This is a story about the Children’s Social Care Service within Hammerwick Council, a fictitious London Borough. It’s one of six personas we’ve created to help us develop Mind Of My Own and is based on interviews carried out with children’s services. It helps us explore how Mind Of My Own could help councils to do an even better job of helping young people to be heard.
About Hammerwick’s Childrens Social Care Service
Hammerwick is a large London Borough with a diverse population, including 538 children in care and 260 care leavers. Over the last two years 62% of its young people have left care at the age of 16 and 38% have left at the age of 17 or 18 after staying on for longer in their fostering placements. When they leave care they are entitled to support with accommodation, job finding and education up to the age of at least 21, and beyond if in education or they have special needs.
A few young people are ready to leave care at 16 but the majority are not, even when they turn 18 (and sometimes even when they turn 21). The borough’s care leavers tell stories of rejection and isolation. They want “security and safety, respect and guidance. Someone to turn to, someone to be there for us when times get tough”. Young people from the borough were involved in making a video about their experiences for the Care Leavers Charter.
The Care Leavers Charter and the Munro Review
Hammerwick is expected to work to the Charter. In the words of Scott King, care leaver and Ministerial Adviser on the Charter “Our new Charter focuses on the hearts and minds of the individuals. To respect and honour their identity, To believe in them, To Listen to them, To inform them, To support them, To find them a home and To be a lifelong champion.
Our aim is to change the social work ethos in the UK and start understanding the individual children and young people, respecting where they have come from and what they have been through and nurturing them to be the best that they can be.
The Care Leavers Charter aims to change the social work ethos in the UK and start understanding the individual children and young people, respecting where they have come from and what they have been through and nurturing them to be the best that they can be.”
The Charter is one of several policy and ethical drivers that Hammerwick’s social work team is trying to work to. In 2011 the ground-breaking Munro Report recommended that social workers be given more support and freedom to get alongside children and young people and put their views at the centre of their care. Some of its recommendations can be interpreted as:
- reducing the need to complete assessment processes within arbitrary timescales
- reducing the role of the professional voice and increasing their connection to the child’s voice
- increasing the power of the child’s voice.
Implementing Munro’s recommendations should help social workers to reshape their relationships with young people and develop better shared definitions of problems. It should also enable young people to be more involved in developing solutions and making decisions with professionals.
Hammerwick are trying to do the right thing
Hammerwick’s senior children’s social care management team is trying to give their social workers the freedom to make this happen and their social workers have been trying to do this. Everyone knows that putting the child’s voice at the centre of their care is the right thing to do but they still struggle with having enough time to build relationships and really listen to what children and young people are saying. This is compounded by the ongoing turnover in staff meaning that each child’s social worker changes on average every 29 months.
As a result, not much has changed – social workers are still overly burdened by administrative tasks and assessed on number, rather than quality of visits to children and young people. The borough is unable to demonstrate any increase in young people being involved in decision making processes. More crucially where involvement happens it is unable to track or show if this leads to any benefits, i.e. improvements in the young person’s wellbeing, health, quality of support or experience of care.
Hammerwick’s MOMO User Journey
Hammerwick have been offered Mind Of My Own for a year. A handful of young people from the Borough have already used it independently to express their views on issues relating to their leaving care service either by using it to generate and print a statement or to download and email it to their social worker.
They understand in theory that MOMO could help solve the problem of young people not feeling heard by their services. However they are concerned that it might become another administrative burden for their staff and aren’t sure that it’s worth spending time adopting in case young people won’t use it. They get the idea that it could help young people express their views and that this could help change their working culture into one that puts young people at the heart of what they are doing but can’t see how it might do this.
Having tried out the professional’s user interface and explored MOMO’s features Hammerwick’s Director of Children’s Social Care approves the purchase of a one year subscription. They roll it out to their leaving care team first who are invited to register via Hammerwick’s user account. Once registered each team member is invited to watch a MOMO ‘How to’ video that explains how to use it. These videos are easily accessible for any time they need a refresh.
Hammerwick begin inviting young people who are coming up to leaving care age to use MOMO to input their views into their next Looked After review meeting. They can send emails with links or send young people flyers in their leaving care packs. These flyers are printed from their own dashboard and include a code that young people can use when they register, so MOMO recognises where they are from. This means that users can send their statements directly to Hammerwick’s user account and so to their social worker.
After six months of using MOMO they see an increase in young people expressing both positive and negative their views at meetings and in-between. Young people’s contribution to transition meetings increases, even when they don’t attend. Hammerwick receive stats on numbers of young people who have used MOMO and their feedback on the experience of using it and the benefits it’s created for them. Anecdotal evidence from social workers includes stories of how much easier it is to understand what young people have written via MOMO and of how those who have used it will talk more confidently in reviews and at 1-1 meetings.
Hammerwick invite the rest of their care leavers to use MOMO and continue to recieve its benefits.
Summary: What Hammerwick want Mind Of My Own to be able to do…
As a children’s social care service manager I want MOMO to:
- be easy and intuitive for under-pressure social workers to use to invite young people to MOMO and to access young people’s statements when young people choose to share them
- do more than just help me enable young people’s voices to be heard within our services
- generate direct access flyers that I can print and give to young people
- improve our efficiency at enabling young people to express their views in meetings and more generally, without prompting by their social worker
- be easy to invite and encourage young people to use
- be easy for young people to send their statement to their social worker without needing to know their email address
- produce statements from young people in formats that are easy to understand and work with
- show me how many young people have used it and whether they think its been useful for them
- give me evidence of how it has increased Hammerwick young people’s involvement in decision making
- give me evidence of how young people’s involvement in decision making has led to improved decisions and outcomes
- enable young people to tell my staff about things that they want to change or be sorted out, not just the things that my staff ask them about before reviews etc
- enable young people to challenge assumptions about them
- show me how it adds value to our wider strategy (listening to young people, reshaping relationships, changing social work culture etc)
Hammerwick’s story is one of six user journeys we’ve created. To see the rest click here .