The coronavirus pandemic has massively reduced the amount of time social workers can spend face to face with families. But behind closed doors, there are still many vulnerable children in need of support from their social worker. It is absolutely vital, therefore, that we continue to build strong trusting relationships with the children and families we are supporting at this difficult time. This is why we have implemented a variety of creative new approaches to our work.
Recently I have been supporting a family where there have been concerns over household neglect, as mum has been finding it difficult to manage her mental health whilst also taking care of her son. All of the media coverage around Covid-19 has created a heightened sense of panic for many. Mum has felt trapped in her own home, constantly worried about contracting the virus, and this significantly increased her anxiety.
In order to support mum and her child, I have been doing home visits by sitting outside of their front door and video calling them. This has allowed me to reduce mum’s anxiety over someone new entering her home, but by still making the journey to their home I show respect and commitment to the family. This has really strengthened my relationship with them. Taking a tour of the home via video call, I am still able to reassure mum and ensure her son has a healthy home environment. Adapting my normal approach in order to build trust has really helped this family’s wellbeing. Mum is now able to go to the shops and take her son to school when she is feeling okay and can ask for my support on the days she is struggling with her mental health. Although there is still progress left to be made, reducing mum’s stress levels and anxiety has helped her move to a healthier place, for the benefit of her and her son.
Just because something works for one family, doesn’t mean it will work for another. Social work is about finding what works for each individual you work with. With one child we chat while playing video games online. I walk another child to school when their parents are unable to take them. Both allow me to have a conversation with a child about what’s worrying them in an environment where they feel comfortable, and to stay in regular contact while social distancing. One of my colleagues has been reading a chapter a day with a child who is finding it hard to keep up with his reading as his parents don’t speak English. Small supportive acts like these, done consistently during the pandemic, can have a big impact on how the family view social work involvement and how relaxed they feel working with you.
Lockdown has been difficult for everyone but that doesn’t stop us, as social workers, from continuing to build strong relationships with children and families. Be as flexible as you can, take the time to listen and reassure families, and adapt to what works best for them and you. Through lots of small steps we can continue to build trust and keep children safe.
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