Open Letter to Loiuse Casey

***After writing this post I noticed that this years Troubled Families Conference has a session on the Role of the Social Worker. One can only hope that this is recognition and understanding of the role Social Work has played in administering this agenda. I also hope that it means the end of this need to highlight the perceived failings of the profession. However, this is still a matter I want brought to light because it needs to end.***

Those who have it don’t need to talk about it. This makes me question Louise Casey’s need to compare and use her program to bash social work. If your program and its results are as legitimate and valid as they should be, comparison to any others would be unnecessary. Yet you continue to use your speeches, where I have been in the audience, to bash social workers even after saying that it was not your intention to do so. I fear now, the government allowing you to be a part of another campaign that further tarnishes the reputation of social work will only make this worse. A true leader need not tarnish their image or credibility by condemning others. They are able to stand on their laurels and the strength of their own abilities. You may say there are exceptions but making broad negative generalizations about a profession is not only offensive it is unwise and unnecessarily damaging. I genuinely believe that, due to the systems through which society run, there will always be need for social workers. Until the world is rescued and healed from age-ism, racism, class-ism, poverty, injustice etc., there will always be a place for a skilled helping profession. There are issues, systemic and developmental, that need to be addressed. However, hinging your arguments about the authenticity of outcomes from your program on the real and perceived failings of social work is a rookie tactic. An experienced leader and professional can substantiate outcomes using the outcomes themselves. Stop attacking my profession. I am highly trained and highly committed to my profession and the populations I have served. I give my all and am not afraid to buck the system to get my clients what they need and there are many like me. We already have a public image issue; we certainly don’t need your help.

I believed in the troubled families agenda from the outset because I saw it as a return to grassroots social work. I thought it would take us back to when social workers had the time to walk clients through change as the change agents they are. I didn’t see it as a rival to social work, but recognition that we need to remember and engage our roots, working more closely with the community instead of being overwhelmed and overtaken by bureaucracy. There are many social workers out there working to make your vision a reality and it is insulting that you continue to feel the need to remind the nation of the profession’s inadequacies. I find it especially disheartening since I know for a fact that the regulating body of this program is aware that many are implementing this program in a business as usual model. That is, they aren’t doing anything new and are getting the results and funding using outcomes from already established interventions – which include social care and other programs/teams made up of social workers. This program isn’t new. It isn’t innovative and it isn’t clever. It has just given the social workers and others who are working within, the freedom and TIME they need to make the greatest impact by freeing them up from bureaucratic limitations.

Social Work is not your enemy. On the contrary, in addition to family support workers and others (and the skills they use are the root and base of what social work is about), social workers are helping to make these outcomes happen. Whatever your personal biases, recognise that some of the outcomes that make this program look good have been supported and made possible by social workers and find another way to legitimize it. Because comparing it to social work, it’s old now. It looks vindictive, which diminishes your credibility in the eyes of those who are watching and know how outcomes are really working. It paints your argument as a tool of social work opponents to further discredit the profession, and those of us with the training, skills and depth of insight are getting fed up of the sheer ignorance of it all.

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Posted by on October 20, 2014 in The Social World


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Good Practice in Making Referrals

This is just the list of things I find crucial in referrals, as some one who has made and was in charge of accepting them. Please feel free to share any other points you feel help in this process as well.

When thinking about making a referral it is important to:

- discussing the issues prior to the referral with the client (what are your concerns, why do you believe this referral can help, what is the stance around confidentiality, will you be asking for updates if so how much detail,)

- explaining the pros and cons of engagement with the client

- discuss timing with the client – when would it be proper to refer if now is not the time

- decide or assess the level of need and if it is a matter for referral or if consultation would suit the situation

- talk to the agency about the appropriateness of the referral and establish a working relationship for future reference if consultation is good enough


If the client has decided they are willing to work on the identified issue and consultation isn’t appropriate:

- be clear about what I would like the service to do for my client

-  be able to articulate the clients needs appropriately

-  have at least a minimal understanding of what the organization does

- understanding what the service you are referring to can offer

- understanding the limitations of the service you would like to refer to

- not being bullied into making a referral by managers to “cover yourself”; this helps no one – not you, not the client and not the service you are referring to

- make sure forms clearly outline what the current issues are and your recommendations (if you have any)

- make sure you let them know of any other services involved (with consent if client is voluntary)

- make sure they are aware of any statutory measures in place to which they may need to be party and understand how much of their treatment or working processes they can share

- if possible, share your own assessment as appropriate

- if participation in the service if part of an intervention or care plan, make sure they have a copy of that

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Posted by on October 17, 2014 in My Practice, Social Work Practice


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What Social Work could learn from Pyrex

I know the title is a bit weird, but you know I will take you on that journey. Pyrex is a hard heat-resistant type of glass. I have a rectangular Pyrex pan that I use to make my macaroni and cheese. The pan itself reminded me of one of the major skills social workers need, transparency.

