Our colleagues at the Family Rights Group, a charity which works with parents whose children are in need, at risk or in the care system, kindly supported the event by inviting members from their own parent and kinship carer panel. The event was an opportunity to introduce the centre to this important audience and to gain their feedback to inform and contribute to the development of the centre. After initially introducing the centre, I was struck by three important themes which stood out from opening discussions
- Will the centre work?
- Will the centre be collaborative and listen to families?
- How will the centre improve social work practice?
These questions permeated the day’s three sessions. We started by thinking about what we mean by ‘good’ children’s social care and what would a ‘good’ What Works Centre look like. We moved on to think about the knowledge, skills and values panel members thought were integral to good practice and could thus inform the priorities which the centre could focus on in its work going forwards to make evidence more accessible and effective in children’s social care. We finished the day hearing from panel members about their thoughts on the outcomes framework the centre intends to produce which is focused on what is important for children and young people, their families and the services that support them.
I wasn’t sure what to expect at the start of the day but reflecting later, I felt that what underpinned the event was social justice. Panel members spoke about the importance of social work values of empathy, kindness, transparency and openness but also ideas of proportionality and fairness. Members appreciated the difficulty of the context with systemic challenges in the profession, such as financial constraints and caseloads, but ,importantly, pointed out how vital it is that social work is both curious and balanced, as one member put it, that it has the ‘foresight to see that people can change’.
Feedback from panel members focused on the importance of families’ voices being involved in the decision making, development and governance of the centre. Panel members were passionate in expressing that for the centre to be successful it must be collaborative. As one member shared, “to improve practice there needs to be a collective effort; all those involved in helping a child should be encouraged to come together and work together”.
Here’s a snippet of just some of the comments we received from the panel on the day:
“Listen to understand, not to reply” Kinship carer member
“Don’t write parents off” Parent panel member
“You can’t always help people, the process is just as important, you still need to be given the opportunity” Parent panel member
We will be looking to hold future events to engage further with parents, families, adoptive parents and foster families. To find out about upcoming engagement opportunities and events in all our panels sign up to our newsletter.