Many happy returns

Rachel Doidge is much happier now she is back on home ground in the
Midlands. “I wanted to come back and work in the areas and estates
where I grew up,” she says. “It is nice to put something back into
the community where you grew up.”

An aftercare social worker at children’s charity NCH, she spent 10
years in Wales, first training as a social worker and then in
various related jobs. After working as a drug and alcohol
counsellor and doing supported tenancy work with offenders, she got
her first paid job as an aftercare social worker three years ago in
Newport, south Wales.

Aftercare entails working with young people who have been in the
looked-after system, providing support, advice and financial
assistance. Young people are referred from the age of 15 and a half
and can use the service until they are 21 – 24 for those who go
into further education.

When Doidge got her current job at NCH, she was keen not only to
move back to Worcestershire, but also to move out of the statutory

“I didn’t really like working as an aftercare worker in the
statutory sector because I felt it stigmatised the young people I
worked with. The ethos was very much about local government
objectives and the young people who have been in care are sick to
death of social workers by the time they are 16. They see you as
just another social worker and it makes it hard to build

Now that she is working in the voluntary sector, Doidge finds
referrals come with a much more positive attitude. She thinks this
is because they know NCH operates independently of social services,
and because the looked-after provision in her local patch –
Kidderminster and Stourport – is so good.

“In Newport they still used children’s homes, even though it is
well documented that children who have gone into children’s homes
have had a much worse experience and more behavioural problems than
those who didn’t,” she says. “Where I am now, the looked-after
system tends to use softer placements like long-term foster care.”
And while in Newport it could take her more than six months to
place a homeless person, she managed to find accommodation for her
latest referral within eight weeks. “What we’ve got here isn’t
brilliant, but it’s easier to place people.”

Doidge finds that service level agreements with housing bodies are
a lot tighter and more stringently adhered to. Because of this, she
is able to cope with an increased caseload She has 30-plus cases,
compared with 20 in Newport, and is still less stressed.

In Newport, her office was town-based and the amount of paperwork
meant she was mostly desk-bound. At NCH, she has a lot less
paperwork and the office is out of town, so she often travels to
see users.

Not that she regrets having worked for a local authority. “I have
been able to bring many ideas from my old job into my new one, such
as how to set up a consultation group for young people and
rewriting the pathway plans that we use.”

As she has her own patch, Doidge is finding that there is a lot of
scope for her to develop links with various agencies and take the
initiative on projects. That in itself makes her job interesting
and rewarding.

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