• Barriers children face complaining about social work practice: a study in one English local authority

      Diaz, Clive; Pert, Hayley; Hill, Lauren; Aylward, Tricia; Neill, Donna (Wiley, 2019-09-04)
      Despite the introduction of guidelines and procedures aimed at encouraging and supporting children and young people to complain about the services they receive, children in care still face barriers to doing so in practice. This paper explores what happens when children in care are dissatisfied with the services they receive. Specifically, this study examines the complaints procedure for children in care. The findings are based on semistructured interviews with children in care, social workers, senior managers, and independent reviewing officers from one English local authority. Thematic analysis of these data identified five emergent themes: (a) complaints by children in care are managed at the lowest possible level, (b) senior managers have an overly optimistic view about children in care being informed of complaint procedures and being encouraged to do so, (c) children in care are worried about complaining, which is recognized by professionals, (d) children's voices are often not heard, and (e) when issues are clearly defined, independent reviewing officers have some degree of success in resolving complaints from children in care.
    • Contextualizing case reviews: a methodology for developing systemic safeguarding practices

      Firmin, Carlene Emma (Wiley, 2017-06-27)
      This paper introduces a systemic methodology for reviewing professional responses to abuse between young people. The approach, “contextual case reviewing,” draws upon constructivist structuralism to assess the extent to which safeguarding practices engage with the social and public contexts of abuse. The paper conceptually compares the methodologies of contextual case review and other serious case review methods before drawing upon findings from 2 studies, which used the contextual case review methodology to explore the extrafamilial nature of peer‐on‐peer abuse and the ability of child protection practices to engage with this dynamic. Thematic findings from these studies regarding the practical interpretation of “significant harm” and “capacity to safeguard,” as well as their use within child protection assessments, are used to challenge conclusions of other case reviews, which imply that child protection procedures are sufficient for safeguarding young people. Contextual case reviews suggest that safeguarding practices, and the legislation that underpins them, are culturally, procedurally, and organisationally wedded to the context of the home, whereas insufficiently engaged with extrafamilial contexts of significant harm. The application of these issues require interrogation if social work systems are to provide sufficient mechanisms for safeguarding young people and families at risk of significant harm. 
    • Could I do something like that? recruiting and training foster carers for teenagers “at risk” of or experiencing child sexual exploitation

      Shuker, Lucie; Pearce, Jenny J. (Wiley, 2019-07-30)
      Child sexual exploitation (CSE) is a category of child abuse that was historically created to recognize the victimhood of children and young people, illuminating the ways that their evolving capacity to consent to sex is manipulated and undermined. Using evidence from the evaluation of specialist foster care provision and a CSE training course for foster carers, this paper considers how training might be used to widen the pool of potential foster carers for children affected by CSE and identifies qualities displayed by effective carers. It argues that improving the recruitment of foster carers can create safer home environments for teenagers at risk of or experiencing sexual exploitation and reduce the risk of further harm and that informed and effective foster care provision is crucial to prevent both the sexual exploitation of looked‐after teenagers and placement breakdowns that can ultimately increase risk.
    • A golden thread? The relationship between supervision, practice, and family engagement in child and family social work

      Wilkins, David; Lynch, Amy; Antonopoulou, Vivi; University of Bedfordshire (John Wiley & Sons Ltd., 2018-03-25)
      Within the social work profession, supervision is highly valued. Yet it is not clear how supervision supports good practice or how supervision makes a difference for children and families. In this study, using paired observations of group supervision and family meetings alongside interviews with parents, we explored the link between supervision, practice, and engagement. Considering each data set separately, we found a range of skill levels within the supervision discussions and in the meetings with families. Parents reported generally high levels of satisfaction with the service and in relation to their individual worker. But more importantly, we found a “golden thread” between certain elements of supervision, more skilful practice, and improved parental engagement. We discuss these key elements in detail and consider what these findings tell us about good supervision and what difference it can make for families and children.
    • How is supervision recorded in child and family social work? an analysis of 244 written records of formal supervision

      Wilkins, David (Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 2016-10-20)
      Written records belie the complexity of social work practice. And yet, keeping good records is a key function for social workers in England (and elsewhere). Written records provide a future reference point for children, especially those in public care. They are foundational for the inspection of children's services. They provide practitioners and managers with an opportunity to record their thinking and decisions. They add to result from and cause much of the bureaucratic maze that practitioners have to navigate. As part of a wider study of child and family social work practice, this paper describes an analysis of more than 200 written records of supervision. These records primarily contain narrative descriptions of activity, often leading to a set of actions for the social worker to complete - what they should do next. Records of why these actions are necessary and how the social worker might undertake them are usually absent, as are records of analytical thinking or the child's views. This suggests that written records of supervision are not principally created in order to inform an understanding of the social work decision-making process; rather, they are created to demonstrate management oversight of practice and the accountability of the practitioner.
    • Keeping children safe? Advancing social care assessments to address harmful sexual behaviour in schools

