With Youth Services having been decimated across the country, Social Services or Children’s Services are feeling an ever increasing strain. The Church has an important opportunity to work together with these statutory agencies to provide better services for the local community.
Children’s Services are responsible for dealing with concerns for child welfare, fostering, adoption, children with special needs, and general child and education related enquiries. Most social workers have between 35-50 cases at any one time, with a huge amount of visits, meetings with other professionals, and detailed reports that are linked to each case. This is only getting worse with lowering of staff morale and cuts to key services.
Here are three simple ways that you can work better with Social Services:
- Understand their thresholds: no one expects you to have the knowledge of a social worker – you’re a youth worker – but you can start developing your understanding of where you can work together with the statutory agencies by understanding what are the thresholds for access to their services. For example, these are the thresholds that my local authority use.
- Visit their team meeting: speak to one of the area manager’s and ask if you and the other church youth workers from the area can present the services that you provide. Often social workers are looking for positive activities to be able to refer young people and their families to. You can help them to understand what voluntary or third sector services are available in your area.
- Play an active part in meetings: whenever you have the opportunity to attend a Child Protection or Looked After Child case meeting I thoroughly recommend you go. The support you can show not just other professionals, but the young person and their family will earn you huge amounts of respect. It is important that you play an active part in the meeting – one of the most effective ways is to ensure where appropriate you present a report on your links with the young person and family – this puts you on a level par with education, health and other professional areas.
Too often partnership fails to happen because we as the Church are scared by what is involved rather than social workers not wanting to partner with the church. You have a chance to change that in your community.
What are the best ways you’ve found to link with social or children’s services in your area?