieve their dreams and aspirations.

In previous interviews, you’ve regularly talked about wanting to create “a new normal for foster children and for those growing up in the care system”, could you tell us more? The care system has changed a lot since I left it at 18 years old, ten years ago. But when it comes down to encouraging the aspirations of a Looked-After child and the stigma that is attached to them, there is still a lot of work to be done. I believe that we need a society where a Looked-After child has the same opportunity as any other child; where they can aim for any career without feeling that their background is going to hinder them. We need to work hard to adapt the system so that it is human, emphasises love and gives everyone access to opportunities. When I’ve talked about a ‘new normal’, I want this to mean that there should be no limitation on what children in care can achieve, what university they can attend and what life chances they can have.

"There should be no limitation on what children in care can achieve, what university they can attend and what life chances they can have." Children in need of help and protection are five times more likely to be excluded from school, and three times as likely not to be in education, employment or training after the age of 16. In your opinion, what factors can influence positive outcomes for these young people? In my view, there is huge inequality across the board. We need to work to create a level playing field. Statistics show that only six percent of those with experience of the care system go onto university or

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Higher Education. A higher proportion of those who are homeless, or are in prison, have come from a care background so it’s clear to see that things can be improved. I believe that the care system has done a fantastic job, but there are areas for improvement – for instance, we need to make sure that all children in care have access to the same opportunities whether they are living in a rural area or an inner city. For me, a key aspect is focusing on work around aspirations. It may sound simple, but I truly believe that more work can be done in this area. When I was 15 years old, I was fed the reality that I would be leaving the care system at 18 and would need to start thinking about independent living. The immediate reaction to this was fear and a sense of urgency. The pressure of such independence

The Big Interview

at a young age made it much harder for me to dream big and think that university was a viable option as I knew that I needed to live as an adult. It's brilliant that this is starting to change; with the implementation of the Stay Put policy and more foster carers looking after young people beyond the age of 18, and helping them to access university and Higher Education, things are looking up. We need to make sure that we’re feeding young people with the narrative that they can do wonderful things in their life and that they don’t have to feel that they are stuck. One thing that always stuck with me was an opportunity I had to visit a summer school at Cambridge University. It was this visit which gave me the insight that I could go to university and I think that collectively, we (whether that's local authorities, social workers or other professionals) could do more work to take children and young people outside of their everyday environment and help to spark their visions and their aspirations. We need to help them understand that these opportunities are open to them if they work hard. I believe that this could really help people progress in their education because if they have a vision, they'll make it work. When I was younger, I had a string of exclusions and suspensions before my GCSEs but that visit to Cambridge was a complete game changer for me. I wanted to do anything I could to make it work. In many respects, applying to Cambridge was a huge leap of faith. People like me didn't occupy places like Cambridge, so it was a really big thing to have the confidence to apply. I remember being invited to an open day, and unfortunately, my foster carer couldn't come with me. My social worker at the time decided to come with me on her day off and this was the best thing that could have ever have happened. Everyone else was there with their families, and having her by my side made me feel like I had an aunt with me. In that instance, she went from being a professional who was simply doing her job, to someone who felt truly invested in me and my future. That human touch in going above and beyond to help me pursue my dream and show that they believed in me made such a difference.

How much of your approach to life is down to the influence of people who have helped you whilst in the care system? For me, there is a range of different factors. When you're growing up in care, you're dealing with a wide range of issues and grappling with your identity. I was extremely fortunate to have some incredible people around me. I remember, when I lived in a residential care home, I had a key worker called Lyndon who would literally force me to go into school every day. If it wasn't for someone like him, I wouldn't have flourished in the education system. He created a culture for me of getting up and going to school and I'm incredibly grateful to him for that. I also grew up in an atmosphere where my faith was really important. It gave me the mindset of having

"In that instance, she went from being a professional who was simply doing her job, to someone who felt truly invested in me and my future." potential, and my faith helped me to take my life seriously. It gave me a strong sense of self-worth, which is very difficult when you're living in care. I found that when I started to take myself seriously, I began to attract a similar sort of people. Once I decided I wanted to go to Cambridge University, I had to find friends who would support me and encourage me to work hard. Not everyone bought into this so I did have to change my friends. I always say to young people to choose friends who will support the life that you want to live. That will make a big difference to you achieving your goals.

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In your experience, what impact does having so many temporary homes have on a young person in care? And how did you adapt and still manage to hold on to your ambitions despite the lack of permanence and stability in your life? For a long time, I didn't have any ambition. I was truly a product of being shunted around the system.

The Big Interview

Despite what I've achieved, I was never that kid. I was never tipped for great things. I was kicked out of school at the age of seven and I was on my final warning at my secondary school. I was fortunate that things shifted at the right time for me. Without those shifts, I wonder where I would have been. For a long time, I was under-achieving and not engaging with my school because it was an ongoing battle. I didn't trust the authority or believe that anyone cared about me. When you're living in care, if you feel that every part of authority is pushing you away, it's very difficult to trust them.

"In my view, we're definitely having the right conversations and change is taking place." University. It’s easy to say the right words, but when there are no actions, they can easily sound like platitudes. As a child in the care system, if you have a social worker who is prepared to go above and beyond, it can make the world of difference.

You’ve spoken about the continuing emphasis on adoption, to the detriment of those children in care who will never be adopted. What can social workers do, to ensure that these children feel like they are listened to, supported and have someone to be inspired by? I think about my social worker who gave up her weekend to take me to the open day at Cambridge

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My social worker stood out because she went that extra mile to support me. I remember at the open day everyone was there with their families, and I'm not sure I would have had the confidence to attend on my own. She was absolutely brilliant, she made

The Big Interview

me feel comfortable and gave me the confidence to approach anyone. I still remember what incredible support she was to me on that day.

In your experience, both as someone who grew up in care and as a journalist, where could the Government make the biggest difference in supporting those growing up within the care system?

do anything they want to do and that they are not inhibited by growing up in the care system. This is why we need to break the stigma of care and reaffirm their potential that they are as capable and significant as any other group in society.

Half the people who grew up in care in the UK have children who are taken into care. What steps do you feel need to be taken to break this cycle?

Undoubtedly concrete steps have been taken to improve the system since I left care. As a journalist, I've covered stories about the Care Leavers Covenant and seeing how people can gain access to training and apprenticeships. I think it would be brilliant if we can start to see stories about these people going into permanent full-time employment.

This is something I have personal experience of, as my mum grew up in the care system. In my view, it all comes back down to opportunity and aspiration. If a young person has grown up in care and all they know is rejection, then it's something that they will, unfortunately, pass down to their children. The choices we make are based on what we know, which is why opportunity and education are so important.

