Category Archives: Social Work

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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Extra, extra read all about it

nureaucracyEvery time I log into my blog reader or check my Facebook feed, I feel like someone is inputting information faster than I can categorise it. As an occupational hazard, my brain is automatically distressed at the site of over-sexualised children or children being abused. My inner social justice advocate wants to start petitions and lobby congress. My inner girlie girl wants to buy shoes and pretend like the rest of the world exists. The daddy’s girl wants to call home and have dad come pick me up so I can escape the malice and ill-intentions of the world. There is so much information you get lost in it all. You are liking pages and commenting on statuses while still locked in the emotion from the earlier post. It is difficult to remember where you started once you get going.

So much access to information. So much opportunity to share information one has to wonder if people actually think, “should I share this?” Every page I like I think, “will this offend”. Every article I read I think “what can I do”? Every picture, every status, every millisecond of every day images, opinions, facts, fiction, slander, malice, beauty, intrigue, retail escape, encouragement to spend money I don’t have bombard my senses and make me wonder how I can become someone else.

Everyday is a new adventure in figuring out who I want to be and how I intend to get there. Sometimes choice is overwhelming and information transports you into the multi-faceted worlds in the minds of too many others. ~ Daily Prompt 


Posted by on September 15, 2014 in Social Work


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Getting it right to get it right

Assessment Prompts

Below is list of things to consider when discussing issues with families. This list is not exhaustive and you may come up with your own as you work with the family. Please remember your follow up questions to families will be based on the information provided to you and specific to that family. These are just starting points or ways to help facilitate the conversation. Always give the family a chance to tell you their story, then ask questions to get more depth.

Reason for undertaking the assessment

  • What is the referral requesting?
  • What would they like you to do?
  • Why did they refer to your service as opposed to another?

Relevant history or background:

  • Does the family have a history with your service? If so what is this? What was achieved? What wasn’t? What was the outcome?
  • Does the family have a history with other partner agencies (social care, TYSS, YOT, Community Safety, and Educational Welfare)? If so what information do they hold about the family? What insights can they offer?

Where a young person / parent has a disability or where they have specific communication needs, what actions have been taken to address this

  • Does the family need an interpreter? What language do they speak?
  • Are there mobility issues?
  • Are there learning difficulties in the family?
  • Have you made reasonable arrangements for any/ all of these?


  • Are there any members of the family with a chronic illness?
  • Are there any historical illnesses in the family?
  • Is there a high prevalence for illness in the family? (Cancers, diabetes, high blood pressure, etc.)
  • Is anyone on medication? What is it for? How often? Are they compliant? Who is monitoring?
  • Anyone formally diagnosed with a mental health disorder?
  • Anyone seeing a specialist? What is this for?
  • Any addictions in the family? Alcohol? Drugs? Prescription meds?
  • Anyone using substances (alcohol, drugs) regularly?
  • Anyone currently pregnant? Are they receiving pre-natal care?
  • Anyone ever have an extended period of illness? What is the status of this illness now? What was the illness?


  • How many children are there in the home aged 5-19? If they have a disability up to 25?
  • Are they all registered in education? What school, college or university?
  • What is their attendance? Do they attend regularly? Are they punctual/on time?
  • Do any of the children have statements? If so, what kind of support are they receiving?
  • Have any of the children ever been excluded? If so, why and for how long?
  • Are any of the children in an alternative provision or PRU?
  • How well do parents think are they achieving? What is their attainment level?
  • Which education professionals are currently working with the family (EWO, SENCO, learning mentors, Educational psychologists, etc.)?
  • If they are year 2, 6, or year 11, what did they get on their SATs/GCSEs?
  • What were the children’s experiences in primary school?
  • What are the children’s favourite subjects?
  • What was secondary school like for each child?
  • How did children manage the transition from year 6 to year 7? What was that year like? Did you make any friends? What was their timetable? Did anything go wrong? Why/what happened?
  • If things went wrong, what would have helped? Would they have liked someone to talk to about things?
  • Are parents aware of the issues brought up by young people? If so, how did parents manage issues in school?
  • What was the parents’ experience of education? How far did they go? Were there any barriers to going further?
  • What is the parents’ view of education?

