Having a Disabled Parent

Posted on February 28th, 2012

Unusually I spent an evening in front of the television after work. Although, I had little choice of what to watch I enjoyed Gok Wan and Daddy Day Care last week.  Gok focused his attention on young children caring for a parent with a disability and how this impacts on their lives.  We volunteer with young carers so we are aware that caring for a disabled parent can have an impact on their childhood in numerous ways.  These children find education and peer relationships difficult to maintain whilst cleaning the house, cooking or administering medication. It was good to see that a parent was encouraged to offer themselves and their children some free time to relax and enjoy simple activities such as going to the park. The activities provided to support young carers are under attack from the cuts in funding which means weekend and holiday activities are lost. For the individual child it means the disappearance of something as simple as baking a cake with other children without being interrupted by their caring responsibilities.

Switching television programmes to Daddy Day Care it was interesting to see the views of a father with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and his desire to fit so much fun and excitement into the lives of his children and those at the nursery because of his progressive illness. The father worked long hours to provide for his family but was missing out on the time to be a parent with boundaries and routine. The father believed that his MS would affect him being a parent in the future but had not realised that it was impacting on his parenting in the present.  The father wanted excitement and a fast pace for himself and the children in the nursery.  The children clearly enjoy themselves in the energetic environment but they also need quiet containment.

The two programmes highlighted the overt and subtle impact of disability on parenting and how children experience a parent’s disability on a daily basis. The programmes together were thought provoking and would benefit the general public and professionals to have an insight to the lives of children with a parent with a disability.


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Cameron teaches students to pay off debts

Posted on February 23rd, 2012

When Avocet Independent Social Workers undertake a Parenting Assessment we consider the parents’ budgeting abilities, including whether they have accrued debts.  Frequently we find that parents have not been taught from a young age to keep their spending within the scale of their finances.  Once a family gets into debt it is a difficult situation to exit.  The reasons for debts include shopping with credit cards, catalogue shopping or borrowing money from banks and occasionally private money lenders.  Children learn from their parents so if the message is not sent clearly that debt is not family friendly then the cycle repeats its self.

Some of the many consequences of debt are that children go without food and live in accommodation that is cheap and often unfit for purpose.  This could also mean that heating and electricity is not switched on unless it is really essential or not at all.

The message that debt is not a positive option for children needs to sent, not only by parents but banks and the government.  Given the economic situation of the country it seems ironic that the government is not encouraging people to remain debt free.  Our university students are the parents of the future, so why the government would even considered charging students for early repayment of their loans is difficult to understand.  The decision to scrap thoughts of a student and future parent being charged for repaying a loan early is a welcomed.  The message sent is that debt is something to be avoided, particularly if a parent.  The outcomes for children will improve if their parents live debt free.

Avocet Parenting Assessments attempt to assist parents to formulate plans to manage their budgets and encourage them to contact organisations that responsibly assist with the debts.


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Protecting our Children

Posted on February 7th, 2012

Episode Two of the BBC 2 series Protecting our Children was on TV last night and it proved to be as fascinating as the first episode.  Last night we followed the plight of Marva and Shaun a young couple who were struggling to manage life whilst battling alcohol abuse and depression as well as significant loss for previous children who were removed from their care.

Marva was pregnant and after a number of overdoses made the decision to separate from Shaun and try to get herself well and in a position to keep their baby.   When the couple were together the Social Worker, Annie undertook visits to the home accompanied by two burly security men, who interestingly expressed concern for their own safety when Annie told them about Shaun reportedly training his new and evidently ferocious, pet ‘puppy’ to kill!  Seeing Annie knock on the door with two uniformed men behind her made me think of the many doors I knocked I have knocked on as a Social Worker, on my own, never knowing quite what I would be faced with or how my presence would be received once the door was opened – I suspect I would have felt a whole lot more confident knowing that there was someone there to step in if it all got a bit heated!

Following the couple’s separation Annie continued to work with both parents, keeping Shaun informed about Marva’s health and pregnancy.   I was disappointed when Annie went to visit Shaun, taking some photos of his new born son, a week after the birth and indeed Shaun expressed himself that he would have liked to have been told sooner that his child had been born.  Children’s Services have a history of poor engagement with fathers and at Avocet we find that we are still asked to undertake Independent Social Work assessments of fathers who have not been considered as an alternative carer and indeed the whole paternal family have been excluded from the process.   Shaun made the interesting point last night when he commented that it had been Marva not him who had been drinking alcohol and overdosing on over-the-counter medication putting their baby at risk of harm.

Marva was given the opportunity to care for her new born baby and was placed in a mother and baby foster placement but it was a matter of time before she returned to Shaun, taking her baby with her and exposing him to excessive alcohol consumption and subsequently having her baby removed from her care.

It was a moving life story and one that demonstrated the risks involved in the decision making.  I will not go into why the baby was able to be out of the placement for 14 hours before being found at Shaun’s flat as I do appreciate that an hour long programme can only fit in so much information.  There seemed to be a connection between the emotions felt by the Social Worker at the desperateness of the situation and the fact that two weeks after informing Marva that the local authority would be instigating legal proceedings she went off sick.  I thought that more could have been made about the fact that Annie was working with 14 other families, in addition to this one and that the implied stress is unlikely to have been because of just the one case.

Next week sees the final episode so don’t forget to tune in BBC2 Monday 13 February 2012 and if you would like to know more about Independent Social Work assessments undertaken with parents whose children are subject to legal proceedings please do visit our website at www.avocetisw.co.uk.


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Social Work on TV

Posted on February 6th, 2012

There is a compelling documentary series on BBC 2 at the moment – Protecting our Children.   There is every likelihood that I am finding the series compelling because of the years that I spent as a front-line safe guarding Social Worker but interestingly many of my family and friends have become gripped to the reality of the situations that Social Workers come face to face with every day.

Last week’s episode was about a young child called Toby, whose parents Mike and Tiffany had apparent learning difficulties and despite a significant amount of time, multi-agency intervention, support and financial assistance there was no change in Tiffany and Mikes’ parenting abilities, their lives became increasingly difficult for them to manage, care proceedings were initiated and in the end it was Tiffany who took some control of the situation and made the decision that Toby (and his new born sister) would be better placed in someone else’s care.

The programme was not perfect by any stretch of the imagination; the Children’s Guardian was interestingly portrayed, the team manager showed an almost empty diary which certainly was not reminiscent of my diary as a manager in a safe guarding team and the external professional who undertook 40 sessions with the family and then declared that the Child Protection Conference that Toby’s developmental delay was genetic was enough to make anyone want to stand and raise an objection.

However, the hostility facing the Social Worker on her weekly visits in terms of the father being objectionable and argumentative, the appalling home conditions and the actively barking dog were all too real and I felt that as a newly qualified Social Worker, Suzanne having been allocated the case on the second day of being in post managed to navigate through the family’s resistance to change and the local authority’s apparent slowness to react with just the right amount of voiced concern and determination.

Tonight sees the second episode which I hope more of us will be watching and will continue to give the general public (or should I say those who are vaguely interested) greater insight into the dilemmas and decisions that feature every day in the life of a safe guarding Social Worker.

Avocet provides Independent Social Workers (ISWs) to undertake assessments of parents with learning disabilities.  We have ISWs who are PAMS trained and all of our ISWs have at least 5 years post qualifying experience of working with children subject to Child Protection Plans and care planning through legal proceedings.


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