Getting stuck between social care and CAMHS

young_person

The UK has a world-class public sector, education is good, and the NHS is outstanding. But one area that consistently seems to let young people down is those who get stuck in-between social care and Children and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS).

 

In our austerity climate there have been cuts to both children’s social and the CAMHS service. In addition both services are locally using more agency staff to cover the current gaps they have within their teams. This certainly provides a lack of consistency for young people and their families, but I believe that the problem is not solved by more money, and capacity staffing. Simply pouring additional resource into a dysfunctional system would not automatically produce the best results for our vulnerable children and young people. Instead it is time to consider a radical overhaul of how, when and by whom child protection and statutory mental health services are provided.

 

Too often when a child is suspected of having mental health concerns such as depression, suicide, ADHD, on the ASD spectrum then social care, often believe it is the responsibility of CAMHS to take the lead with the family. Yet CAMHS, often rightly, will point out that whilst the mental health concerns has a significant impact there are other major factors at play in the life of the young person. Instead of two agencies working together to support a young person and their family they spend their time blaming cuts on the lack of staff and resources and spend meetings with other professionals passing the buck as to why they can not help the young person.

 

All this does is lead to a situation where a young person who is on the border of a Tier 2 to 3 threshold is propelled to the top end of Tier 3 if not into Tier 4 as no agency takes responsibility to support and invest in the young person and their family.

 

I can think of several families that I’ve worked with for whom this tension between social care and CAMHS has actually worsened the situation, and certainly not helped the young person.

 

I sit in meetings where I want to stop and shout: “Enough is enough!” Surely we can find a way to do something between us to support this young person and their family.

 

As is often the case though in a large organisation the staff at the meetings don’t have the power to be able to change the situation – what we need is county managers and health commissioners working together for the benefit of young people and their families and enabling their staff to do the same.

How to partner in youth work with social services

partnership

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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?

75% of homeless youth use Facebook and Twitter

Homeless Person

A recent study found that 75% of homeless young people use social networks to stay connected to others – a number comparable to that of university and college students.

The study, led by the University of Alabama’s Rosanna Guadagno, surveyed 237 college and 65 homeless young people that were an average of 19 years old.  A vast majority of both groups reported using social media networks such as Twitter and Facebook for at least one hour each day.

Over 90 percent of college students reported using social media programs for at least one hour every day.

Guadagno makes the argument that a “digital divide” in Internet access should be re-thought:

“To the extent that our findings show a ‘digital divide’ between undergraduates at a four-year university and age-matched participants in a program for homeless young adults, it is mainly in types of Internet use and not access to the Internet, and that divide is relatively minor.  Since it is clear that the proportions of undergraduates and homeless young adults accessing social networking sites are similar, we assert that the term digital divide is not descriptive of the young adult population.”

Another recent study from the University of Dayton found that homeless youth are closely linked to social media in their daily lives. They don’t only use such networks for social contact and equality, but as a means to solve practical daily issues.

Art Jipson, the head of the Dayton study, found that the homeless use social media as a place where all people are treated “equally,” and through a series of interviews, discovered that it can also be a medium to find social services, somewhere to sleep and their next hot meal.

I’d be interested to know if any similar research has occurred in the UK with the ever increasing group of sofa surfer teenagers.