The Hidden Cost of the Olympics

Posted on August 30th, 2010

The arrival of the Olympics 2012 is much anticipated by the by the public in the UK, members of the press and professional sports men and women participating in this grand event. The cost of building Olympic stadiums and how they might be used by organisations such as West Ham Football Club in the future has been speculated on within the media. The general reporting of the 2012 Olympics might not be of interest to all Social Workers or the population of East London where the majority of the events will be held. However, during a drive home from a meeting regarding a trafficked woman who was used in the sex industry, an interesting discussion was taking place on the radio about the links between major sporting events and the increased number of sex workers close to the vicinity of these prestigious events in various countries.

The interviewer discussed the topic with a member of the Police force and a representative of the Poppy Project and the interviewees presented some interesting and rather discerning facts. They highlighted that during the Olympic games in Athens the number of sex industry workers doubled in number to ‘accommodate’ the crowds attending the event and despite the fact that prostitution is illegal in Greece there appears to have been limited social intervention to address this issue. The interviewees then reported that during the World Cup held in Germany where prostitution is legal, there was a similar trend in increased numbers of sex workers surrounding the major stadiums.

The Police officer reported that there have already been an increased number of applications for massage parlours in the Stratford area of East London, which is significant as these businesses are often used as ‘cover for brothels’. There are already indictors that women are arriving from other countries such as Brazil in preparation for the increased crowds at this sporting occasion and that these women are young, with the possibility of some being underage.

What was missing from the discussion was how the London borough was going to respond to the influx of sex workers from overseas. There was no indication from the Government as to whether it would increase the funding for extra child protection Social Workers or if financial support would be available for leaflets in different languages warning not only of sexually transmitted illnesses, but also information on refuges for women or men seeking support to remove themselves from an unsafe lifestyle. It might be too soon or not a message that the Government wishes to send to the general public, but there must be some type of education programme for Social Workers working near these sporting venues, to assist with children and young people being sold for sex. In addition, Social Work hospital teams may need to be more vigilant for signs of young men or women being injured by clients or those controlling illegal brothels.


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57 weeks for a Family Court decision

Posted on August 13th, 2010

It seems ironic that the recent comments about Independent Social Workers by Ms Marion Davis are followed by research highlighting the length of time it takes for Family Court proceedings.  The research by Barnardos shows that an average of 57 weeks pass before a decision is made.

It is over 20 years since the Children Act 1989 set out a system to try to enforce a child focused approach to care proceedings, in which it proposed an optimum case length of 12 weeks.  Whilst a lot has changed in Social Work over the last 20 years, the notion that prolonged court proceedings have a negative effect on the child is perhaps even more relevant today than it ever was.

Some courts are taking an average of 14 months to resolve proceedings, and there does also appear to be a postcode lottery as to how quickly a child’s future can be decided.  Three out of 18 regions completed proceedings in less than 12 months and Family Court Proceedings in London took on average 65 weeks.

A family justice review is being carried out by the Ministry of Justice and a spokesman said: “The government is committed to reducing unnecessary delay in care proceedings.  A family justice review is currently underway gathering evidence on problems in the current system and proposals for change.  The panel leading the review shares Barnardos’ concerns and has met their representatives to discuss suggestions for reform.”

The removal of Independent Social Workers and thereby reducing the amount of support to front line Social Workers would only increase the length of time taken to reach decisions in court.


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Are Independent Social Workers just an ‘expensive part of the landscape’?

Posted on August 13th, 2010

It is a little over a month since Ms Marion Davis, president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services released a statement regarding the use of Independent Social Workers during court proceedings.

Ms Davis was quoted in an article for Community Care as saying, “Independent Social Workers are just some of the enormous number of people checking on what Social Workers do”. Ms Davis was asked if the absence of Independent Social Workers in court proceedings would have an impact on court proceedings, to which she replied, “I can’t think of one”.

It seems a rather short-sighted statement for Ms Marion Davis to make that Independent Social Workers should cease to play a role in the court process and extremely unfair to suggest that they are just another group of people ‘checking on’ and having a ‘detrimental effect’ on Social Work practice.  Independent Social Workers are colleagues and partners of Local Authority front line Social Workers; working in collaboration in a society that currently vilifies the Social Work profession as a whole.

In other words a Social Worker is a Social Worker and the fact that a growing number of Social Workers wish to practice independently and not remain within the constraints of Local Authority bureaucratic managerialism is possibly a symptom of a profession that has lost faith in a government that really does not understand what it is all about.  The majority of Independent Social Workers have been Local Authority Social Workers themselves and are therefore well aware of the overwhelming and unmanageable case loads faced by many Social Workers, who consequently find themselves unable to meet deadlines and timescales.  Avocet understands only too well that it is more often than not the system that hinders Social Workers from carrying out their role to the best of their ability so you certainly would not find an Avocet Independent Social Worker setting out to ‘undermine Social Workers’ professional judgement’.


