Working with children and families throughout the pandemic
I was six months into my first year on the Frontline programme when everything changed overnight. We were suddenly in a national lockdown due to COVID-19. At first, I was worried. How were the children and families I was working with going to cope? How would the lockdown impact them?
The pandemic and its consequences have been disruptive, and in many cases traumatic for many children and families across the country and the world. However, my experiences over the last year have proved that despite adversity, we can adapt as a profession to support children and families, and the prospects of this excite me.
Firstly, the introduction of technology into practice has meant that social workers are working in ways they have never done before, even though the technology has been around for many years. Using virtual meeting tools, such as Zoom, has opened up communication with families. One young person I was supporting told me that, because of virtual visits, he was able to ask me questions that he didn’t feel comfortable to in person.
Of course, technology can never replace visiting a family in their home environment. But it has opened up the opportunity to engage with young people in a way different way – and a way which they are familiar and comfortable with. And ultimately this is the real positive – being able to broaden ways of working to get the best outcome for those we support. This young person is happy for me to visit him at home again and we have adopted a mix of both in person and virtual visits.
The pandemic has allowed me the permission to be more creative in my practice too. Simple things, such as taking visits outdoors, going on walks or playing football. I wouldn’t have thought of this as an option before, however, it has really helped young people to open up to me and has strengthened our relationships.
Finally, the last year has highlighted the importance of getting feedback from families. By asking question such as, ‘How has this been working for you?’ or ‘How can we work better together?’ we are handing the power back to families. We are showing them that their voice matters, and we can be flexible and work with them to create the change they want to see for themselves.
As we move towards the end of lockdown restrictions in England, my hope is that social workers take forward the learning from the past year. I’m hoping to take a hybrid approach where appropriate with all the families I work with, based on their feedback and what works best to overall. I hope we continue to adapt despite challenging times, and push for the best outcomes for children and families.
Watch our learning from lockdown panel discussion to hear more from Kasey.