Members received an update from two care experienced young people on their experience of being looked-after by Harrow Council and receiving leaving care services. They shared their experiences and reported on some of the key messages received from young people at the recent Children in Care Council event held virtually.
The two care experienced young people related the following experiences:
- when transitioning from care to a care leaver, it was important to retain the same social worker. An issue for all young people was the change in social workers from childhood to adolescence and above 18 years old
- one of the young people shared that she felt that some social workers lacked empathy and this impacted adversely on vulnerable young people. Her University studies in social work had highlighted that the understanding of the word addiction was fundamental to the work of a social worker but it was sad that some social work students on her course had no grasp of its meaning. This lack of understanding would hurt vulnerable people. The Head of Corporate Parenting agreed that these were key issues and showed why the Council must listen to the voices of care experienced children and young people. The voice of young people was critical in ensuring that their needs were understood and met. The Chair agreed with these sentiments. A Member commented that empathy would come with experience and could not be taught. It was the Council’s responsibility to make changes and develop relationships between young people and social workers
- one of the young people reflected on their social work university course and shared that ‘social GGRRAAACCEEESSS’ had to be learnt and some students appeared to lack such fundamentals. During their studies, they appeared not to have developed or matured in social work studies as they often used language that would be offensive to those in care. The cohort did try and help each other by showing different ways of addressing the same situation and by educating them further and changing behaviours.
Members thanked the young participants for their contributions and recognised the importance of being looked after by the same social worker throughout their care journey. Constant change of social workers was not good care. With Covid-19 being endemic in society, they hoped that some form of normality would return soon and normal services would resume and positive changes made could be built on. Members were enlightened by the experiences of University social work education and they hoped that the messages conveyed at this meeting had been fed back to the establishment so that improvements could be made for the benefit of future generations/students studying social work.
Members acknowledged that the experiences gained by young people present at the meeting had been gained painfully. Their experiences had also given them a step up in life but at a cost. They were pleased to learn that they continued to challenge others whilst making positive contributions to society.
The Divisional Director of Children and Young People Services thanked the young people and stated that the Council was determined to get it right for future generations of young people in care, including how his staff were managed. The Directorate had reorganised its Service area to meet the needs of young people and had recognised the detrimental effect of continuous changes in social workers. Measures had been put in place to ensure a smooth pathway for young people in care and the Children Looked After Team was now a joint team with the Leaving Care team, and children did not have an automatic change of social worker at the age of 18 years.
The Head of Corporate Parenting stated that empathy, listening skills, emotional understanding were included in workshops for social workers and as part of the probation period.
In response, a young person hoped that this aspect would flourish. The young person identified that there can be gaps in support/care provided by social workers partly because they were burdened by too many cases and in having to deal with trauma. It was also important that social workers learnt to set boundaries.
The Divisional Director of Children and Young People Services stated that he would look to involve young people in staff wellbeing training/courses.
On behalf of the Panel, the Chair thanked the two young persons for sharing their invaluable experiences and suggestions on how the Council and other establishments could improve the lives of young people in care. She would encourage all young people in care to feedback their experiences, including negative ones so that improvements could be made.
RESOLVED: That the update be noted.