When I began working with Craig, he found home life very difficult. His family was struggling with debt and his mum was also trying to cope with mental health problems.
His seven siblings had been placed in care and he himself had only been living with his mum for the last couple of years. Relationships were strained and there were often arguments. Neither mother nor child found it easy.
Working for the Caritas school social work team based in Salford, I have now been involved with him and his family for the last two years, and I know first-hand what a positive impact social work can have on a young person’s life and future.
A lot of people’s image of a social worker is ultimately based around power and control. I hope sharing Craig’s story will challenge this stereotype and provide an insight into the life of a school social worker.
On first meeting Craig, I was faced with a very angry young man who felt the world was against him. We started sessions to look into this and quickly developed a positive working relationship.
This is always the hardest part for me – when a young person has been constantly let down by adults throughout their life, they are usually extremely wary to begin with. Craig could be quite hostile and difficult to engage, with a ‘you don’t care, it is just a job’ attitude. This meant a lot of time and patience and consistency, then more patience, understanding and really listening to his wants and needs.
Even if he didn’t turn up for a session, the door didn’t close. I was flexible and persistent to the point of annoying him at times until he began to feel that I was on his side.
We slowly began exploring topics such as family and relationships and the complexities surrounding these. I used attachment and systems theories to understand how this young person’s life was being affected by the past. He opened up gradually and we worked through individual issues as they arose – there was no issue too small or problem too big.
As his confidence grew, I encouraged him to become more involved with school life. He eventually auditioned for the school musical and later won the lead in a school production of Bugsy Malone. He now volunteers with others growing up in similar situations in his spare time. It has been a pleasure to watch him grown into such a pleasant young man, and witness his complete transformation.
Alongside working with Craig I worked with his mum, supporting her to develop her parenting skills and build a positive relationship with her son.
As Craig’s interest in the arts grew, I encouraged him to look at things he could do outside school. In sessions we looked at drama facilities available in the local area. Rather than making direct suggestions, I wanted him to make his own decisions and guide his own future, offering support and praise when appropriate. I aimed to empower him so he would believe in himself and have the confidence to achieve.
A month or so later he turned up outside my office before eight in the morning, with an elated expression. He told me he had applied to drama school without me knowing and hadn’t mentioned before for fear of not getting a place. He had planned an audition piece, gone to the audition and managed to get into the school. I have never seen a young person so overjoyed.
This meant a lot of support from his school, Loreto High in Chorlton. The school provided the initial funds, allowing him to attend drama school once a week. The drama school was so impressed by his dedication they allowed him to attend additional sessions free of charge. Since then he has gone from strength to strength. He left school with high grades in his GCSEs and then auditioned for a popular soap opera.
He now has a regular part and when I switch on the TV after a long day at work, I have the opportunity to witness why young people need social workers they can trust, depend and rely upon to promote positive outcomes and built positive futures.
Should you be interested in finding out more about the Caritas School Social Work Service please e-mail me on firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website http://www.caritassalford.org.uk/school-social-work
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