Friday, 15 August 2014

Listening to child protection staff in Vermont

I was interested to read that child protection social workers in Vermont are being asked by legislators about how they see the problems facing them in effectively protecting children.

Staff shortages and staff turnover were high among the issues they identified. One social worker is quoted as saying that the volume and pace of work “… is relentless and unrealistic”.

It is good to see that legislators in Vermont have decided to listen to those who do the work, rather than just relying on experts and policy-makers and senior managers. I would like to see much more routine involvement of front-line staff in service improvement. By and large they know where the strengths and weaknesses of the services are to be found and often know of small but significant improvements that can be made.

One of the Vermont social workers is quoted as saying that she and her colleagues were no longer “… struggling behind closed doors”. I only wish that in Britain we could open up the debate by not only inviting, but also encouraging, those who do the work to speak out about how it could be done better.

The same principle holds for those who receive the services. I find it astonishing that the authorities think they can deliver safe and effective child-focused services without systematically asking the children and young people who receive the services about their experiences and their ideas for improvement.