In my view, we're definitely having the right conversations and change is taking place. What's most important for me, is that every single person who leaves the care system is given a high sense of self-worth. I want people to believe that they can

We need to equip all young people with a strong education. We need to empower them to make better decisions and we need to inspire them to believe that they can achieve things beyond what they currently see. We also need to get them to

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consider what they are passionate about and help them pursue these passions. If we want to improve life changes, we need to establish a root in education and goal setting and look past the immediacy of leaving the care system.

You’ve been described as a role model and an inspiration for care leavers to strive for success, how does this make you feel? It's an honour to be regarded in that way. As a BBC journalist and also a Cambridge graduate, I'm very aware that I'm in a space which is very rare for a care leaver. I hope that by breaking into these spaces, which could be conventionally viewed as only for the privileged, I'm practising what I preach. If I could pass on any message to any person who has grown up in the care system, it’s that no dream is ever too big. By virtue of what I do at work, I hope other people can believe that they can achieve an education and go to university or Higher Education. I hope that they believe that they are worthy of any opportunity and that great things can happen if they are prepared to work hard.

Walk a mile

“It’s a form of digital social work” As children’s social workers find themselves under greater time pressures than ever before, we find out how a Suffolk company is transforming the ways in which life stories can be presented to Looked-After children.

As an experienced former children’s social worker himself, Jeremy Jayasuriya is in a unique position with the launch of his new company, Walk A Mile. Specialising in the filming and creation of digital life stories for Looked-After Children, Jeremy has been able to combine his years of social work experience with a new innovative approach to social work. “I see it as a form of digital social work” he says with a laugh as he sits down with Social Work News magazine to discuss his new venture over a coffee. “We’ve established a new model which not only creates bespoke life stories with the young person in mind, but it frees up valuable time and effort, allowing social workers to concentrate on other pressing matters. What’s not to like?” Indeed, the Walk A Mile package certainly offers something new and innovative for social workers to trial. Launched last year, having been under development for two and a half years, Walk A Mile is a novel way of creating a personal life story for children and young people living within the care system. As part of the package, Jeremy and his team (who have a mix of social care and videography experience) can work alongside social work

professionals to capture life stories on film – offering a refreshing alternative to traditional scrap books. “Life stories are such an important intervention tool for practitioners because they really allow the child to gain a sense of their own identity and understand where they came from. Unfortunately, from personal experience I know how labour intensive these books are. It’s also a fact that they can often get damaged when they are presented to a child who may be in some distress. I wanted to be able to create a newer version which would not only speak to the child effectively, but could be something which they could access at a later date.” As a result, the Walk A Mile team have been able to create an exciting new cost-effective model which allows social workers to outsource the development of the personal life story. When working on a project, Jeremy and his team will initially work closely with the social worker to arrange any interviews and finalise logistical details, before taking over the full project management. Once the life story is completed, the social worker is provided with a full video on a USB stick which is also stored digitally in a secure location within the Cloud. This

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approach allows the social worker to step back from the minutiae of the project, freeing their time to concentrate on other tasks. Thanks to the team’s social work background, Jeremy is confident that Walk A Mile differs significantly to videos which could be outsourced to other creative agencies. “Because we’ve worked as social workers ourselves, we know exactly what this tool is used for and why it’s so important. It’s this understanding that gives us the sensitivity to deliver the end product. As part of our process, we take the time to speak directly with the child because it’s their story that we are telling” It’s an approach that he is clearly proud of; during our interview, Jeremy discusses how they understand the “different rhythm” of each child. During the production process he works closely with his team to choose the right style of editing and music to ensure that the final package is meaningful to the child. Creative Director and videographer, Natasha Jayasuriya points out that they deliberately keep the final footage natural, eschewing a “stylised or overproduced” approach. She believes that one

Walk a mile

"For one of our videos, the person watched it 15 times in one day, and showed it to all of his friends – it really was a significant part of helping him to understand who he was." of the key benefits of their input is that they are “not part of the system.” As a result, she finds that people are much more willing to be open because they know that the filming crew are completely independent of the social work team. When questioned about how they ensure interviewees feel comfortable talking on camera, she says that they take the time to explain to people how the filming process will work whilst they are setting up their lone camera. “Because we tend to chat away whilst we’re setting up, it feels very natural once we’re ready to get started. Of course there are always going to be occasions where someone doesn’t want to be filmed and that’s never a problem. We’ve a variety of creative ways which allow us to still include that person, even if they are not directly on camera.” Jeremy believes that digital life stories will become increasingly popular as an option for social workers

as it’s a way of speaking the same language as the child. “Children today are very digitally minded. It’s what they are growing up with, so we need to adapt to these new ways of communication. Having film footage where they can watch their family members, hear their voices and see their body language can resonate with a child so much more effectively than a scrap book. For one of our videos, the person watched it 15 times in one day, and showed it to all of his friends – it really was a significant part of helping him to understand who he was.” From a social work perspective, using a team such as Walk A Mile could be a very efficient way of ensuring that a valuable piece of work is completed to a high standard. As the team have years of social work experience behind them, they know exactly why the video is being produced and what value a life story can have to a child. They can also provide

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an extremely fast turnaround. Depending on the number of interviews required and the locations involved, the digital stories can be completed in as little as twelve weeks! In Jeremy’s view, life stories are vital for those living within the care system because they provide a sense of identity. He says: “Every social worker will have a different perspective, but for me, life stories are a tool which allow a child to know where they came from. These are children who, no matter what their age, have lost everything familiar to them through no fault of their own. As social workers we try to ease the transition into a new structure but it’s not easy. We need to prepare the child, and life stories are a valuable part of that process.”

Want to learn more? If you’d like to learn more, visit the Walk A Mile website, where you can watch a sample video. For more information about how you can work with the Walk A Mile team, please contact Jeremy directly on 07769 297060. Alternatively, please email

