Medway Council launched a new service for adolescents at the beginning of the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) lockdown and is already beginning to see results.
Earlier this year the council introduced specialist teams to offer tailored support to children and young people in care rather than one social worker working with the young person throughout their care journey.
The team already has youth mentors and early help workers in place and is continuously looking at how services can be tailored to meet the specific needs of Medway’s young people.
The council’s rapid work to improve multi-agency relationships and working has also meant increased support from partner agencies.
Medway Council is continuing to build the adolescent service but the framework for a gold standard of care for adolescents is already in place, including the council’s youth services and youth clubs.
During lockdown the team has utilised social media and videoconferencing and has seen more engagement from some children, as they prefer virtual visits and activities.
Medway’s current Edge of Care team is a transitional service provided by Innovate to help support the adolescent team while it gets established.
The service supports 40 young people felt to be at the highest risk of care proceedings and undertakes intensive work with them and their families. The team works with families to offer support which includes parenting skills, practical help with benefits and housing as well as therapeutic, counselling and emotional wellbeing and support.
They visit children weekly and adopting this intensive approach reaps rewards for children such as Jackson*, a nine-year old boy (the sibling of an older adolescent) who is now living with his grandparents after his mother struggled with substance abuse and domestic violence.
Despite the confusing changes in his life, he likes to talk about how life has improved living with his grandparents, and he remains happy and confident on the phone, even with strangers.
“Social workers are good because they try to keep the family together,” he says.
While he admits it was strange talking to his social worker on video during the lockdown, he says she managed to make it fun by playing drawing games together virtually.
“And we’ve had fun playing Skylanders [a computer game] together as well. She bought me some pieces so we could do it because it’s my favourite game.”
The Edge of Care team will become part of the adolescent team. The council’s main priority is to reduce the number of young people coming into care for the first time.
We have to get it right for these children
Sam Perrins, Medway Council’s Interim Head of Adolescent and Edge of Care Service, said that lockdown has made the team’s work even more important.
She said: “We’re already starting to see changes. Through the family group conferencing and therapeutic support on offer we now have several children reunifying with their families and that’s what we need – less children in care, less children seriously harmed, less mental health problems and children able to attain their life goals.
“We need people who care about increasing a child’s self-esteem, identifying their future goals and who want to work from a restorative and trauma informed basis. We have to advocate for these children. We have to get it right for them.”
We have the opportunity to make a huge difference to someone’s life
Rhoda Adebiyi, a senior practitioner with the adolescent service, said: “It can be a really difficult area of work, particularly when you first start working with a young person, but you also get far more positive outcomes out of it. We really have the opportunity to make a huge difference to someone’s adult life at this stage. It’s really positive to see the changes.”
We've seen the real difference this is making to some of the vulnerable people we work with
Medway Council’s Lead Member for Children’s Services Cllr Josie Iles said “I’ve witnessed at first hand the great work being done by Sam and her team and the real difference this is making to some of the most vulnerable young people we work with. Over the past four months we’ve started to see some very innovative approaches being taken as part of our improvement journey and it’s clearly starting to work.”
*Name has been changed