Social workers supporting families
As Islington’s Children’s Services receive an outstanding rating from Ofsted, we speak to Senior Social Worker, Steven Meiklem, about what it’s like to be a social worker in Islington and how children and families are getting the support they need during the Coronavirus outbreak.
How did you get into social work?
I first got into social care having previously worked in the building trade as an apprentice electrician. I wanted to make a career change, and I was motivated by a desire to support those most vulnerable and disadvantaged in society, and because I wasn’t a very good apprentice electrician! I originally worked supporting homeless people into temporary accommodation, before completing my social work degree in 2014.
What does your role as a social worker involve?
I work in the Highbury Child In Need Team as the senior social worker. Most of the referrals into our service can include some complex issues relating to domestic abuse, substance misuse, mental health, gangs, child sexual exploitation, neglect, physical harm and emotional harm. The Child In Need team is responsible for carrying out child and family assessments and identifying any risk and need for children and families. We work together with families and partner organisations to create goals together that are child focussed and support families to overcome challenges and improve things in their lives.
How has your work changed since the lockdown conditions due the coronavirus outbreak?
We are doing everything we can to make sure families who need our support continue to get the help they need. In line with social distancing, the face-to-face contact has been largely reduced and replaced by virtual contact. There are some cases where face-to-face homes visits are still happening, but always with the right Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to keep people safe.
Communicating with families virtually, is new to everyone and definitely brings challenges, but day by day, we are trying to be creative in how we adapt our skills to continue to provide meaningful help and support, using the best technology available to us.
The coronavirus outbreak has made lots of people think differently about the value of social work. Why do you think social work is important?
It can fundamentally save children’s lives and promote better outcomes for them and their families. As the current pandemic progresses, and when we start getting back to some normality, the social issues will likely increase. We have the expertise to support and advocate for better outcomes for children and families in these really difficult times.
Ofsted has just rated Islington’s Children’s Services as outstanding. What do you think makes the service outstanding?
I think it comes down to the way we work in partnership to achieve the best outcomes for families. We work together with families to build on the strengths they already have and to achieve the goals they want to achieve.
We also aim to start working with families as early as possible, in partnership with clinical professionals across a range of specialist fields who help us consider how we can best support families, like Bright Start for under 5s, targeted youth services and family support services who all play a big role in supporting families.
What’s the best thing about your job?
The best thing about the job is seeing meaningful change as part of the support we provide for a young person, which can help them to be safer, healthier, in education and just generally improve their life chances.
How are you spending your downtime at the moment and what are you looking forward to most when things get back to normal?
I’m starting to play a lot of computer games again – feeling 15 years-old again – but not looking it! I’m missing the gym most, but trying to do some home workouts when I can.
The Children’s Services Contact Team (CSCT) is the single point of contact for all services for children, young people and families in Islington who may need extra help and support. If you are worried about a child, please phone the them on 020 7527 7400.