News Views

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

Pith and Sinew

Keith White writes this month about the pith and sinew of residential care. His message is of critical importance for professionals to understand what residential child care is all about.

Children and young people in foster care and residential care need meetings with their social workers to talk about important problems or counselling with psychologists or play sessions with therapists, but these formal programmed activities are insufficient to meet the needs of some children. It may be that they are not relaxed in formal sessions or that they have not built up a strong enough relationship to trust the professionals working with them.

Reading case files, though, it is striking how often the things that matter most to children and young people are raised in the informal ‘in-between’ times that Keith describes, when they are with carers whom they trust. A classic example is the disclosure of abuse or bullying. It is also interesting to note how often, when these matters are reported by the carers in accordance with formal procedures, the children do not want to repeat their disclosures to social workers and the police.

Yet the work of caring is still undervalued, dismissed as if it consists only of the mundane tasks which Keith describes. These crucial times when children talk are not programmed, though there are times, such as bed-time, when in-depth conversation is more likely.

The handling of disclosures and discussion of other issues of deep importance to the children requires real professionalism - sensitivity, listening skills, ability to analyse what is happening, determining how best to help and remembering with a view to recording at a later time. If these occasions are well handled, they may help children resolve problems which may otherwise trouble them for a lifetime.

The best professionals are needed, therefore, to do the most mundane things, if they are to have the most positive impact. (This is true also in nursing.) For decades, though, there has been a strand of thinking which sees foster carers and residential staff as para-professionals who do not require the same level of training, professional status and reward as the social workers who carry case accountability.

The same is, of course, true for other client groups. Bath time in a home for older people, for example, can be an opportunity for a resident to share worries with the carer, and it is a mistake to programme bathing as if it were a simple mechanical process to get people clean. The hard task is getting trainers, managers and pay negotiators to recognise the real nature of the task.

Social Pedagogy

Children Australia is a quarterly peer-reviewed journal reporting on research and practice around children, youth and families. In December 2011 they published a special issue on social pedagogy, which brings together contributions from an academic, research and practice perspective to explore how social pedagogy has evolved as an ethical orientation towards working with human beings, what international comparisons can tell us about its effect, what social pedagogy has to offer to professionals, and how it can be applied in practice within a range of settings.

Gabriel Eichsteller guest-edited the issue and he writes, “Whilst we hope that the journal will be widely read by our Australian audience, we are also keen to share some of the articles with readers in the UK and to make them available through our website - www.thempra.org.uk/childrenaustralia.htm.”

Field Trip: “Social Pedagogy in Action”

Following enthusiastic feedback from Jacaranda’s last visit to the north of Germany, a further field trip to Hamburg and Heide has been planned, offering an enhanced programme. Both leaders and practitioners who are interested in social pedagogy are invited to:

· engage in dialogue with professionals from statutory services, providers of pedagogic services as well as academics and students of social pedagogy

· visit a centre offering family and professional fostering placements, residential child care for children with emotional and behavioural difficulties, children with disabilities, day care and mother & child placements (* see quote below)

· enjoy “Abendbrot” (evening meal) during a visit to an organisation providing social therapeutic support and independent group living for young adults with mental health disorders

· meet state employed social pedagogues working at the German equivalent of children’s services, with a particular focus on fostering, facilitated by a social pedagogue who has worked in an English fostering team

· take part in an experiential tour of Hamburg, lead by social pedagogues, including reflection on how such experiential pedagogy is taught in higher educational programmes as a tool for work with young people

· observe and experience a social therapeutic service run by social pedagogues in a youth prison and a youth remand centre

· attend a presentation and final reflection of the field trip, facilitated by a social pedagogue experienced in working in England and a former consultant social worker in Hackney

The field trip will run from 30th May until 1st June 2012, For more details, click on the attachment here.

Sharing Ideas in Ireland

The programme of the conference of Social Care Ireland in Kilkenny later this month is attached. Under the heading Taking Stock, they have booked twenty-seven speakers and it should be a first-class event, if you can spare a couple of days to network and pick up ideas. Besides, who could turn down a spring-time trip to Ireland? Click here for the full details.

HDJ

Those who were active in residential child care in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s will be sorry to hear that Haydn Davies Jones is seriously ill in hospital. He played a major role, first as Captain of Wellesley Nautical Training School but then as the Senior Tutor in charge of the Newcastle University advanced residential child care course, which over a couple of decades provided training for a few hundred senior managers of children’s services, heads of residential schools and children’s homes. Together with Chris Beedell’s Bristol University course, the Newcastle programme had a marked impact on standards of residential care, but they were eventually both closed down by CCETSW. We wish Haydn well.

Health and Social Care Bill

Paediatricians have now joined the other professional bodies opposed to the Health and Social Care Bill. We try to avoid taking political stances in this magazine, so we will simply observe that over the last four decades every government - whatever its colour - has messed with the National Health Service. We haven’t counted them ourselves but we understand that there have been sixteen major reorganisations in the last twenty years. And every time there is a restructuring, a whole lot of people are laid off and huge amounts of time and money are spent on the process.

What makes matters worse is that Ed Miliband is describing the current Bill as the government’s Poll Tax moment, presumably meaning that if Labour gets into power they will make a lot more changes, not necessarily putting the service back as it was. We think that this perpetual process of change is seriously damaging, and that the NHS should be left alone for a while to get on with providing services - from the Webmag’s viewpoint, services for children and young people, of course.

From the Case Files

J was arrested for breach of the Police as he was drunk.

Broke into the Police canteen bar?

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