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Transitions: why it’s so important for social workers to be on time

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I’m delighted the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) have published new guidance for social workers supporting young people into adulthood. This involves really knowing, understanding and responding to young people and their families.

It's also dependent on social workers from children and adult social care services working well together to keep the best interests and wellbeing of those they are tasked to help at the heart of practice.

I have been working with the Department for Education's Chief Social Worker for Children and Families, Isabelle Trowler to promote best practice in enabling children, young people and their families in this vital area. Getting it right from the very start will make all the difference and - as this guidance highlights - timing is everything!

Many thanks to those involved in developing this guidance. On which note, I'm pleased to introduce my latest guest blogger SCIE's Hugh Constant to tell us a bit more about why it is so important.

alarm clock

Timing it right

Hugh Constant: Going out to meet young people and their families as part of our research into SCIE’s new transitions guidance, Preparing for Adulthood: The role of social workers, one common theme we heard was the importance of social workers being on time.

There’s a stack of theory and research about how social workers should develop relationships with people, but clearly, we should never underestimate the importance of simply being where you’re supposed to be at the time you’ve agreed.

By “on time”, the people we spoke to normally meant turning up for a 3pm meeting at 3pm, but there’s a bigger picture to this. Both the Care Act and best practice call for the preparation for the move into adult services to start at a young person’s Year 9 review, when they are 14.

And this early engagement matters. Turning up too late in a young person’s life, we heard repeatedly from them and their families, means not enough time to develop trusting relationships that allow creative, interesting options for the adult life of a young person to be explored.

If an adult social worker meets a young person six months before their 18th birthday, the whole business of building a relationship, exploring options, of trying things out and seeing if they work, is curtailed and rushed.

It means that there’s a tendency to revert to off-the-shelf support options, rather than tailoring things to particular needs and aspirations.

Silhouettes of boy and girl growing into adults Transitions are rarely smooth

Working with people as they prepare for adulthood means working with adolescents – people going through a distinct developmental phase – rather than simply working with people who are children one minute and adults the next. And like all adolescents, young people with care and support needs will be uncertain about the future and will make mistakes along the way as they work out what they want.

People might apply for a college course, but then drop out, or might make decisions about who to hang around with that don’t work out well.

If a social worker properly knows that person, and can support them as they develop, then these mis-steps can be negotiated, and we can avoid the sort of reactions that see people in residential care for years after one safeguarding incident.

Good social work is always about good relationships. And those need to be worked at and nurtured. Turn up too late – for a 3pm meeting, or in the transitions process more generally - and that relationship becomes much harder to form.

Our guidance is clear: being on time matters to young people and their families in a more ways than we might imagine.

SCIE are running a free online webinar, with the Children’s Society, on transitions. Book for the webinar on 30 July at 1pm.

About Hugh Constant

Portrait of Hugh ConstantHugh is a senior manager for consultancy and training at the Social Care Institute for Excellence

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  1. Comment by Rachael Morice posted on

    I would like to read the SCIE guidance but the site is unavailable.

    • Replies to Rachael Morice>

      Comment by Mark Osterloh posted on

      Hi Rachael - I have checked all the links in the blog post and they all seem to be working. Please try again
      Blog editor

  2. Comment by Rachael Morice posted on

    Thank you - glad it is working (4 weeks ago it wasn't) - 4 weeks to wait for a reply - just shows the disinterest in this topic.

  3. Comment by H. Johnson posted on

    Fab blog. Although, adult social workers do not have time to meet their statutory duties - will there be increased staffing to allow adult social workers to start joint working these individuals during transition?


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