Social Work Circle

Working with adults isn’t an easy option! Our social worker challenges the notion that working with adults is an easier alternative for social workers. When you think of later life social work what springs to mind? I recently met a former colleague at a conference. During a break, we exchanged pleasantries and told each other about our current roles. She had just secured a job working with children’s services. I told her that I was a senior practitioner in a later life team. Immediately she tilted her head to the side and smiled an ‘aww’. Initially, I was puzzled by her response. It was only when she said ‘that must be great’ that I cottoned-on to what she meant. Sadly, it was the end of the break and she disappeared before I could challenge her. When I discussed this with colleagues, we concluded she thought later life work is an easy option. Perhaps she thought we worked with sweet little old ladies and drank tea all day. I wasn’t completely surprised. When I was completing my training, social work students had to select their specialism after the first few weeks. Those opting for the children & families option was far out-numbered those choosing to work with adults. Children & families work was considered the pinnacle of social work and far more exciting than working with adults, which was viewed negatively. Unfortunately, that view is still prevalent. I regularly have to challenge professionals I work with, because of casual ageism and wide-ranging assumptions about older people. I recently attended a residential home, following a safeguarding referral, to discuss two residents who had started a sexual relationship. Amidst the talk of capacity and consent, the biggest hurdle was challenging the staff who felt it was wrong. The reality of later life is very different. Typically, later life covers people from the age of 65. Sometimes it

can be as young as 60. These days, people are living well into their 90s. The images of an elderly woman with a blue rinse and a walking stick are outdated, patronising and irrelevant. The truth of later life social work is that it requires a unique blend of skills and knowledge, together with a healthy dose of resilience and a thick skin. I often work with people who are experiencing both chronic and acute mental illness, including depression which often goes unrecognised in older people. One GP told me recently, that a client of mine ‘was bound to feel low’ simply because of her age. In later life, mental illness often gets translated into ‘dementia’. Physical illness is often a contributory factor towards a referral to local authority services. Family disputes, bubbling away under the surface for years, often reach crisis point when a person becomes ill and more dependent. That, added to mental and physical frailty, can create a ticking time bomb. Suicide remains a real risk for many older people. Service provision, in my experience, is flawed and often not fit for purpose. Ever tried finding 24-hour care for someone aged 70 with a functional mental illness? Or day care for someone who doesn’t want to play bingo all day. Or a bed on a forensic unit. That mix of physical vulnerability, mental illness, isolation and family breakdown mean that, for example, services for adults of working age, are inappropriate. It’s not quite a cuppa tea and a chat that often later life social work gets labelled. If you’ve never considered a later life social work job, I urge you to rethink. It is endlessly fascinating, challenging and frustrating. It is never dull and is hugely rewarding.

Join our Social Work Circle and become a guest contributor. Do you have a passion for writing? If so, we want to hear from you! We’re always looking for new contributors to write articles for our Social Work Circle. If you're interested, please email

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Managing difficult conversations during end-of-life care Managing difficult conversations is a core part of any social work practice. But when you're working with a family who is facing a bereavement, what considerations are needed? We speak exclusively with JJ Nadicksbernd, the National Lead Facilitator for Difficult Conversations, who gives us some insight into how social workers can improve their communication skills when faced with an end-of-life situation.

The ability to manage difficult conversations is a core skill for all social workers, but why is it so important when faced with an end-of-life situation? We know these conversations are imperative to one having a good death. This is for the person dying but it is also for those close to the dying and their bereavement.

Should social workers alter their communication style when speaking to patients and their families? Everyone has their own style and that is okay. The approach may be different, but not always. It is best to treat each person individually as there is no one right way of communicating. It’s what works for that person at that time.

You've recently worked in partnership with Kings College London to look into how communication can be improved, and it was noted that discussions around the end of life, before the person passes away do not always take place, or if they do, they are poorly conducted. Why is this? Fear. I think fear is the number one reason, but also this feeling of helplessness. We are afraid of the emotions we anticipate the person may have, but often we are afraid of our own emotions. Dying is not something we talk about as a society, but also, in my experience, social workers go into the profession to help others. When someone is dying, they often feel like there is nothing they can do. That

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helplessness doesn't feel good. I challenge them to look at it differently, as one can still help the dying in a lot of ways, including communicating with care and compassion. The research with Kings found when professionals engaged in experiential learning, ‘Difficult Conversations', there was increased knowledge, skills, and maybe most importantly to combat that fear, confidence to have these conversations. It found multi-professionals valued an interactive group learning, in a safe environment, and appreciated receiving a communication framework to use. It is not just social workers struggling with these conversations and professionals do value coming together to learn from each other.

Do you think this is because on a societal level, as a Nation, we are not comfortable talking about death or bereavement?

Difficult Conversations

Should we be doing more to facilitate these conversations and open up discussions about bereavement? Yes, it is a Western taboo, talking about death and dying. It is something very personal and it comes with many beliefs and emotions, emotions we do not always want to address, so instead, we often avoid. Death and dying is something very personal yes, very individual, yes, but it is also universal; we are all going to die someday. I hope we can take comfort in this commonality.

How important is the choice of language when embarking on an end-of-life conversation? I believe the way you say something (verbally and non-verbally) is more important than the exact words you speak, but what you say is still important. I cringe when I hear people say, ‘Sorry, there is nothing more we can do’ or ‘I understand what you are going through’. There is always something more we can do (comfort care, listening, etc.) and no one really can understand what it is like for that other person. At Difficult Conversations, we have a dedicated workshop that covers this in more detail with lots of example phrases to use.

You have a dedicated SCARS® framework which is aimed at structuring difficult conversations. Can you tell us what this is, and how social workers can use it to improve their communication skills? Having a communication framework can be helpful, especially in anxiety-provoking situations.

SCARS® is easy to remember, and it helps remind you how to have a compassionate and successful conversation. A quick overview: • Setting; Be sure the time is right and offer privacy • Communicate with kindness. Focus upon good open body language, eye contact, active listening • Ask for permission and for his/her understanding • Reflect back what was said. Ensure that you respond to emotions and what was said • Summary of conversation and plan going forward

If a social worker knows that they need to have an end-oflife conversation with a person or their family, how can they adequately prepare to ensure that they are ready for the interaction?

Ideally, get some training! Alternatively, peerbuddying or reflection with a mentor using a framework can be helpful. For example, many people appreciate having a framework like SCARS® to use so they don’t forget a step. Go through the framework mentally, as well as the details of the case to prepare. If possible, have a go practising in a safe environment with a colleague.

What advice would you give to an NQSW who is faced with managing a difficult conversation for the first time in their career? You can do it! Remember we’re all human and have challenging conversations all the time. They are hard, but not impossible and can be very, very important. Prepare, take a deep breath, and go for it. These conversations are difficult for us all, but they do become easier with practice.

to respond or what I should say next, then I’m not really being present and I’m not really listening and I am missing so much!

How important is body language when during difficult conversations? What should social workers be aware of ? Most of our communication happens through body language, so yes, it is important! Be aware of what your body is communicating. Keep arms and legs uncrossed, nod your head to communicate understanding and to keep the person sharing, maintain good eye contact, etc. Also included here is the pace and the tone of voice.

