Social work diary: ‘There’s so much anguish here that the future looks bleak’

A child protection social worker reflects on a week of difficult cases

Photo: Jeff Blackler/Rex Features (posed by model)

Monday

I make my second child protection visit to the family of a six-year-old.

When I first visited I thought the house needed repairs but was adequate. This time, I notice it is very cold and the family are content to live somewhere that is always going to be ‘fixed’ by someone one day.

The bathroom has no lightbulb and the toilet’s broken; next time I’ll take a torch and have a better look at it.

I ask the child about his dad leaving home. He says he’s glad because he hates him. I’m not surprised; dad could make the child obey basic rules but he can run rings around mum.

Tuesday

There’s been a competition in the team to find a new name for the department’s child protection unit. They expect social workers to do a range of tasks such as send out and deliver invitations for review case conferences.

So far, the best effort is the Hobby Shop because whatever you ask them they tell you to do it yourself.

Wednesday

I’ve got to deliver the outcome of a child protection conference to the parents of an East European family, who refused to come to the conference.

As the father’s been violent to the mother, I get police help. I meet the mother in school after she’s met the children; she gets very irate and tells me to put the child protection plan in my backside.

I feel sorry for the children – they have already seen much violence and anger, and today was no different. This is already a difficult case and seems to be getting harder.

Thursday

A colleague who was on duty yesterday comes into the office looking exhausted. He was out until very late last night on a child protection investigation.

That’s the same even for casework since getting around to clients in dispersed locations means that most of us work late. There’s a culture of unpaid overtime just to get the work done.

In the afternoon I visit a case where the mother can’t understand the children’s needs at all so they are very deprived. I talk to the 11-year-old about school – she often reports doing badly there, but her teachers report she is an average student who just lacks confidence.

She tells me she is studying the Norman Conquest. I share with her some information about this period and she marvels at my knowledge as if this is somehow out of reach for her.

Friday

I have been working with a family to get two children out of care. It’s gone well for some weeks, but always seems precarious.

I visit them in school today where the 10-year-old tells me she’d like to have her father’s phone number so she can ring him up and tell him how much she hates him.

She tells me she gets angry when her mother tells her off and how mother prefers her brother. There’s so much stored up anguish here that the future looks bleak indeed.

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