Family and Social Relationships

  • Who’s in the family home?
  • Who’s important to family function that doesn’t live in the family home?
  • Who do individuals in the family consider their support network? Are they inside or outside of the home?
  • What do individual family members think of each other?
  • What do individual family members think of the family as a whole?
  • Which members of the family have the closest relationships?
  • Which members of the family have strained relationships? Why is this? When did it begin? What precipitated it?
  • How do the parents interact with the children?
  • How do the children interact with each other?
  • How do children respond to parents?
  • What are the important non biological relationships that exist for the family? How are they involved?
  • How do the family view support from other members?
  • Do family members talk to each other?
  • Are family members able to say positive things about each other?
  • How often do the family spend time with each other?

Social presentation

  • Do the family know their neighbours?
  • Do they have relationships with their neighbours? Is this positive or negative? Why?
  • Do they use services in the neighbourhood? Which ones? How are their relationships with the providers of these services?
  • Do they like their neighbourhood? If not why? If so why?
  • Has anyone in the family committed an offense? If so what offense? What was the outcome?
  • Is anyone in the family involved in gang activity? If so which gang? What do they get from this? Why is this important for them?
  • Has anyone been engaging in anti-social behaviour? If so what happened? What was the outcome?
  • Has there been a lack of engagement with services in the past? What is the family’s explanation of this? What did they get out of the service? What did they want from the service that they didn’t get?
  • How does the family present to you? Closed? Open? Ambivalent? What is the family’s explanation of this?

Self-Care skills

  • How do the family present? Do they appear to be clean, groomed? What do you see, physically, when you look at them?
  • How is the family home? Is it neat? Is it tidy? What did you see when you went to the home?
  • How are the children in the home? How often do they bathe? How often are chores done? Who is responsible for which chores?
  • Was there a smell present in the house? Where was this coming from?
  • Were there things in the home that needed to be repaired? What were these? What have the family said they are doing about this?
  • Is there furniture in the home? How are these being cared for? What do they look like?

Parents’ / carers’ attributes

  • How do the parents feel about being parents? Were pregnancies planned? What were the circumstances of the children’s births? Was it a happy occasion or was there tension or strain in relationships (with family or partners) due to pregnancy?
  • What did parents know about babies and children when they got pregnant?
  • Did they want children?
  • What was it like being pregnant? Giving birth? Holding the baby for the first time?
  • Are the parents married?
  • Do they both live in the home? If not, which parent is the primary care?
  • Are parental duties shared? If so, how? If not, what are the feelings about this?
  • How are parents/carers managing the home? Are there boundaries in place? How are these enforced? Are the children responding to the boundaries? Are some responding and not others? Why is this?
  • Are there issues affecting the parents’ ability to completely engage as head of the household? (physical illness; mental illness; physical disability; learning disability; sensory impairment; period in care; period in care during childhood; experience of being abused; experience of being abused as a child; known history of abuse; known history of abuse of children; substance/alcohol misuse; domestic violence; known history of violence) How long have they been issues? What has been tried to help manage the issue? What’s helped in the past? What hasn’t helped?
  • How old were parents when the children were born? Was this during a period of developmental transition? What developmental activities did they miss out on due to pregnancy/parenting? How does this impact their parenting?
  • If there are multiple children in the home, how was each pregnancy different? What did they do differently with each child? What did they learn as they continued to parent?
  • How much do the parents know about their children and their children’s activities?
  • What are the rules in the home? How well are these adhered to? Why?
  • What kind of discipline is used in the home? Who is the primary disciplinarian?
  • How involved are the parents with their children’s education? Do they know their children’s timetable or what time they start? Helping with homework? Going to parents’ evenings? What is their relationship like with their children’s teachers?
  • Do parents know their children’s friends? How do they feel about their children’s friends? Has there ever been a need for parents to intervene to end friendships due to negative influences? How was this handled? How was it received?
  • Do parents know their children’s friends parents? What is their relationship like?
  • What is the parents’ view of their children? Positive? Negative? Why?
  • What do the parents think is the potential of each of their children? What do they see as their role in helping their children reach this potential?
  • What do parents see as their role in the lives of their children overall?
  • Are there relationship difficulties between parents and children? When did this start? How do parents and children explain this?
  • Are there historical difficulties in parent/child relationships? What helped improve these?
  • What do they enjoy about being parents?
  • What do they find particularly challenging about being parents?
  • How do parents rate their own parenting ability? Why?
  • How do the children rate their parents parenting ability? Why?
  • What would help make these ratings higher for each?
  • What kind of parent would they like to be? What would help them achieve this, realistically?


