Central Bedfordshire Council has piloted a new NSPCC tool to help identify children who are being neglected, and work with their families effectively.
Social worker Amy Boorer explains how the tool has helped professionals identify children at risk of harm and give them specialized support, while helping their parents to make sense of what’s happening.
Amy used the tool to help support a struggling mum-of-three take care of her children.
I worked with a single mother who had three children and was pregnant with her fourth. We were worried that her children had been neglected for a long time, and that it was having a cumulative impact on them. The three children had poor academic attendance and attainment, missed medical appointments, and lived in unsuitable home conditions. But because their mum had been raised in a similar environment, she was unaware that this was, in fact, neglect.
One of the main things I observed was the relationship between the mother and her eldest child. She was treated as if she were much older than her actual age, and was often left to care for her two younger siblings.
The mum wanted the best for her children, but she was overwhelmed by their needs, and the prospect of having to work out what changes were needed to make their lives better.
The NSPCC’s new tool helped because it gave me and the other social workers who worked with the family clear recommendations for how to help them. It focused on the mother’s strengths, and gave goals to be completed in the immediate, medium and longer-term stages. It helped us foster a better relationship with her, and she was able to recognize that, in us, she had long-term support to help her make changes. Most importantly, she was willing to accept these changes to make things better for her children.
Over a period of around two-and-a-half months, the children’s home life and circumstances improved, but the NSPCC’s report allowed professionals to see that there were still significant concerns for the family, and helped us identify what else needed to be done to make sure that the children were happy, healthy and safe.
The mother received support from a children’s centre, Family Intervention Service workers, and Home-Start volunteers, to address concerns around her oldest child. This was particularly pleasing given that mum had a previous history of disengagement from services.
Thanks to these services, her emotional care of her eldest child was significantly improved, and the relationship between the two of them was no longer a concern to social workers.
The mum was also supported with strategies to make sure that she took the children to all medical appointments and improve their school attendance. As a result, all three children are going to school regularly, doing much better in classes, and getting the medical treatment they need.
The NSPCC’s tool resulted in significant and sustained change, by breaking the problem down into manageable stages. It helped the mum to understand why people were worried about her children, what really needed to improve, what she was doing well, and what help and guidance she could accept to improve things for her family.