      Lloyd, Jenny; Walker, Joanne; Firmin, Carlene Emma; University of Bedfordshire (Wiley, 2020-03-05)
      International evidence suggests that schools are locations where systems, practices and cultures can enable harmful sexual behaviours. However, in England, welfare assessments primarily used by statutory social services largely target young people and their families, with limited capacity to assess environments beyond the home. Where young people display harmful sexual behaviours within educational settings, social care systems are yet to assess the factors within schools which may accelerate risks associated with harmful sexual behaviours. This exploratory article presents evidence on the opportunities for school assessment using cumulative learning from two studies. The first investigated enablers and barriers to addressing harmful sexual behaviour in schools. The second employed the learning from the first through an action research study to develop school context assessments within a child protection system. Both studies employed a mixed-methods approach including observations, case review, focus groups, surveys and policy reviews to access data. Synthesised findings highlight: the value of exploring school contexts when assessing the nature of extra-familial abuse; the opportunities and challenges of utilising research methods for assessing school environments; and the role new assessment frameworks could play in supporting the inclusion of school contexts, and research methods, into welfare assessments of extra-familial abuse.
    • Partners in practice: developing integrated learning opportunities on the Frontline child and family social work qualifying programme

      Domakin, Alison; Curry, Liz (Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 2017-08-23)
      The Frontline programme is a social work qualifying route, in England, featuring a different approach to curriculum design and delivery. Students are based in groups of 4, learning through practicing social work in a statutory child and family social work setting, alongside a Consultant Social Worker (in the role of practice educator). They are also supported by an Academic Tutor who works in partnership with the Consultant Social Worker to facilitate learning. A weekly “unit meeting” is a foundational aspect of the programme, providing opportunities for in-depth discussion, teaching, and reflection on practice with families. The authors worked together over the first 2 cohorts of the programme and undertook action research to explore the learning opportunities that arise when academic staff and practitioners work side by side to support student learning in this model. Three broad themes were identified which were considered to be significant in helping students to learn which are explored in the paper: Learning through engaging in joint dialogue about practice in a unit meeting The influence of relationships on learning in social work The importance of a connected model of learning which has practice with children and families at its heart.
    • Teenagers in foster care: Issues, themes, and debates from and for practice and policy

      Shuker, Lucie; Sebba, Judy; Höjer, Ingrid (Wiley, 2019-08-31)
      The task of fostering adolescents is unique, requiring skills, qualities, and information that acknowledge each young person's particular needs. This editorial summarises a range of research in this special issue covering parenting styles, transitions out of care, child sexual exploitation, and the needs of LGBTQ and separated teenagers. Three themes emerging from the papers are discussed: autonomy and control; risk, resilience, and trauma; and relationships, identity, and stigma.
    • Using Q methodology to understand how child protection social workers use attachment theory

      Wilkins, David (Wiley, 2016-02-19)
      Child and family social workers in England are expected to integrate theory and research into their practice. This study investigated how a small sample of social workers from three Local Authorities in Southern England used key ideas from contemporary attachment theory when working with children who may have been abused or neglected. Twenty-four social workers completed a Q-sort of 49 items. Four factors emerged from the data, each representing a distinct collective perspective – the use of attachment theory (1) to enable a focus on and better understanding of the child; (2) to enable social workers to take clear decisions and interview purposefully; (3) to emphasize the primacy of relationships and ethical partnership working and (3) as a general framework for understanding and helping parents. These factors are described alongside a discussion of the implications for the use of theory and research in practice.
    • What does empathy sound like in social work communication? A mixed‐methods study of empathy in child protection social work practice

      Lynch, Amy; Newlands, Fiona; Forrester, Donald; University of Bedfordshire; University of Cardiff (Wiley, 2018-07-12)
      It is widely accepted that empathy is important for social work practice, yet there are multiple dimensions of empathy and comparatively few studies of empathy as a component of social work skill. To date, published studies have been quantitative, and as a result, we know little about how social workers demonstrate empathy in practice or what skilled empathic practice in child and family social work might sound like. This study contributes to the development of understanding of empathy as a social work skill through a mixed‐methods analysis of 110 audio recordings of meetings in a child protection service between workers and parents, applying a coding framework for analysis. Findings indicate that workers who demonstrate higher levels of empathy skill use more open questions and reflections in their communication with parents. Further, they demonstrate curiosity about and make efforts to understand parents' often difficult experiences, including a focus on emotions. That the majority of workers were found not to demonstrate a high level of empathy skill presents concerns to be considered by the social work profession. A deeper understanding of empathy presents an opportunity for an increased focus in organizations to enable workers to demonstrate empathy towards families they work with. 
    • What happens in child and family social work supervision?

      Wilkins, David; Forrester, Donald; Grant, Louise Jane (Wiley, 2016-08-04)
      Supervision is fundamental to the social work profession. However, increasing concern has been expressed over the managerial capture of local authority social work and the use of supervision as a way of enabling management oversight (or surveillance) of practice. Despite the importance of supervision, we have little evidence about what happens when managers and child and family social workers meet to discuss casework and less about how supervision influences practice. In this study, 34 supervision case discussions were recorded. Detailed descriptions are given of what happens in supervision. Overall, case discussions operated primarily as a mechanism for management oversight and provided limited opportunity for reflection, emotional support or critical thinking. With reference to organizational context, it is suggested that these deficits result from a system that focuses too much on ‘what and when’ things happen and not enough on ‘how and why’.