  • How do the family see themselves as a whole? Good? Needing improvement? Why?
  • How do individual family members see themselves?
  • What ethnicity is the family? How do they identify themselves?
  • What traditions do they have?
  • What do they feel is important about their culture?
  • Are they religious? What is their religion? How often do they attend services? Are they active in their religious institution? What religious traditions do they have?
  • What is the family’s immigration status? Does everyone in the family have status? What is being done about this if not?
  • How do the family think they are seen by members of their local community? Their religious community? Their broader family? Their friends?

Family history

  • What has led the family to being referred to the service?
  • What do they see as the significant events in their lives? How have these events impacted them as a family and individual members of the family?
  • What do the family think they can do better? Why?
  • What kind of family would they like to be? Why?
  • What would they change about their past if they could? Why?
  • How are they different now than they were 2 years ago? 5 years ago?
  • What issues have they had in the past that they have successfully managed? What helped?
  • What issues have they had in the past that continue to be issues? What have they tried? What would they be willing to try?

Family and environmental factors

  • Where do the family live? What kind of accommodation? Rented or owned? Private, council or housing association? Are there rent arrears? How much? How long has it been going on? What is being done about it? Are they going to be evicted?
  • Who in the home is employed? What do they do? How much do they make? Would they like to work toward a promotion? Would they like to be doing something else? Have they looked into changing careers? For those not working, what would they like to do? What have they done to forward this goal? What would help them take steps toward work?
  • How much money is coming into the family home? Are they on benefits? If so how much do they get and how often? Is there still a need after they receive their benefits? Is anyone in the home unemployed and looking for work? What kind of work? Do they need extra training?
  • Is the family engaged with any other services? Which services? What are they helping with? Does the family think the services are making an impact? What could be better? What is working?

Views of the family

  • What would the family like to change?
  • What do the family see as the major issues within the family?
  • What do the family feel are their strengths?
  • What would they like to start changing first?
  • What are they able to do for themselves?
  • What areas will they need support in addressing?
  • What do they want from you?
  • Do they believe you can have an impact on their situation? How and why?
  • In a perfect world, what would their family look like?
  • Based on their previous ratings as parents, from the parents perspective how can that rating be improved?
  • From the children’s perspective, how could their parents improve?
  • What would the children like to be different in the family? Why? How do they see this happening?

Views of the professionals

  • How long have they worked with the family?
  • What service did/do they provide?
  • How would they describe their relationship with the family?
  • What were their impressions of the family as a whole? Individual members?
  • Who did they see as influential members of the family?
  • Were there any members that appeared to be divisive? How so? What did they do? What didn’t they do?
  • Did they encounter any resistance? Why was this? Was it challenged? How?
  • If they are no longer working with the family, why did service come to an end? What were the outcomes of their interventions? Were there any recommendations for further work?
  • Did they make any referrals on behalf of the family? (If they did and the family did not engage this should be discussed with the family to find out why not)


  • What long term impact would the current situation have if it were allowed to continue (= risks)?
  • What are the mitigating factors, i.e. – those things that make the risks less worrying (= strengths)?
  • Are there any gaps? What risks remain once the strengths/mitigating factors have been identified?
  • This information will lead you to the services that might be able to assist the client and mitigate the remaining risks. Having this information will inform your plan.
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Posted by on September 15, 2014 in Social Work


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Finding Work as a Social Worker

Below you will find a few articles about working in various parts of the UK. I think it is a good resource for people to have as part of their considerations. Hope they will be useful.