You offer a wide range of training workshops to help practitioners improve their skills. What training A lot of communication is is available and how can non-verbal. How can we improve our listening and other social workers find out more communication skills to ensure information? We offer evidence-based experiential training, such that we are communicating as as on how to give effective feedback, empowering effectively as possible? Try having a conversation where you do not speak. Ask someone to share with you a personal loss; it could be a pet, a person, or even a job or home, it doesn't have to be about death. Give the person 5 minutes to share it with you. Your job is to just listen to the other person and to communicate through your facial expressions, your open body posture, and your eyes. Afterward, ask the person how s/he felt. It is amazing how much goes on in our heads when someone is talking to us. If I am thinking about how

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change through conversation, and end of life care planning and communication skills. We have full details of our training opportunities on our website.

Find out more If you would like to learn more about the wide variety of training courses on offer, please visit alternatively, email

Sanctuary Social Care.


“We Wear The Same Shirt” the Welsh football initiative making a big difference to tackling mental health Across the UK, there are many sporting initiatives which are designed to support mental health. This issue, we speak with representatives from the We Wear The Same Shirt initiative, which is led by the FAW Trust and supported by Time to Change Wales. The project is a unique football programme designed specifically for people with lived experience of mental health.

For those suffering from mental health issues, the stigma surrounding their mental health and the discrimination that they may face can often be as debilitating as the illness itself. With physical activity a proven factor in improving mental health, the "We Wear The Same Shirt" initiative is an exciting way of facilitating sporting access for people living with mental health problems. As part of the project, six football clubs (Wrexham Inclusion Football Club, Newport County AFC and Newtown AFC, Cardiff Met AC, Haverfordwest County AFC, and Cambrian & Clydach Vale FC) have offered dedicated coaching sessions...with a twist. Unlike many other sporting initiatives, many of the coaches themselves have been affected by mental health problems and have received help and support from social services.

“All of our 15 coaches came to us as players with mental health difficulties. One of our coaches hadn’t left his house for five years unless it was to visit his GP. He arrived at one of our sessions one day when he felt like he had hit rock bottom. Five years on, he is a highly qualified coach and travels the world playing and coaching football.”

Speaking of the initiative, Wayne Greenshields, Team Manager of Wrexham Inclusion Football Squad says: “We offer people the opportunity to change their lives through football. Not everyone likes going to see a counsellor but can be persuaded to play football. We have seen so many people – men and women – turn their lives around.

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Wayne and his counterpart Norman Parselle, Community Development Officer at County in the Community (Newport County AFC) have taken time to speak exclusively with us about what the “We Wear The Same Shirt” project is about, and how social workers can get involved in similar initiatives across the UK.

Mental Health

Statistically, one in four of us will be affected by mental health issues, and it’s a known fact that suicide is the biggest killer amongst men. Why do you think it’s so difficult for people to ask for help when they are struggling or to talk about how they are feeling? WG: "I personally believe the 1 in 4 ratio is a myth; a number not possibly near the true identity of the problem. In my opinion, the number is much higher and is only masked by people's ability to hide their feelings, emotions, and tendencies. The stigma attached to men is huge. Famously we do not talk; to our partners, each other, our friends. It is embedded into us as we grow up to be manly, macho, provide, protect, don’t show fear or be scared. So how are we then meant to be able to show emotion and express our feelings? Initiatives such as football therapy, men’s sheds or lads and dads groups have seen a huge rise in men accessing their deeper feelings and sharing with each other. I believe that we are almost re-educating ourselves.” NP: "I believe a lot of men think it's a sign of weakness to ask for help and it's obviously not. I also think some men don't know where who or how to ask for help/support which is another separate issue which needs to be addressed."

Many of the coaches involved in this project have been affected by mental health issues and have previously received support from social service teams. What support have you been able to give to help them achieve qualifications and change their lives? NP: "We have both male and female coaches at our WWtSS sessions who have severe Mental Health problems. They deliver 90% of our sessions currently and have had support over the last 2 years to gain the relevant qualifications and experience. Two of our coaches who have paranoid schizophrenia have attended five different qualifications (FAW Leaders, First Aid, Safeguarding, Disability, and FAW UEFA C Licence)." WG: "In Wrexham, our project is based upon a cycle which involves every single coach and peer mentor within our club, who has been a service user, and still can be. This offers them greater insight and understanding as well as the necessary relationship building tools to help them mentor and support others. We work hard to ensure that our coaches and mentors are given huge amounts of support to follow this path. For instance, we offer our coaches access to football leaders, safeguarding training, first aid training, disability training, diversity inclusion training, C Certificate training, conflict resolution, therapeutic intervention and problem-solving

amongst others. As a club, this can cost us between £500-£1,000 per coach, and as we have fifteen coaches, it's a considerable investment but we believe it's worth every penny."

How do people find out about the initiative, and what work are you doing with social work teams to recruit people? WG: "We have many referrals, and successful ones at that, from our social work team in Wrexham as well as other areas. We actively recruit through the use of social media, through our website, and through drug and alcohol intervention programmes. We also work extremely closely with homeless shelters, social workers, care homes and citizens advice to promote the project as much as we can. When we work with someone new, we can tailor entry packages of support, through meetings, slow entry or minibus pickups. We can even offer reduced rates for carers on trips – we do what we can to help people get involved."

This particular project has been established in Wales thanks to the FAW Trust and investment from Sport Wales and UEFA. What can social work teams in other areas of the country do to promote a similar initiative? NP: "The best way by far is to go along and see for yourself, the football itself is a carrot for people but the whole project really is a lot more." WG: “It’s important that we spread the word far and wide and help people understand that while football

can help, don’t be caught short thinking that it’s just football. This project can be so much more to men and women who can share moments of praise and pain, win and loss, emotions and feelings and offer them safe ways to express these. I would also like to emphasise that multi-agency working is paramount to the success of these programmes; work together, work hard and work for each other – you might not only change a person’s life, you could save them.”

What participants say about the project... “I always loved football but couldn’t stop using. I found the club when I was at my worst and I don’t mind admitting that it saved my life.” “I didn’t leave the house. I had no mates, no qualifications. Five years on, I’ve travelled the UK and Europe, I’m the head coach of our disability session and even managed and organised a whole trip to Ireland.” “I was an angry person when I found the club and only concentrated on football. Peer mentoring and learning opportunities taught me about life and the bigger picture. I got injured and relapsed, but I'm back on the straight again now – I'm coaching in two sessions a week and I manage teams at tournaments occasionally. I now know that it is me that makes me who I am and I own my mistakes." “I joined the club two years ago. I was very nervous and came from a few bad years in my life which made me question everything. I still have anger but I get that there are consequences to my actions. I coach as much as I can, due to work commitments, which I’m proud of, and I also have the chance to travel to Mexico in November 2018 to represent Wales in the Homeless World Cup.”

