This is perhaps the hardest blog I’ve written so far, it’s been rattling around in my head from some time now. What I don’t want is for it to become a list of moans and rants about “the system”. I want this blog to be positive and give helpful advice for those parents new to all of this. The sort of thing I’d like to have known when I was starting out on this path. If I had written this 5 years ago it would have been a completely different post but I’ve learnt that sometimes you’ve got to work with what you’ve got and becoming frustrated is just a waste of energy. Energy I need for other things.
On Friday morning I had a phone call from our social worker to say she needed to come out and see me. Last year we had a big review of services at a ChIN meeting (child in need) Jacob is a child in need because he has a disability and is at risk of not for filling his potential because of it. I’m not really keen on the term as I think it has somewhat negative connotations. However, there are many acronyms that I’ve got used to hearing to describe our son over the last 11 or so years. We’ve also had a CAF meeting (care around the family) and TAC meeting (team around the child) all with varying levels of success and outcomes. Our new social worker needs to see me because despite something being agreed a year ago and actioned over 8 months ago it still hasn’t been done. Since then I’ve had 2 different social workers who have needed to come out to see me to discuss the same thing. The ‘thing’ itself isn’t really important to my point. It’s the system that social workers have to work within that seems to prevent ‘things’ happening.
To access any additional services you will probably need a ‘child in need assessment ‘ and for any form of respite you will need a ‘carers assessment’ For both of these you need a social worker of some sort to do the ‘assessing’. We had our first social worker when Jacob was 4. Since then we have had over 14 different ones! Usually they go off sick or are moved to a different service and I’m called to say we will be getting a new one. Each one needs to come out and visit us at home. I assume that this is a box ticking exercise. All of them have been pleasant and obviously motivated to do good but the system they work within seems from the outside, to be outdated and time consuming. The fact that so many of them have gone off long term sick sounds alarm bells to me!
However my new one is refreshingly to the point. I question her need to come out and see me again and ask if this can’t be done over the phone (the team for our county are based an hours drive away from us meaning its 3 hours effectively for each meeting) She tells me that she has to do it face to face and that I don’t really need a social worker, other than to do this thing, and she needs me off her case load. Fair enough. Great I say and we book an appointment.
So, whatever you need a social worker for here’s my advice to help you stay calm and get what you need;
If you need or want any specific services for disabled children the chances are you’re going to need a social workers referral. If there’s anything you can get via self-referral then do it that way. The charities cerebra and contact a family can help you fill in forms and are partially good at DLA applications
They do not have the time to give you personal emotional support. They have to concentrate on those cases where there are safeguarding concerns and rightly so. Get that kind of help from friends family and groups like Swan UK. During my first meeting with my first social worker we talked for an hour about Jacob before doing any formal assessment. He made all the right noises but at the end of all this he asked me if, when getting ready to go out, can Jacob put his shoes and coat on! He can’t do that now 8 years on! So keep it brief and business like. You don’t need to go over all the upsetting details especially when you’re repeating yourself for the umpteenth time to your new social worker. All you need to know is if can they get you what you need.
If you think you may soon need respite care ask for a carers assessment before you get desperate. It can take up to a year to get done (no, I’m not joking!) If you are refused a cares assessment you may be being ‘fobbed off’. You may not be eligible for additional support but under The Care Act 2014 which comes into force this April local authorities are responsible to assess a carer’s need for support. If you’ve got the energy familiarise yourself with the relevant legislation. You don’t have to read the whole document there are organisations that make it more accessible
Be prepared to nag and chase them up. If you feel you’re getting nowhere, ask for the procedure to make a formal complaint, this usually galvanises action.
If you can, and I wish I’d done this, write down every meeting and conversation you have including names dates and times.
Stay calm (it’s nothing personal honest!) the system is inefficient and out of date, but you can use it. There’s no one individual to blame. Remember working with social services is like getting stuck behind a lorry on the motorway. There’s no quick way round you’ve just got to sit there til you arrive at where you want to be! (I’d like to take credit for that analogy but actually credit is dur to our Paediatrician!)