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Life Coach Directory

Posted on August 5th, 2010

Life coaching, a therapy aimed at the rich and famous right? No, not really. Not many people know much about life coaching, many people think it’s just someone telling you how to live you life. However it is so much more than that. Life coaching has helped so many people, even the average Joe like you and me. It can help you find direction and clarification in life.

Life coaching is useful at many stages of life. It can help school leavers realise what sort of career they want, can help those with dwindling confidence and self belief, life coaching can also help businesses with low staff morale.

A qualified life coach can help you with many issues by supporting you and encouraging you to fulfill your potential, be that in your personal life or in the work place. A life coach can help you get back in control of your life. In these modern times it is easy to loose your way. Your life coach can help you find ways to improve and enhance your life. A life coaches goal is not to teach you new skills but to enhance the ones you already have. Most of the time we already have the skills to improve ourselves, we just don’t make the most of them.

Life coaching involves exploring your beliefs, values and aims, your life coach will then work with you to help you set goals and targets in order for you to be able to reach your dreams. A life coach is like having your own personal sports coach, they can help to keep you motivated, focused and commited to your goals, life coaching helps you become the best person you can be.

Life Coaching can help with most areas in life from career coaching to help with spirituality and finances. Whatever changes you wish to make to your life your life coach will help you achieve them. You will not have to make any choices or decisions you are not comfortable making, and your sessions with a life coach will be confidential so you can safely explore your deepest thoughts and feelings.

Because life coaching is still relatively new to the UK it is hard to know where to find a reputable coach. Life Coach Directory is a network of life coaches, all of whom are based in the UK and are fully insured and qualified. With no government regulation it is useful to know of an organisation that lists professional life coaches. Many of the life coaches listed on the directory are also members with a professional body with its own code of ethics which all it’s members must abide by.

All of the life coaches listed at Life Coach Directory has a full profile listing. This offers lots of information about them, you can access details such as fees, location and contact details. You can also read about how they work, any areas of expertise, their training, experience and any other details they may list such as bus routes. Most of the life coaches on the directory also have a link to their personal websites so you can find out even more about them.

Life Coach Directory also has lots of general information about life coaching, there is an FAQ section, a news section as well as articles and events submitted by the life coaches themselves.

Finding a life coach on Life Coach Directory couldn’t be much easier. You just need to pop either your postcode, town or county into the blue search bar on the home page. Then you will be given a list of all the life coaches in your area. It’s as simple as that! If you have a particular issue you want help with such as relationships, you can select this from the drop down box to the right of the search results.

Once you have found the profile of a life coach you like, you can contact them via email or over the phone, which ever you feel more comfortable doing. Any email sent using the website is completely confidential, the only people that can read it is you and the life coach you are contacting. Any searches made using the Life Coach Directory are confidential and you do not need to register or pay a subscription to use the site.


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Care Leavers Ruling

Posted on August 5th, 2010

The culture within many Leaving Care Teams, if not all, sees a young person’s case move from being allocated to a qualified Social Worker to an unqualified Personal Advisor when a young person turns 18.  This situation is usually dictated by economics; the cost of a Social Worker is more than that of a Personal Advisor and restrictions in budgets have seen the loss of Social Work posts in Leaving Care Teams.   A consequence of this is Pathway Plans being reviewed by Personal Advisors.   Personal Advisors do build positive relationships with the young people allocated to them; however, many are untrained in pathway planning and are left to deal with complicated case loads.   When a young person turns 18 it does not necessarily mean that their needs diminish; in many cases the needs of young people increase as they adapt to living independently in the community on limited budgets, often with little prospect of securing employment.  In addition young female care leavers are at a higher risk than their peers living within birth families, of becoming pregnant, leaving the Personal Advisor in a position where they may be the only professional aware of the young person’s ability to safely parent.  In my experience referrals to safeguarding teams from Personal Advisors are not treated with the same credibility as concerns raised by a Social Worker.

Mr Justice Parker has recently made a High Court ruling that all leaving care Pathway Plans must be reviewed by Social Workers.  Action from this ruling should decrease the likelihood pf Personal Advisors being left to manage difficult cases, passed to them on the premise that the young person has reached the age of 18.   Currently Social Workers in Leaving Care Teams are allocated cases of young people who required Child Looked After reviews to be completed and other mandatory tasks.   Justice Parker’s ruling indicates that Social Workers must work together with Personal Advisors to complete Pathway Plans; consequently Social Workers will need to trust the information provided by the Personal Advisor and given the blame culture in which Social Work in general functions, this is an activity not without its risks to a Social Worker’s career.

I welcome Justice Parker’s judgement as it raises the profile of care leavers and offers potential to improve the support offered to young people at a time of life when it is increasingly likely that they will experience some form of crisis whilst going through significant transitions.   However, I acknowledge that Justice Parker’s judgement will place pressure on Leaving Care Teams already facing budget cuts and his ruling will mean additional tasks for qualified Social Workers.


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