Want to know more? For more information about the We Wear Any Shirt initiative, simply visit or contact the FAW Trust by emailing you can also call on 01633 282 911

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What would you do if you were Chief Social Worker for a day? Last issue, you let us know what you would do if you were Lyn Romeo, Chief Social Worker for Adults for a day. This issue, it’s time for you to let us know what you would do if you were Isabelle Trowler, Chief Social Worker for Children and Families. Once again, we had a terrific response. Here's what you had to say.

What would you do?

If I were Chief Social Worker for Children and Families for a day, I would…. “Make it easier for Newly Qualified Social Workers to get on to the ASYE program” Sheradean, Ashford “Spend the day with a child and do just what they would like to do, to show me their world” Eileen, Birmingham “Implement a dedicated task force to deal immediately with any allegations of abuse or neglect using all services available without delay or obstruction” Stewart, Dundee “Share positive social work practice and stories” Kerry, Portsmouth “Ensure that a mental health worker was available for social workers every day in each Local Authority” Amy, Southend On Sea “Spend time with student social workers and frontline workers” Laura, Leicestershire “Make sure we listen to children using imaginative means through formal processes” Marion, Mansfield “Use the media and social media to make a clear statement that there are not enough social workers to keep our children safe” Marion, Fife “Ensure that children’s safety and wellbeing is enhanced via inter-agency working to ensure the child’s need is being met” Swinder, Bedfordshire

“Allocate administrators to back-up social workers directly so they can spend more time with families and less time on administration” Julie, Cardiff “Ensure all social workers have mandatory training in trauma and trauma-informed working” Anonymous “Meet with frontline social workers and accompany them on a CP, CHIN and CLA visit. I would include frontline workers in strategic and policy meetings and working parties focused on best practice. I would also establish an early intervention and prevention multi-disciplinary team who would be paid well. I would train workers in circle of security and record contact sessions to play back to parents as a teaching aid” Sheila, South West “Negotiate with the central government for much-needed funds for children’s services and deliver a positive campaign for the retention of staff with financial incentives for staff. Prioritise the independence of IRO's to enable them to make robust and honest evidence-based challenges” Tina, London “Be more visible and go on local radio answering questions” Michael, Doncaster

“Take time to look at what is working well and ensure this is happening across all Local Authorities. I would also speak directly to social workers about the positive work they do every day” Cheryl, Herts “Look at how to support parents to look after their children” Satwant, Wythenshawe “Make all managers right up to Chief SW carry two/ three caseloads” Isabel, Fife “Allocate an independent advocate for every child that we work with, to ensure that our work is child centred at all times” Pamela, Isle of Man “Restructure national management of child protection” Derek, Aberdeenshire “Raise permanent staff salaries, recruit more social workers and child and family support workers. Provide a nice play area in each building for parents to bring their children, provide parent support groups and youth support groups. There are gaps in the way the system supports young people and parents. Instead, we penalise them for something they had no knowledge on in the first place” Sofia, Hampshire

What would you do if you were Lyn Romeo for a day? In the last issue of Social Work News, you let us know what you would do if you were Lyn Romeo, Chief Social Worker for Adults for a day. If you missed out, then you can still catch up via our digital edition which can be read online at

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Charity Spotlight: Embrace At Social Work News, we love being able to profile some fantastic charities who are working alongside social services teams. This issue, we are shining a spotlight on Embrace – a children’s charity which provides support services for child victims of crime. We speak to Chief Executive, Anne Campbell to find out more about the work they are doing, and how social work professionals can benefit from their services.

Embrace provides support for children and families who have been victims of serious crime. Can you give us a breakdown of the types of support you offer? Our young victim care officers provide a personalised and dedicated service and will work with the child, their parents/guardians and relevant frontline professionals, following a referral, to identify the best support package for them. Our ‘high volume’ support tends to be provision of uplifting experiences – Christmas gifts or funded theme park days or similar – or practical support, for example funded uniform/sports kit or hobbies for those from low income households. For the most serious cases, or for those areas where we are commissioned and funded, we can provide access to counselling or another specialist therapy.

You were originally set up as a police response to raise funds for child victims of crime, but

"It’s our ambition to co-ordinate child victim care services in all parts of the UK." over the last 20 years you’ve evolved into a fully functioning children’s charity. How are you funded and is your work specific to locations in the UK? Embrace is a relatively small national charity, so it’s important that we can prioritise our funds and ensure that they are being used for children who otherwise cannot access that support locally. We are primarily funded through small grant funds, corporate, group and individual fundraising. It’s our ambition to co-ordinate child victim care services in all parts of the UK. This requires our services to be commissioned and funded, for example via Police and Crime Commissioners. Where this is happening – currently in some London boroughs, in Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire – we can deliver

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our fullest range of support packages, tailored to the individual child and family. As an example, in Cambridgeshire, we provide nowait access to CBT counselling and other specialist therapies (play, art, equine). We are always looking for new fundraising opportunities!

You work with child victims of a wide range of crimes, but you’ve recently reported an acute rise in referrals specifically for those affected by sexual abuse. Why do you think there’s been such a sharp increase in need for support for this specific crime over the past 12 months?

Charity Profile

alternative support. Each case is different and so we spend time working to identify what type of intervention that we can offer may be suitable.

When you receive referrals, what information are you looking for which would enable you to take on a case? Could you share any advice with our readers who may be interested in making a referral? Referrals to Embrace are based on consent and can be made through our secure online portal. It is vital, in order to progress, that all referrals made are high quality and contain all requested details. In practical terms, that means including relevant personal details and contact numbers, a summary of the case and the type of support sought. We ask those referring to ensure they have completed all sections of the referral form and, for self-referrals, we ask for the details of the police officer or social worker in the case. In terms of prioritisation, this depends on the circumstances of the case. For example, we have provided CCTV cameras for a woman and child at risk of domestic abuse when the perpetrator had been released from prison – Embrace stepped in when no one else would. This was organised within 24 hours of the referral.

In the past year, we have seen an 8% increase in referrals for sexual violence in all its forms, and a more than doubling of requests for counselling in relation to those. Some of this, we know, is because our commissioned services have increased referral pathways – so, aside from traditional police referrals, we receive referrals from frontline professionals working in health, social care and education.

different crime types. We partner with Relate and so can, in most instances, find an appropriate match if the child has been identified as suitable for therapy.

In addition, our popular Dear Santa campaign – which sees strangers purchases requested gifts – received many such referrals. Our services can help cater for the needs of trauma associated with sexual crime, often complementing other services locally.

You have traditionally received referrals from the police and MASH teams, but you are now expanding your reach to work alongside social work teams. How do you prioritise cases to ensure that you are focusing on those in the most critical need?

