Social Services failure of Purpose
Social Services is seeing an ever increasing demand set against austerity measures ( Social Services Hiding Inefficiency behind Austerity... ) Society is more complex than ever, less cohesive and less supportive than when people lived in back street terraced communities. It really does take a village to raise a child and support the parents, to meet all of the challenges parenthood presents. Raising children is a complex issue, no rule book to hand, for each child is an individual. But modern day societal issues present ever more complexity, when facing rearing a child. Teenage years ( Parenting Teens…… ) are fraught ( and have always been) with danger and pitfalls that can consume a young mind, causing them to become lost in rebellion and if support is not there, when life chews them up and spits them out again , there may well be no safety net available for them. The teenage brain Why We React, Rather Than Think… is not made to understand risk. They make decisions impulsively, without thought of long term consequences. Growing into adulthood is fraught with danger and they need a robust support network to help them make informed choices, in order that they reach their full potential.
Social Care in History
Social Care is a relatively recent historical institution. When we had child labour and workhouses, children’s lives were not protected. Care for the elderly and disabled was piecemeal and dependent upon the availability of local provision. Reform happened with The National Assistance (NA) Act, 1946, implemented in 1948. It abolished the Poor Law/Public Assistance and established the National Assistance Board (NAB). The 1950’s & 1960’s saw movement towards Community care. Then “The Local Authority Social Services Act”, 1970, established a single social services department in each local authority, emphasizing the need for a co-ordinated and comprehensive approach to social care, supporting families, detecting need and encouraging people to seek help.” (1) The 1980’s & 1990’s saw more privatisation happening in the drive to reduce the cost of social care. The National Health Service and Community Care Act, 1990 saw an even greater push for Local Authorities to become purchasers, not providers of services, their main aim being to reduce costs.The early 2000’s saw more Disability Acts come into force, but the funding continues to be the issue. In the document, “Social Care Funding Options” by Wenzel et al, they state:
“Since 1998, there have been 12 green papers, white papers and other consultations, as well as five independent commissions, all attempting to grapple with the problem of securing a sustainable social care system. It has been called ‘one of the greatest unresolved public policy issues of our time’.(2)
What do Social Services Actually Do?
Societal issues have created more pressure for a service that is constantly being squeezed financially, but the role of Social services remains as the BASW paper: What Do Social Workers Do?, states:
“Social workers aim to improve people’s lives by helping with social and interpersonal difficulties, promoting human rights and wellbeing. Social workers protect children and adults with support needs from harm… (From).. helping keep a family under pressure together..” (3)
Social Services & Your family also says:
“Social services have a statutory obligation to safeguard and promote the welfare of vulnerable children and adults and can provide a wide range of services to children and their parents, usually within the own home environment and co-ordinated by a social worker….(there may be different departments working on one case)..The aim is to coordinate their services in the interests of the family as a whole.” (4)
Social Services Funding Crisis
The role of Social Services is vast, pivotal and necessary and yet budgets are being ruthlessly axed, as highlighted by an article in the Guardian February 2019 which stated:
“Councils overall suffered a 29% cut in government funding for children’s departments between 2010 and 2017-18 – equivalent to £3bn – despite spiralling demand for a range of services, from family crisis support to child protection, the research said. (5)
The outsourcing of care to the private sector has resulted in unregulated providers stepping in, for profit, not for the good of the child in many cases. A recent BBC news expose by Titheradge & Thomas stated:
“The Department for Education said councils had a duty to make sure accommodation for these children was suitable. Children over the age of 16, often in care or formerly so, are increasingly being placed in unregulated homes in England and Wales…… they offer support but not care to residents. In September, BBC News reported that vulnerable teenagers in unregulated homes, face ‘organised abuse’ while living in such accommodation.” (6)
Care & support (Post Adoption Support )is all too often failing these vulnerable members of society. 100,000 children go missing every year. ‘When children run away, it must be recognised as an early indication that a child is at risk. Running away should be seen explicitly as a child protection issue, with protocols and procedures in place backed up by clear systems of accountability and performance management.’ (7), according to the Children;’ Society. When a child goes missing, they are at risk.
Social Services Support: Reality Check
When young adults go off the rails, it is natural to think someone must have the answers. Surely, someone must have some answers !! When a child goes missing, they are vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. Surely the statutory agencies responsible for safeguarding must step in? Risk and Safeguarding are words often bandied about these days. The latest buzzwords. A seam runs through every school, causing fear to flood the veins of teachers and professionals ,who may be touched by an oversight on their part. For it is potentially career ending or reputation shredding to miss a marker, resulting in harm to a child. The awful cases in the news ,of tragic, avoidable deaths, are carved into the public consciousness: Baby P & Victoria Climbie are just two well known tragic examples, but the list of tragedies is vast.
