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Summer Institute Week 3 – Working with risk, resistance, and uncertainty

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When I was first asked to offer my reflections on week 3 of the Summer Institute, “Working with risk, resistance, and uncertainty”, I was somewhat concerned my comments and thoughts might be tainted by some of the sadness, pain, and fear that is often associated with safeguarding social work. How wrong I was! From the start to the end of the week I have had the privilege to have worked alongside a group of completely different, yet wonderfully similar human beings. 

Throughout the week I am proud to have been able to share the teaching and learning space with Experts by Experience, inspiring 2014 participants, extremely passionate and committed Consultant Social Workers, and of course my always present Frontline and University of Bedfordshire colleagues.  

During the early part of the week, I was proud to be involved in delivering some extremely innovative and dynamic teaching around the difficult subjects of risk and safeguarding. Prior to the Summer Institute Dr. Louise Grant and myself had the pleasure of working alongside “Annie”, to devise and develop some integrated teaching around the multifaceted and complex subjects of risk, safeguarding and a family’s lived experience. The very fact the teaching was delivered from the “shared perspectives” of the social worker and the family, invited participants to consider the importance of human relationship building, respectful, transparent and courageous conversations and the skilful use of authority, in any action or interaction. 

On Wednesday Dr. Lidija Godina and I delivered Motivational Interviewing teaching to a fantastic group of highly motivated, highly skilled and incredibly insightful Consultant Social Workers. It was evident from the start of the day that the “spirit” of Motivational Interviewing – partnership, acceptance, compassion, evocation, was present in the room. 

It was wonderful to observe how the Consultant Social Workers were so willing to openly embrace, challenge, question and absorb the learning that was offered. Their intelligence, practice wisdom and passion for both social work education and the profession ensured we left the session feeling completely confident in the group’s ability to develop and support the Frontline participants on the next stage of their learning journey. 

Friday began with Professor Martin Webber’s thoughtful, insightful and compassionate keynote lecture – an introduction to the conceptualisation of mental health. Webber is an integral member of the inaugural Think Ahead programme, a new route into social work, for graduates and career changers remarkable enough to make a real difference to people with mental health problems. I hope myself and others will be able to reach such high standards when we deliver our teaching – working with children and families where there is safeguarding issues from a child and family social worker perspective – to the Think Ahead participants at their Summer Institute.

Following this Jenny Molloy, Jo Williams, and I were in the extremely fortunate position of supporting two immensely courageous Experts by Experience, Kate, and Ian, as they shared their extremely moving and inspirational lived experiences of mental health issues, safeguarding and social work intervention. 

Although the narratives Kate and Ian shared with the participants were extremely painful and raw they were also extremely moving, poignant, and vitally important to hear. I was immensely impressed by Kate and Ian’s dignity, bravery and courage and the thoughtful, respectful and humbling way in which all the participants heard, honoured and sensitively responded to Kate and Ian’s unique lived experiences. 

I am confident the messages Kate and Ian left the participants with on Friday evening, including acknowledging strengths as well as areas of concerns, the importance of respectful relationships, connectedness, and the significance of both listening and hearing in social work practice, will remain at the forefront of their minds as they move forward into week 4 of the Summer Institute, and beyond. 

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