Your work is unique in that you can provide no-wait access to counselling. How are you able to offer this and what do you have to support those in need? Embrace has a growing network of associate therapists across the UK who specialise in child therapy, and in managing trauma associated with

However, it’s important to underline that we’re a charity and we cannot compensate for the provision of local services. We are a safety net, as opposed to a primary service provider, outside of those areas where we are fully funded.

We prioritise those referrals from partner agencies such as the police and Victims Hubs. Each case is triaged for suitability to our service or services. For example, some referrals are not suitable for counselling at that time, but we would seek to offer

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Clearly your work is timelimited for all your cases. If a referral is accepted, what can social workers and the child expect in terms of support? An Embrace worker, usually a Young Victims Care Officer, will make direct contact with the professional. This is to discuss the case further and identify, collaboratively, what package of support may be suitable. Some areas of support can be instant – practical support for example. Counselling requires time to find a match and is time limited to 6 – 12 sessions. Other support, such as our annual peer group support trips to Disneyland Paris (for the whole family) are ring-fenced for the most serious cases, and only take place at certain times of the year.

Find out more information If you’d like to learn more about Embrace, please visit or simply send an email to

Book Giveaway

Discover the latest social work text books We like to share details of social work text books which can help to improve your knowledge and understanding of social work theory. This issue, we’re taking an exclusive look at the “Critical Study Skills for Social Workers” series which have been developed to support social work students. As always, if you would like to be entered into a free prize draw to win the books mentioned in this issue, please send an email with your name and address to

Studying for your Social Work Degree

Critical Thinking for your Social Work Degree

Jane Bottomley, Patricia Cartney, Steven Pryjmachuk

Academic Writing and Referencing for your Social Work Degree

£14.99, Critical Publishing

Jane Bottomley, Patricia Cartney, Steven Pryjmachuk

£14.99, Critical Publishing

This is the first book in the “Critical Study Skills for Social Workers” series and has been designed to be a support aid for students as they begin their undergraduate social work degree. Using a mix of theory, case studies and practical tasks, the book is a practical tool as it introduces readers to the skills required as you commence your study.

£14.99, Critical Publishing

The latest book in the series, “Critical thinking for social worker” builds upon the approaches taken in the previous books with chapters on the foundations of critical thinking, reflective practice, critical reading and critical writing.

The book emphasises key skills including learner autonomy, critical thinking and reflective practice – key areas which are highly valued in the social work profession. Whilst the book is predominantly aimed at undergraduate students, the authors have included several advanced skills sections for those heading towards post-graduate qualifications.

This book is a companion piece to “Studying for your Social Work Degree”. Written as the second book in the series, “Academic Writing and Referencing for your Social Work Degree” is a practical yet informative guide for social work students. It allows readers to understand what is required of them when writing assignments. The book guides readers through the writing process helping them to feel confident in coherence, referencing and grammatical accuracy. The tasks give strong insights into typical social work writing assignments and helps readers prepare their work to a professional standard.

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Jane Bottomley, Patricia Cartney, Steven Pryjmachuk

The authors have utilised their shared experience amongst social work, mental health and academic skills to create a unique book which is firmly rooted in contemporary social work conventions, theory and practice. The book is designed to be easily accessible and clear to reference, making it the perfect choice for readers to dip in and out and easy to understand.

Book Review

Daddy’s Special Drink When we spoke with Chris Morrison about his new children’s book, Daddy’s Special Drink, it had only been a few weeks since the book was published. Immediately causing a sensation, the book is shaping up to be a huge success for Chris, who is not just an author but also a qualified social worker. We find out about his plans to create an entire series of therapeutic stories. Can you tell us about the book? This is an illustrated book, aimed towards children aged 6-12 who are dealing with a parent who is suffering from alcohol addiction. Using the perspective of a little boy called Rio, it shows how he feels when his daddy comes home and has his “special drink”. The story takes the child through the process of admitting to a friend that there are problems at home, through to introducing the role of the social worker and explaining how his daddy can get help.

Why did you write this book? I’ve spent my career working as a social worker, specialising in child protection. I’ve met a lot of children who are dealing with issues relating to parental alcohol misuse. It’s a subject which isn’t spoken about regularly – much is said about the impact of the addition upon the parent, but it’s rare to talk about how it impacts the child.

and Friends”. I’m currently writing the second book, which will focus on domestic violence. I’m also planning to write stories relating to sexual abuse, physical abuse, and neglect.

Can Local Authorities make use of this book in their work? Yes; now, the book is being used by child protection teams at Medway Council and Islington Borough Council and I’ve had some really good feedback. I’m about to embark on a book tour to introduce other local authorities to the book and we’ve recently set up an Instagram account (@Rioandfriends_) which can be used as an additional resource.

This book is designed to be used in three distinct ways; it’s about explaining the role of a social worker to a child to help them feel comfortable and secure, it explains the issues that children may have if they grow up in a home with alcoholics, and it highlights that children are like sponges. They absorb absolutely everything so it’s vital to consider a child’s perspective in these situations.

How can social workers use this book in their work? It’s a great tool – I call it “therapeutic stories.” I want social workers to be able to read it to children to explain difficult situations, in a child-friendly way. My plan is to create a series of five books so that they are a collective toolkit under the brand, “Rio

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Where can I buy the book? The book is priced at £6.47 and can be bought online at Amazon and Waterstones. An e-book variation is also available for your Kindle, or it can be downloaded directly from iTunes. We’ve worked hard to make this as accessible as possible.

Want to know more? If you would like to find out how you can use this book as a resource for your social work team, please email Chris at or phone 07460 574082

Have your say As you know, we like to regularly share your thoughts and opinions. We recently asked you what advice you would give to somebody where a parent is affected by learning disabilities. You provided some incredible advice, so we hope that you can pick up an idea or two to support your practice.

Have your Say

What advice would you give to someone working with a family where the parent(s) is affected by learning disabilities? “Consider advocacy support for the parent; engage adult services; whole family approach.” Laura, Leicestershire “My advice would be recognising the difference, respect that difference and work with that difference to safeguard the rights of the child and the rights of the parent to lead a safe and positive life. Ideally for both but be alert and seek expert support for the parent if by helping the parent(s) the children will benefit.” Anonymous, Scotland “Ensure a social worker from the learning disability team is involved & work collaboratively.” Sumayya, Bradford “I would ask them to research that kind of disability or disorder, regarding symptoms, effects and positive coping mechanisms. I would ask them to shadow a similar case if possible, so they could learn. I would advise them to be non-judgmental, and to understand that people with learning disability can be positive parents. I may advise to assess the child(ren) also.” Katie, Croydon

“Know exactly to what extent the disabilities affect the parent or parents, what impact this has on the child or children and what can be done for the family as a whole to assist enhancement of their quality of life.” Stewart, Dundee