Here is the link link from the UKBA on the local authorities who are willing to sponsor social workers. If you open the PDF document on the right hand side of the page you will see a list of all the employers that are registered to sponsor overseas workers.

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Posted by on January 6, 2014 in Social Work


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Social Work Interview Questions

There are many blogs on interviewing and some blogs on questions you can encounter in the US, however, I haven’t seen any on the type of questions one encounters when working in the UK. If you’re coming from another country the British Association of Social Workers (BASW) has a great resource on what to expect coming to practice Social Work in the UK. However, below are some questions you might encounter, some general, others specific to children’s social work in the UK. These are general thought provoking questions, many places have them formatted or asked differently.

General Questions:

1 – Why this job? Why do you work to work for (fill in name of the agency)?

2 – How are your skills, knowledge and experience relevant to the job?

3 – Current legislation and policy issues related to the post for which you are applying

4 – What would you consider when undertaking a risk assessment or assessment of need?

5 – How do you take professional responsibility and accountability for your work?

6 – How would you contribute to budget management and achieving best value for money?

7 – What pressures are you likely to encounter in the work place and what strategies do you use to address these pressures?

8 – What skills do you bring to the team?

9 – What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses?

You should be able to think through these questions and come up with coherent and relevant answers that not only showcase your knowledge but what you bring to the work environment.


Children’s Social Care Specific

1 – Steps in conducting a child protection investigation

2 – Steps involved in instituting court proceedings for children

3 – Key performance indicators for looked after children/children in care

4 – What are the 5 outcomes

5 – What skills and experience do you have working with children and families? How would these help you work with our clients?

6 – Examples of working when you worked with a challenging family/child/professional and how you overcame this or continued to work with them

7 – Examples of how you would engage the above

8 – Example of an instance where you were confronted with discrimination (in a broad sense) and what you did/how you addressed it

9 – What is your approach to professional development?

10 – How do you use supervision? What do you see as the purpose for supervision?

11 – How do you prioritize your work in a fast paced environment?

Management specific questions: (might include some of the above depending on the role)

1 – What experience have you had in management?

2 – How would you manage an under performing staff member?

3 – How would you contribute to the organizations change program? (If applicable)

4 – How do you balance your caseload with your management duties? (for Senior Practitioner roles)

5 – What strengths do you bring to this role?

6 – How would you manage supervising your peers? (if going for a promotion)

It is always worth researching as much as possible about an organization and the role for which you are applying. I would take into account people’s opinion about a place but make your own determination. It may be that an organization has a bad reputation, but that may be the best place to go if your interest is in the development of the profession or you want to develop management skills because things may be new. It may be that the organization is going through a period of change but it may be your opportunity to be exposed to a new way of working which you can take elsewhere when you’re ready to move on.

Also when looking at working in Social Work, it is worth considering whether you want to go locum or be a permanent worker.

The pros of being a permanent worker are paid sick leave, paid holiday leave, more opportunity for development and you get the opportunity to settle in. The cons are that you are locked into a notice period so any thought about moving on would have to be planned. Another pro is that if you are looking for a change and have been with an organization for a while you might be able to do this within the organization. It is a matter of discussing your professional development with your manager.

The pros of being a locum/temp worker are that you make more money and you have a greater freedom to move about because you’re not locked into a notice period. The cons are no paid leave, sick or otherwise, some boroughs don’t allow locum/temp workers to participate in certain trainings, having short bursts of employment may worry potential employers and you are expected to “hit the ground running.” Basically, you are expected to be able to do the job with very little interference. This could also be a pro if you’re the type of person that has quite a bit of experience and able to get on with the work.


Posted by on June 12, 2013 in Social Work


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