Social work diary: ‘The girl wants new shoes for Christmas as hers have worn out’

The weeks before Christmas bring extra challenges and a surprising article in a tabloid newspaper, writes a social worker

Picture: Monkey Business/Rex Features

Monday

I visit a family where the children have been on a child protection plan for 18 months. Mother and father can’t or won’t help the children manage changes and overprotect them. Parenting classes make no difference to their fundamental attitude. I take the boy to the park, amid dire parental warnings about falling off swings. He tells me that his parents would not even let him go to school if it wasn’t the law.

Tuesday

I visit a foster placement with a girl whose mum rarely turns up for contact. Last night the child wanted to ring her mum so was let do so. While she was talking on the phone, her foster carer could hear the dialling tone. There was no-one on the other end. The child asks me if I can make mummy see her. It is difficult to say that I can’t do so in a way the child will understand.

Wednesday

The team meeting focuses around planning cover for the Christmas period. Team members suddenly discover they have much overtime to take back. Before they pleaded they were too busy to take it.

The weeks before and after Christmas are unpopular as much time is spent covering colleagues’ statutory visits and dealing with clients’ money problems from Christmas spending. Their needs don’t take holidays.

Thursday

I am doing a core assessment on the family of a girl likely to come into care. The parents have been separated for years but father still feels aggrieved about being treated badly, as if the breakdown happened today. The child feels pulled between the father’s demanding her loyalty against mum and mum who rejects her.

Another family tell me about the high interest loan they have taken out from a company to buy the children large presents for Christmas, despite already being in debt. They take out loans to pay outstanding loans. I can see them being in need of money from us after Christmas.

Friday

Reading a tabloid newspaper, there’s an article praising the social workers in the Baby P case for their efforts. The paper is usually vociferous in criticising the profession so I wonder if the sprit of Christmas has inspired them.

Back at the office team members are talking about how much they have already spent on food and presents for Christmas.

Later I visit a family where father stopped working to look after mother whose mental health had become overwhelming. They are not getting much income as dad left work, so benefits have been withheld pending appeal.

The youngest child tells me she wants new shoes for Christmas as hers have worn out. Seeing their level of poverty, it is a long way from the team member’s spending sprees.

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