“Treat people as you like to be treated, with respect and dignity. Use jargon-free language, explain things slowly and use simple easy understandable language” Swinder, Bedfordshire

“I would advise for the person to listen to the parent’s views and try to encourage them to maintain an independence outside of the home environment.” Eileen, Birmingham

“Make communication and information accessible in a way that is understood. In addition, design support in such a way that it will the needs of the parents with the focus being on their needs and strengths. They should also have long term support as well as access to independent advocacy.” Sheradean, Ashford

“To approach the LD specialist social worker and specific charities and research.” Audrey, Halton

“Make sure the parent understands very clearly the plan of action going forward by reflective listening. Going over the care plan every time with the adult. Check what role any child is taking on and what education they have.” Sarah, Chiswick

“Carry out a PAMS assessment. Look for strengths not weakness.” Henrietta, Nigeria “Find out who the parents communicate with and how they do this, and learn this way of communicating. In the meantime, try symbols pictures social stories.” Lynda, Hertfordshire “To gain as much of a support network as possible for the family.” Linda, North Wales

“Get to know and understand how this affects the individual and look for ways to support them.” Jude, London “PAMS assessment to identify what specialised support is required to allow that parent to be the very best parent to their child and for that to be 'good enough'. Recognition that sometimes, the limitation is such that they just can't do it and that is not discriminatory. You shouldn't be scared to highlight that they are incapable of making the necessary changes if it is evident that they're unlikely to be able to do so, as the child must remain the focus.” Natalie, Berkshire “Not to patronise, to listen, be imaginative & never dismiss their views.” Marion, Mansfield “Utilise the plethora of expertise that is available for advice and consultancy. Create an appropriate environment for assessment using a variety of mediums other than a word-based assessment. Be creative with the resources that are available and utilise the friends and family network to create a team around the child.” Julia, Leeds “Depends on what advice is required but maintain unconditional positive regard and offer appropriate support to maintain the family. Recognise the strengths don’t promote the weakness.” Verity, Bexley “Be patient! Consider their capacity as well as their functioning, then enable them to make decisions that may appear unwise, as long as they understand the risks.” Edwina, Doncaster

"My advice would be recognising the difference, respect that difference and work with that difference to safeguard the rights of the child and the rights of the parent" Social Work News - 27

“Ensure that the resources are tailored to individual and make sure that the family are not deemed as tag on but be part of the plan from the outset, it is key that the approach should be from a holistic structure.” Rose, Telford “Motivate the parent by letting them know disability does not mean their inability to care for their child(ren). Assure them that support will be made available to help them care for their children.” Joseph, Rugby

Ready to consider an alternative view of disguised compliance? Last issue, in our regular, Have your Say column, we asked our readers to let us know how to spot the signs of ‘disguised compliance’. After publication, we were contacted by Jadwiga Leigh, who suggested that this is dated terminology and should no longer be used. In our exclusive article, Jadwiga Leigh and her colleagues Liz Beddoe and Emily Keddell share their thoughts and explain why we need to reconsider our use of this phrase.

Disguised Compliance

Child and family social workers work with many different families - some of whom appear resistant to receiving support or intervention. One term that has often been used to explain the behaviour of the reluctant or involuntary client is ‘disguised compliance’. This term first emerged from a study which summarised all the major child abuse inquiries that had occurred in England since 1973. The authors (Reder et al., 1993) felt the term ‘disguised compliance’ was effective in describing the way a family responded to a social worker when s/he adopted a more controlling stance with them. The examples they gave were a sudden increase in school attendance; attending a run of appointments; engaging with professionals such as health workers for a limited period of time; cleaning the house before receiving a visit from a professional. However, the authors also noticed that alongside the theme of disguised compliance, emerged a puzzling pattern of ‘prediction’ (Reder et al.1993: 131). Despite reading 35 inquiry reports, the authors found that it was impossible to predict which families would disengage from or resist social work intervention. And what they found even more baffling was that it was impossible to determine whether this form of disengagement or resistance actually increased the likelihood of the child being killed. Although this limitation was discussed in detail in their book Beyond Blame, it was not the main part of the book subsequently taken forward and debated. Instead, the notion of ‘disguised compliance’ became a regular unchallenged feature of a number of serious case reviews, government reports, academic articles, factsheets relating to child abuse and social work blogs.

"When practitioners are concerned that parents are resisting a plan, perhaps they should be asking: What has led to this situation?" In 2017, Paul Hart, a family law barrister, wrote an article for the Family Law website entitled ‘Disguised compliance or undisguised nonsense?’ Hart was troubled by two things. First, although the term was being applied to the concept of parental resistance, ‘disguised compliance’, was ineffectively describing that which was being implied. Therefore, although the term was being used by social workers to express concerns about non-compliance or resistance when broken down into two distinct separate words, ‘disguised’ ‘compliance’, it actually meant ‘concealed’ ‘agreement’. Hart realized that it was highly unlikely that parents would hide their agreement with a social care plan, but much more likely that parents would try and hide their disagreement with a plan. Therefore, disguised compliance more effectively describes parental agreement rather than disagreement or resistance. Second, Hart found that ‘disguised compliance’ was often being used as a diagnostic label; one which

misled rather than helped the social worker. Hart used ‘diagnostic’ in this particular instance because every time ‘disguised compliance’ was applied to a parent, he noticed it was followed by a list of symptoms which attempted to define how their behaviour met the criteria of suspected resistance. Let’s take, for example, tidying the house before a professional arrives. The tidy home can make a social worker feel uncomfortable and concerned that s/he is being deceived. Yet many people will tidy their house when they know a visitor is coming. The difference is, not everyone is accused of disguised compliance when they do. Another example is when there is an increase in school/health appointments. When social workers first become involved in a family’s life, it is likely that a parent will make positive changes which demonstrate that improvements are being made. However, when these improvements are not sustained, the social worker may use their position to drive home the importance of education and parental responsibility. The parent may see the social worker’s response as threatening and aggressive and their desire to make further changes may subside even further. This may lead to a breakdown in communication between the two parties, especially if the professional continues to exert an authoritative

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stance and the parent attempts to do the same or withdraws from the relationship altogether due to feeling misunderstood, ashamed or angry. The concept of disguised compliance needs to, therefore, be used with caution because although it does work well in labelling the parent as the problem, it does not help the social worker predict risk nor does it address it. Instead, it binds both social worker and parent into a no-win situation that not only fails to recognise that there is risk-averse thinking at play but also that there are power imbalances present in that relationship. When practitioners are concerned that parents are resisting a plan, perhaps they should be asking: What has led to this situation? Where have these concerns come from? And what skills can I use to help parents understand these concerns so that they can reverse the situation?

