Today, as a support worker in school I dealt with a parent death, a child inconsolable on my lap because they were scared of their parent, a child hitting and kicking staff , and a child with a bruised eye that needs an explanation. This is my normal, a day in a primary school.
In schools we have little access for help for these issues anymore because the local and voluntary services have gone, and because little reaches threshold for social care.
As non-classroom staff, I feel like an unseen medic coping with this hidden epidemic that is families in crisis; hoping for the best but knowing the worst.
Today I was told officially that things in the cities Children’s Services have to change. Social care needs less cases in order to do a better job with them. The rest of the families in crisis , but a few, will be looked after by people like me. In school.
This is happening already. It’s not news to me. But it feels like a metaphor for our society.
The austerity in services is such that the epidemic of crisis is flowing rapidly down hill to be dealt with by those paid the least, and with the least. I may not be supposed to deal with at risk of harm families like social workers but in reality I do, and unlike social workers, I do not have a team of people doing the same job, I do not have a manager who has done my job, I do not have the physical space to do the work needed, I do not get weekly supervision to help me process the work load. I have no career progression, I am paid a wage and there’s no chance to enhance this, despite working in schools I’m not paid for the duration of the holidays.
The thing that saddens me most? That none of this is complicated. The heart of social/family work has always been very simple; relationships. Allow everyone to have access to a positive, safe, reliable relationship with someone and things will heal. Give a single parent with mental health problems, poor housing and a shortfall of benefits a key person. They will listen to them, welcome time for them, make them a cuppa. Over time (I don’t claim that the simplest solution is fast) the key person will offer practical help with a phone call to the right person or a lift to a key appointment and, after a while of building trust, they will be able to offer support with parenting because after they listened the individual accepted help for their mental health and can now focus on their children. This family will be ok. It’s called preventative work.
They will not become a crisis point that doesn’t meet threshold for social care but feels neglected or judged and instead gets angry and turns to self medication and falls out with school and isolates themselves further and hurts their child. They won’t become a ‘hard to reach’ family.
But. This simple and key approach has been ignored and shamed and belittled for so long by government. The funding has been stripped. Early intervention is seen as being nice to people who should just get a grip. As a result we have a social care system that is so over wrought with families who’ve not received early intervention for so long, they are having to exclude families in need, in order to lessen their caseload and in order to do a better job. As a result, someone like me in a school has a caseload of maybe 200 families who need me to be their key relationship.
The shit has hit the fan and is most definitely running down hill. People like me, non-classroom staff in schools, people in the minority with little resources, are given what’s left behind by austerity to try and mend it.