To a lay person, it must feel that there is a ‘system’ there, a net provided by Social Services, beavering away to keep vulnerable people safe. They can help, assist, support. The reality is very far removed from this. Based on our experiences, and we are not alone, when a young person goes missing, the advice is to report them missing. The Police take a report and they may make some enquiries. If the child is a persistent MFH, then even these basic searches are often ignored. At the very least ,the family home should be searched, just in case the young person is lying dead or injured or hiding in their home. Then the parents wait for the child to return home. A Police ‘Safe & well ‘ interview happens, usually many hours after they return, to see if they have been victims of crime. The child says ‘no’ and the matter is put to bed.
Social Services do a follow up visit from their missing from home team, sometimes a week or so later. They ask the same questions the Police have already asked and the case is closed. The parents or Care Home then carry on, until the next time. Distraught parents may contact Social Workers. Often emails are left unanswered for a week, no phone calls made to offer ideas, support, or even empathy. A new meeting may be arranged in a few weeks time. A meeting may occur, but no solutions offered or real support garnered. The young person may well disappear again and again and end up in the “care system”, which is a misnomer in itself. Care Homes are warehouses for vulnerable young people, expensive to operate but ineffectual on the whole ( with some exceptions). They cannot prevent the young people leaving, anymore than the parents can. The child wanders again, returning to their old haunts, vulnerable and open to exploitation. How many “Rochdale” scandals do there have to be before those in “Power” wake up and take notice ? There are similar scandals still taking place in every major city in the UK, Scotland and NI. They have been going on for years and yet we keep repeating the same mistakes over and over again. How many times do we hear that now pointless phrase, “Lessons have been learned,” bandied about after every new scandal? But we never really learn the lessons and off we go again, on the same old, sad, depressing Merry GoRound.
Backs may be covered and boxes ticked, but the trigger that propels a young person to pursue this path is not dealt with. The amount of money wasted on meetings, on social workers and police officers filling out forms and reports, attending meetings, but not doing any real work with these vulnerable members of society, is massive. Funding has been reduced, but what there is gets spent in the same way it always has been: Restructuring of Services and Administration, Job Swapping for the Senior Managers, Policy Reviews and Assessments, Redundancies and Redeployment of junior staff. The help a young person needs is normally in the figure of a 1:1 support worker ,who spends time with them, talks with them and role models a secure attachment. They are a relatively cheap resource, but could save lives, dreams, and families. In times of austerity, the planning around resources needs to be creative, thinking outside of the box, or rather, just going back to basics. Let’s cut back on Administration and Bureaucracy and employ people to actually do the job. Let’s get out of the collective safety of the “Office” and back to the sharp end of the “Street”, where people and children need practical help. Meetings and reports do not save people, hands-on care and assistance does. The system is broken in so many respects and the Raison D’etre is not being met. There is not the support there at times when it is needed and things go into freefall. Early intervention is key. Short term thinking is killing Social Care.
Social Services Fail to Provide
When the support for Eric ( Loving Eric & Surrendering Control!) was withdrawn in July, I said loudly & clearly that all it would take would be one interaction with a bad influence and off he would go again. My new career as a Fortune Teller has just received another boost…sadly. Eric got involved only last Tuesday with an unsavoury person and off he has gone, taking risks, pushing us away, living a life on the edge. I have written many times about our experiences with Social Services through our tumultuous life with our adopted son Eric. The support has been non existent and the only thing that did help, a 1;1 Intensive Support Worker, was withdrawn with no planning ,at the end of the last academic year. The Adoption Support Fund has given us an amazing Educational Psychologist to help, but otherwise, the support is completely missing. This is a fact. There may well be some examples of excellence out there, but I have not heard of them…..perhaps they exist along with the Unicorns and that Pot of Gold at the end of the Rainbow.
(1) MEMORANDUM SUBMITTED TO THE HOUSE OF COMMONS’ HEALTH COMMITTEE INQUIRY: SOCIAL CARE OCTOBER 2009
Pat Thane: :http://www.historyandpolicy.org/docs/thane_social_care.pdf
(2) Approaches to social care funding; Social care funding options ; Lillie Wenzel, Laura Bennett, Simon Bottery, Richard Murray, Bilal Sahib The King’s Fund 🙁 https://www.health.org.uk/sites/default/files/Approaches-social-care-funding_1.pdf)
(3) What Do Social Workers Do? BASW :https://www.basw.co.uk/resources/become-social-worker/what-do-social-workers-do
(4) Social Services & Your Family: https://www.familylives.org.uk/advice/your-family/social-services-and-your-family/social-services-and-your-family/
(5) Children’s services in England are in financial crisis, say charities :https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/feb/26/childrens-services-financial-crisis-big-five-charities
(6) Care children sexually abused or exploited while missing from homes : By Noel Titheradge and Ed Thomas, BBC News. : https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-50241711
(7) What to do when a child goes missing. A guide for those working in education and youth work. The Childrens Society :https://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/sites/default/files/tcs/6pp_a5_pro_guide_to_runaways_web.pdf