Good relationships are a universal therapeutic good. (i)
We were inspired by the exhibition Who Cares: Stories of Looking After Children in Southwark looking at the highly skilled and often invisible work of foster carers, including their beautiful portraits. This is a brief look at the importance of relationships within social work and how digital technology can support them.
Budgets are continuously tightening in children’s services and there is an increased focus on the quantitative performance of social work, accompanied by a shift in emphasis towards efficiency, value for money, results and targets. It isn’t surprising then, that the recognition given to the value of relationships sometimes gets lost.
Relationships in social work are critical and in the case of children’s social care they are the human connection between the child or young person and the care system. The importance of this relationship is not new, indeed Octavia Hill, the ‘Grandmother of Social Work’ said back in 1869,
Only when face meets face, heart meets heart; only in the settled link with those who are old friends…is there more opportunity to grow and shine. (ii)
The relationship between social worker and child needs to be strong enough to allow children and young people to feel comfortable in sharing their views, wishes and feelings. Without this relationship to create safe and supportive spaces for young people to share and open up, those all-important targets will never be met.
Technology works in relationships
Technology used in the right way can be powerful: at Mind Of My Own we have evidence that it can increase trust, break down barriers, build rapport and provide common ground with young people. All of these things support the growth of the relationship between the social worker and the child. We also know that the advancement of technology has helped millions of people to transform the ways in which we communicate with each other, whether on mobile, social media, websites or email.
Our apps can enhance relationships
We want to share four real stories from social workers and young people highlighting the positive impact technology has had on supporting their current relationship-based practice and how it has improved the relationships between young people and workers or workers and families.
I asked one of my 11 year old’s how life was – all I got was an okay. Then I introduced them to Mind Of My Own and WOW! What a response! The thing is that Mind Of My Own enabled the young person to express his views and feelings, facilitated him verbally communicating more and assisted in the development of our relationship. This is the most relaxed I have seen him.
Social Worker – Sunderland
I used the Express app in a direct work session with a young boy. I knew that he was into technology so introduced it and said that it was a really cool way for me to find out more about him. He really opened up and enjoyed it and liked the different pictures within the app. I let him choose which topics he wanted to complete and we said next time I see him we will try and complete some more which he was happy with.
Social Worker – Scotland
My personal benefits of using Mind Of My Own is my social worker has really listened to me and this has made our relationship so much better.
Young Person aged 14 – England
A young person in England, aged 14, used the One app to share his feelings about his home. He completed ‘what I’d like to be different’ and he shared “I’d like my mum to stop drinking”. The social worker shared this statement with the young person’s permission, and the mum was lost for words, as she thought that things were okay. By doing this, the social worker thinks that it improved their working relationship with mum and it had an impact on further actions.
Please get in touch if you want to learn more about how our apps can help you access new ways to create deeper relationships with your young people – Natalie@mindofmyown.org.uk
Images on this page of the exhibition Who Cares: Stories of Looking After Children in Southwark are all reproduced by kind permission of Andy Stagg
(i) Richard P Bentall (2009). Doctoring the Mind. London, Allen Lane, p260
(ii) Kathleen Woodroofe (1962). From charity to social work in England and the United States. London, Routledge and Kegan Paul, p52