Want to learn more? For a much deeper analysis please see: Leigh, J., Beddoe, L., Keddell, E. (forthcoming) 'Disguised compliance or undisguised nonsense? A critical discourse analysis of compliance and resistance in social work practice' Families, Relationships and Societies. Due to be published soon.

Council Spotlight Slough Children’s Services Trust was established in October 2015. Over the past three years, the team has worked hard to evolve the services which were recently praised by Ofsted for “making significant progress” and “delivering improved results.” We speak exclusively with Lisa Humphreys, Chief Executive from Slough Children’s Services Trust, to find out more about how they have changed their approach and what this means for children living in the Borough.

The concept of a Trust is still a relatively new concept for many social workers. Can you explain what this means, and how the working approach differs from traditional children’s services? A Trust is an alternative delivery model for providing improved services for children’s statutory services. It means a close partnership with the Local Authority working together on key objectives. The key benefit of the Trust model is that every single person within our organisation is here for the same reason – to improve the lives of local vulnerable children and help make them safe, secure and successful. We’re an independent company but we still work very closely with Slough Borough Council; this partnership is vital to our continuing progress but the fact we are more self-contained means we are more agile as an organisation, with quicker decisionmaking and we’re also able to try different ways of working more easily.

Part of the move towards the Trust meant developing a new company culture. Unlike

We run several innovative programmes, such as traditional children’s services, Pause for vulnerable mothers, who repeatedly have you do not have as much of a children taken into care and Inspiring Families which management ‘hierarchy’ within takes a holistic approach to domestic abuse. Our your leadership team. Has overall strategic aim is to offer a range of services which provide active support and help to children this improved efficiency, and and their families. how have your practitioners responded to this? Your vision is to ensure that all children within the care system Developing our culture has been essential to our improvement journey and it’s something that’s feel “safe, secure and successful” continually evolving. – can you explain how this vision is being communicated I want our staff to be confident that they can raise concerns at any time, and they’ll be supported. to employees and what I hold regular staff surgeries, there are comment support is available to enable boxes at our offices and there’s also an anonymous social workers to meet these online comments form. I feel it is important to expectations? be visible and available to staff. I remain close to frontline practice and take an avid interest in day-today events for our children, families and workforce.

The vision underlies everything we do and is based upon a strengths-based systemic model which

"Our children and care leavers are exactly that - our children. We aim to show them how proud we are, just like any parent." Social Work News - 30

Council Spotlight

works positively with both families and staff. This is communicated to staff from day one through their induction and our various internal channels. Support comes in many forms, including training, regular supervision, improved partnership work and an online knowledge hub where staff can access direct work tools. We are also developing an archive of social work practice to help staff learn from each other and get a clear idea of what 'good' looks like. We’ve made an incredible amount of progress since we were created, something that has been acknowledged in all the inspections and audits we’ve had, but we’re well-aware that our improvement journey continues, and we have more to do to get where we want to be.

You believe in aspiration, and you’re continually working hard to help children and young people believe in themselves. Can you tell us about the recent awards ceremony you held for those children and young people that are in your care? We hold an annual celebration for our Looked-After Children and care leavers, but everyday celebrating their achievements and showing our support for them in all that they do is part of our everyday work. Our children and care leavers are exactly that - our children. We aim to show them how proud we are, just like any parent. A celebration is always a lovely event and this year was no different. Children were recognised for academic and practical achievements and heard from guest speaker, BBC journalist Ashley John Baptiste who was himself a child in care and went on to Cambridge University. What our children achieve, despite their challenges, is incredible. As their corporate parent, it’s so important we recognise that, nurture their talents, inspire them and help them to fill their potential.

In Slough, you’re continually working with local businesses to build strong working partnerships. This is helping young people realise what opportunities are available to them. Can you tell us more about this exciting initiative? We do some good work with businesses such as Heathrow Airport and Brunel University, which have given positive experiences to our young people. We recognise that education and aspiration is one of the biggest factors in developing resilience and achievement. Our Virtual school is excellent at promoting opportunities for all our children. Our carers understand that a nurturing and supportive home life which promotes interests and talents is key to children’s development and wellbeing. We are working to develop this further with more businesses

"I really am so proud to say that morale is good, and more than two-thirds of our staff would recommend the Trust to their friends as a place to work." and are currently in the process of looking at some opportunities with Lego and O2. A big part of this is helping businesses to understand some of the challenges our children face and how they can help to support them. They have the ability to go on to great things and sometimes they just need more tailored support and understanding.

How do you recognise the impact of your practitioners? Do you have any specific initiatives which support and improve individual staff performance?

We share examples of good practice, we share feedback across the Trust, we give a small number of honorariums and we recognise talent through career development. Senior leaders want to know about the good work and everyday successes for staff and children and we let the whole Trust know just how great their colleagues are. We also run a scheme called ‘Thanking You’ where staff write messages to their colleagues which are displayed for everyone to read. All of those thanked go into a draw to win a £50 voucher at the end of each month. It’s a great way for people to feel appreciated and for staff to see each others’ excellent work.

Here's what people are saying about Slough Children’s Services Trust…

Everyone says it, but our staff really are our most important asset. They have been central to our recently improved Ofsted rating. I really am so proud to say that morale is good, and more than two-thirds of our staff would recommend the Trust to their friends as a place to work. We have a strong focus on development and have worked hard to improve management oversight of cases, as well as personal supervision. We are currently establishing a social work academy which will enable us to build on the success of our ASYE programme and further grow our own talent.

How do you support your staff, to help them work to the best of their ability?

“SCST has been amazing and the reason why I term my placement as’ like a glove' is that they absolutely know me and my family and are able to get that 'matching' a child to a family down to a tee! There are continuous support and a sense of 'togetherness from a wonderful team made up of lots of professional, friendly and caring individuals.” Sofia Sittar, Foster carer

Our ethos is centred entirely on a belief that we are here to support children’s and families’ rights and to provide the right kind of support to meet needs. We are working together to secure the best outcomes for our children, including being aspirational for them. The work environment here is welcoming and friendly. I believe firmly in having an open and supportive working atmosphere where staff are encouraged to contribute to making everything, we do more effective. We do lots of things, including the annual staff health check, staff development days, staff surgeries and we have a staff engagement group who voice concerns and give open feedback, we get involved in various fundraising days, such as Comic Relief and, crucially, we have cake at the end of every month!

Everyone wants to feel valued. How do you recognise great social work practice? Social Work News - 31

“The Trust feels like ‘home’ - support, supervision, access to training and carer progression are second to none. It’s a great place to work.” Taz Makoni, Consultant Social Work Manager

Apply today To find out more about the vacancies available at Slough Children’s Services Trust, simply visit or call 0333 7000 026

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Social Work News - April to June 2019