Transparency is a working principle implying openness, communication and accountability. I find it a good analogy for social work, or what social work practice should be. My pan is completely clear so when my mac and cheese is baking (working) it is easy for me to see what is happening within the pan (social service structure) from every angle. I can’t see the substance within the mac and cheese, but I can see that things are happening, that change is happening. When we work with our clients, because we don’t live with them, they cannot readily see what we do to help them. But, if we are transparent from the outset (and I will explain what this transparency look like in practice) then we set a foundation for the relationship where there are no surprises. They know what to expect and give them a degree of certainty. It is a matter of respect, facilitating their self-determination and decision-making as well as creating and honest working relationship.

Comparing social work to Pyrex is just my way of saying we need to be working in a way that we are happy for anyone to scrutinize because we are being open and honest and are communicating our process of helping to clients and superiors as best practice.

In social work true transparency means that, as a practitioner you are having discussions with your clients where you are

- clear about what your role is and how you will execute it

- clear about what you’re required to do and at what points

- clear about the steps you need the family to make

- telling your clients the consequences of noncompliance, honestly (discussing all their options)

- clear about the outcomes you need to see to shut your service

- understanding they don’t want you there and acknowledge it

- working with them, not doing things to them or for them, clearly outline everyone’s responsibilities.

- [in assessment] clear about the information you need, why and how it will be used (reassuring them that they will be given copies and are able to comment

- [in planning as a matter of respect and collaborative working] clear about what needs to be done, who is doing it and agreeing to help the clients with issues they consider important as well and scheduling a review

- [in review] acknowledging what they have done well to date and what still needs to be done

That’s my list. I am sure there are other things you can think of that show transparency in the working relationship. Please feel free to share. Let’s keep good practice flowing.


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Posted by on October 15, 2014 in Social Work Practice


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Intergenerational Fight for Social Justice.

@RolandsMartin on @tvonetv was discussing the battle between millennials and elders in the struggle for social justice

There shouldn’t be a battle; what we need is understanding. Millenials need to understand that every situation doesn’t need a shoot now ask questions later mentality. I have said it before and I will say it again, where we go wrong is a lack of a coordinated strategic effort at every level – local, national and international. Protests are the age old way of being noticed, making your voice heard and getting the work out but there needs to be more done. There needs to be a political intervention on a massive scale. We need to call out racists and racist institutions that hold us to a negative standard but we also need to call out our own for contributing to the problem through negative portrayals, blatant objectification and the way in which we relate to each other. As a millennial that has benefitted from the wisdom, foresight, pride and passion of elders, I can honestly say we have relied on them for too long to get things done. They should be respected, consulted and part of the solution however action needs to happen with an agenda of only improving overall outcomes – socially, economically and politically.

Elders need to understand that we have been listening to you talk for too long. I respect the NAACP. I respect the NCNW. I respect Jessie Jackson. I respect Al Sharpton. I respect the Congressional Black Caucus but I often question their impact. We are dealing with the same issues. We are fighting the same battles. We are demanding the same things. WHY??? Wars are timeless unfortunately. But some battles should have been won by now. I love the encouragement of the community and young people doing well, but how are the messages from the many conferences, summits and seminars being delivered to those living the lives steeped in social obscurity that you are discussing. I understand the politically some conversations have to happen out of the public domain but how are you measuring effectiveness? Surely not by impact?

#FergusonOctober we need strategic action from those bold enough to accept the challenge and brash enough to see it through to the end using intellect and targeted movements throughout our communities ~Governance for Black America

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Posted by on October 14, 2014 in Race


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Referral vs Consultation in Social Care

Working with partners and other professionals could be a great step in professional development for social workers. There is a culture of making referrals to specialist services to address issues our clients face. Social work interventions have the potential for more depth than they have ever been allowed in its history here. In the last few years, local authorities are stepping up to give social workers with skills in systemic practice. The view is helping make interventions more robust so they have a greater impact, improving outcomes for family.

The focus of systemic practice is composed of two elements: working within a clearly identifiable process and retaining a focus on what is happening and why¹. I can see the validity in helping social workers understand these key issues but the development of social workers is not going to happen through one particular model, but that is for another day.

The referral culture in children’s social care limits the work social workers are doing with their clients. It puts clients in a place of having to regurgitate their stories repeatedly to professionals. There is a better way, a way that would help us create more defined and stronger relationships with our clients, reduce duplication of work and re-establish social work as experts in working with people. Consultation, on a larger scale, is the way forward.

