My chosen service user group is children, my practice learning setting is a voluntary sector, the organisation offers telephone helpline and outreach services for children and young people age 18 and under. We work under the guidelines which to base work with children are found in the Children act 1989 and the UN Convention on the Rights of the child, to which UK is a signatory. Where a child is being abused, we aim to get the child the help they need to stop the abuse. This agency aims to work together and in partnership with child protection agencies throughout the UK.
While I was on practice placement I have been involved in child protection work which will be a focus for the discussion. This agency receives ninety per cent of their funding from general public, business and trust and the other ten per cent from central and local government funds, without this money vital work for children and young people would not be possible. The National occupational standard (NOS) for social workers state that professionals should be able to work within multi-disciplinary team, (key role 5) In my placement setting we work within multi- disciplinary team, we share responsibility and organise an individualised care for the child in danger by involving as many professional group as possible e.g. social workers, teachers and police.
I will give an example of how we deal with child protection within this team at my practice setting. The overriding principle, which governs all areas of work, is that the child's welfare is paramount. Caller A stated that she is 12 years old and she lives at home with her disable mum, her father and her 14-year-old brother. She stated that she is being bullied at home by all her family, who regularly shout at her making her feel very upset, She also states that her dad has hit her on several occasions, around her head and neck leaving marks. She had no marks at the moment. She is worried that her dad will do this again. She has told her teacher at school about this no action has been taken.
Caller A states she does not want to live at home and would prefer to live with her auntie, who lives nearby, during the call caller A mother and father enter the room, she made them aware that she was talking to our agency and she told them she wanted to go and live with her auntie. Counsellor asked caller A whether she would like social service to become involved and she agrees to this. Caller A informed that a referral has been made and she provided her phone number so that she can be informed of the progress and we discussed of ways to keep herself safe if their are problems at home for instance she could call the police. Later that evening caller A auntie called our agency to confirm that the situation at home is problematic for caller A and she would be happy to care for her.
Our Agency informs her that a referral had been made to social services and advises her to make contact with the social services. A month later I received a call from caller A she had heard nothing from social services and wondered whether our agency knew what was happening. The situation at home is still not good and she still wants to go and live with her auntie. I telephoned social service duty team. The file was obtained and the duty social worker advises that they took no action and closed the case because the referral stated that caller A had an auntie who she could seek respite with.
Our agency expressed concerns that this decision was made without contact with caller A, her auntie or our organisation. Our agency request that the case is re-opened but social service state they would not be able to do this unless caller A understand that her parent would need to be informed that a referral has been made.
Two weeks later caller A phones our agency again. She advises that she had spoken to a teacher at her school who made a referral to social services, who then send a consent form to her parents, which they signed. A meeting has been arranged, to take place at school, involving a social worker, caller A, her parent and her auntie. My agency wrote to service management raising concerns about poor decision making in response to referral.
Professionals may only have contact with each other during an emergency, which is always the case at my agency. Therefore understanding of each other's responsibilities can be crisis driven and contact may only last as long as is necessary to re-establish equilibrium in a child's life. The need for a more child-centred and the use of holistic approach by various agencies has long been acknowledged and is expressed in aspirations to 'joined up' practice. However, the achievement of such seamless service has proved evasive.
WHAT HELPED INTERAGENCY PATNERSHIP AND INTERPROFESSIONAL COLLABORATION
Careful consideration should always be given, to what intervention is needed to achieve, particularly in terms of the child's long term wellbeing. In planning and implementing intervention, the aim should always be good long-term outcome in terms of health, development and educational achievement for children who have child protection concerns.
Collaborative working has been seen as the 'common sense' approach to child protection work . Challis et al (1994) argues that collaboration is necessary because it bridges the 'gaps in coverage, conflicts of aim and failures of communication'. They identify a number of forms collaboration could take, the most important being what they term 'rational planning' the aim of which is to produce 'a seamless service'.
Ensuring that all children within our community are safeguarded and protected from abuse is an objective to which the government is firmly committed. Good co-operation and jointly working by all agencies - social services, health, education, the police, counsellor and the voluntary sector is an essential for safeguarding the welfare of children.
Inter-agency collaboration worked particularly well if differing perspectives to be shared constructively to respond to common concern. To focus on the service user, to have an agreed plan stating who is going to do what, when and for what purpose (Ovretveit et al 1997).
WHAT HAS HINDERED INTERAGENCY PATNERSHIP AND INTERPROFESSIONAL COLLABORATION
Agencies all agreed that co-operation was needed but found it difficult. Previous attempts at 'inter-agency' working have left many frustrated with the process and the results and there is a general feeling that is just creating: more and more follow up and not real work with young people. When we place service user and their needs at the centre of out concerns we work better in partnership both with service users and with other agencies.
The problem of poor inter-professional communication which may arise when workers communication break down, which indicated that poor communication between social worker, led to child being left at risk. Professionals continue to feel threatened by, and anxious about, agency collaboration.
Problems of working collaboratively are often put down to problems with individuals or a particular agency. A whole agency may be a scapegoat for the failure of an inter-agency project. The hostility and suspicion that develop further hinders successful co-operation, worker retreat to their own 'patches' where they feel safer and more able to be in control.
Finally, the possibility of inter-agency action to maximise resources and improve services is great, the perceived threat it poses to individual agencies restrain its development. In order to gain experience of it way from these pressures, independent funding is needed to ensure that the work is not aligned to any one agency.
Collaboration in social work practice argues that collaboration between professionals, service users and carers is essential to the successful delivery of care service (Weinstein et al 2003). There are still a lot of tokenism in the service offered to children criticism have included failing to take the wishes of the child into consideration when carrying out an assessment and failing to consult and involve children in proceedings.
It is evident from the many references to collaboration that government is promoting collaborative working, and this is also reflected in much of the professional literature. Thus the climate and legislative backdrop was established to facilitate inter-agency collaboration within welfare organisations. The stated aim of policy was to create high quality, needs-led, co-ordinated services that maximised choice (Payne, 1995).
This of course would depend on how collaboration was interpreted. Effective collaboration is not easy achievement. Taylor (1997) argues that partnership requires agencies to change their cultures. It requires clear allocation of responsibility within partner organisation. Partner need to be prepared to change their cultures and ways of operating to accommodate voluntary sector, community and user participant.
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