Anybody thinking of entering this year’s Social Worker of the Year Awards should absolutely go for it, says Peter Dennis as he reflects on the experience of winning ‘Children’s Services Team of the Year’ at the 2013 event.
Peter is the team leader of the innovative social work team Children and Teenagers Community Help (CATCH), which was launched as a pilot project by Buckinghamshire County Council in September 2011.
The team works with families in crisis to try and prevent young people from being placed in local authority care.
“We decided to enter the awards because we felt that what we were doing was new, exciting and a little bit different,” says Peter.
“We were seeing some very positive results and receiving good feedback from our social care colleagues and the families we were working with.”
The CATCH team is now a permanent fixture in Buckinghamshire and comprises team leader Peter, a deputy team leader who is social work qualified and five social work assistants.
They have received 419 referrals since the project first started, with only 6% of young people ending up in care at the end of the team’s input.
“We are working very much at the point of crisis where either the young person or the family is not prepared for the situation to go on any longer,” says Peter. “Mediation is at the core of what we do.”
A typical day for the team involves working closely with families and partnership agencies including the Barnardo’s R-U-Safe initiative, Young Addaction and CAMHS.
Providing access to experienced child minders is also key to the work of CATCH, which enables families and young people to have some time out.
“This area of our work is unique and has been of particular interest to other local authorities,” says Peter. “We’ve had enquiries from councils in both the immediate area and further afield in the Midlands and Northern Ireland.”
One year on from winning the Awards, the team has developed their work with partnership agencies to support girls and young women at risk of sexual exploitation, as well as working with young people already accommodated in local authority care to try and return them home.
“New projects like this can start off a little slow so it was a fantastic feeling to win the award last year and get recognition for all those people working very hard in Buckinghamshire,” says Peter.
“Sadly social work often comes to the attention of the press for all the wrong reasons so the awards are a good opportunity to celebrate social work and spread the word about what we do.”