A referral is an application to a specialist service to treat a specific issue. However, as we know from working with people, there are varying levels of need. In my view, referrals should be saved for the higher levels of need. Higher levels of need are where the issues are entrenched and need specialist treatment outside the scope of social care or remit of the organization. Issues such as clinically diagnosed mental health disorders, long-term substance misuse, dual diagnosis patients, etc.

                                                          CLIENT >>>> SOCIAL WORKER >>>>> SPECIALIST

In lower levels of need, I believe consultation would serve the purpose and still allow social workers to undertake the work of the remitting organization. Consultation is a discussion with a specialist about their area of expertise to get tools, techniques and guidance on how to work with a particular client exhibiting this issue. [Consultation with other professionals is also a way to understand if a referral would be appropriate to a particular service.] Consultation with lower levels of need is an opportunity for social workers to increase their working tool kit and develop further skills in working with people with complex issues. Consultations are more appropriate at the start of an issue when education and brief intervention may be enough or when there is an established relationship with a professional and their intervention is affected by the specialised issue but introducing another professional might damage the working relationship.

                                           CLIENT <<<<<< —- >>>>>> SOCIAL WORKER <<<<<<< SPECIALIST

This is not comprehensive and again, having the consultation with a specialist service will be able to tell you if a referral or a consultation is most appropriate.

¹ Thompson, N. “Social Work with Adults” in Social Work: Themes, Issues and Critical Debates, 2nd Edition (2002) chapter 25, pp. 292

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Posted by on October 13, 2014 in Social Work Practice


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Local Substance Misuse Service


 Last month I went to a training given by service provider 722. They provide the adolescent drug and alcohol service for Waltham Forest. Reflecting on this training reminder of the pitfalls of being off the frontline and the need to maintain up to date knowledge of the issues that affect the populations with which I work or worked.

The trainer, though currently a service lead, has a background in social work. In addition to the information and reminders I received on drugs, I was struck by her insight and commitment to the population. In addition to not pushing the abstinence agenda (one which I do not whole heartedly agree with because it doesn’t fully take into account the need using a particular substance has for a person) she was clear about the fact that although the remit of her program stops at a certain age, she recognises a gap.

If I am not mistaken, the remit of the service ends at age 18. However, she recognised that there is a gap in the provision of substance misuse services from the 18-25 age range. It is in this age range that they begin to move into adult services which take a much different stance to treating substances. Most of the young people in this age range aren’t prepared for the intensity of the treatments adult services. There is a distinct difference between the delivery of services for adults and the delivery of services for young people and what struck me was the trainer’s stance on still accepting these young people because she recognises the need. I am always impressed by professionals who are willing to go above and beyond the call to respond to the needs of the community.

A referral to this service is done using the DUST – Drug Use Screening Tool. What I like and appreciate about this form is that you have to do it with the young person. What I appreciate about the service is they won’t accept referrals if they haven’t been done with the young person but they are also willing to consult professionals – in a three-way meeting with the young person if needed – in order to help. Sometimes, it isn’t just about making a referral. Sometimes talking to an expert can give you the tools and techniques necessary to work through issues with a client. What I also appreciate about the tools is it opens up the conversation so if the young person isn’t ready to engage, they start to think about their use and are made aware that help is available if they choose to accept it.

I appreciate talking to and working with professionals who are passionate about their work and looking to make a difference with their clients. What tools have you used or heard about? What do you like about them? How accessible are they?

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Posted by on October 10, 2014 in My Practice, Social Work, The Social World


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Confronting Racism

shoutingThe Root reported that there has been heavy backlash for Steve Harvey who invited Paula Deen to mentor the 100 young Black men at his mentoring camp.

For those that don’t know Deen is thought to be a racist. Now usually I wouldn’t support our young people being exposed to racists but I can see the value in what he is doing. (Steve has reportedly said he didn’t care what people thought and social media is calling for the parents of the boys to take action.)

The value is in the lessons the could be learned from this; because while the camp is more that likely providing them with great skills they are also in a silo. There is great potential for them to learn:
– how to prove your haters wrong
– coping skills in dealing with people who think little of you
– understanding the view of black people by others
– learning to get something you need or want from someone who wouldn’t otherwise give it to you
– learning to manage opposing views
– confronting Racism or any issue head on instead of running from it
– working with those who may be an enemy

It is possible that good can come from this. But, as always, emotion has driven people to act before understanding. What I would say to the parents is to question:

- what is his rational

- what will the boys possibly get out of this

- what will they learn

- how will they protect the boys from anything that will cause lasting damage

- how are they going to manage conflict and confrontation

- why exactly did he think this was a good idea

- of all the chefs in the world, why this one

…and then make their decision whether or not they want their son(s) to take part. There has to be a reason. Instead of jumping to conclusions and assumption based outrage, ask questions, challenge – the parents have a right to ask so they can protect their children.

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Posted by on October 8, 2014 in Race, The Good Guys, The Social World


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