Councillor Jackie Drayton, Cabinet member for Children’s Services writes: “Key workers have been the heroes of this crisis. Every Thursday night when we clap for them, we are thanking the NHS and Care workers, the supermarket staff, the refuse collectors, the bus drivers, those who deliver all the goods that we need to live, as well as all the nursery and school staff but what about those people who we hear so little about, those who every week are working to protect and safeguard some of the most vulnerable children and young people in our City and the Country – our wonderful social workers.”
Hannah Hollingworth, a member of our communications team, spoke to two of our social workers, Charlotte and Cath, highlighting just how they’ve managed to do their work during this challenging time.
Charlotte and Cath both work with young people at risk of exploitation, both criminal and sexual, and who are deemed as the most high risk young people in Sheffield.
They each work with young people every week to keep them safe from harm. This can involve spending hours at a time working 1:1 with the young people to build up a relationship, supporting the young person to engage with other professionals, for example, the youth justice team, and helping the young person to access positive activities.
The key to the work Charlotte and Cath undertake is to build a trusting working relationship with these young people, who often have been unable to engage or trust any adult previously.
Given lockdown, Charlotte and Cath had to adapt how they were working pretty quickly and be creative in the ways that they continue to engage and support their young people.
Cath and Charlotte gave some examples of how their working days have changed due to lockdown:
“Things have changed. Our days are spent doing doorstep visits, organising food parcels and vouchers, WhatsApp chats, delivering and shopping for food for families, online court hearings as well as regular catch ups with our team.
A lot of their time is spent liaising with schools and education providers to try and give the young people the best chance of engaging with education during this time.
“One really lovely thing has been to see the kids supporting us. There’s definitely been a shift to a more equal relationship, where they are asking us if we are ok, and are grateful for our help and support.”
“For some of our young people, having to have a break from seeing the outside world has meant that they have thrived. One of our teenagers has been doing her maths and English online, and she was highly commended on a creative writing piece that she did – I was so proud of her. Lockdown has really given back a focus to her life and she is really engaging with us now.
“For others it’s been much more difficult, particularly for young people who have no family support. One young woman has a toddler who has been back in her care for the past year. She has found lockdown quite isolating as she is not currently able to attend her apprenticeship with the council. We have been helping with extra food shops, and lots of doorstep visits and phone calls just to make sure they are ok. We also arranged for her child to continue attending nursery so that his routine was as normal as possible. “
“I actually look forward to Mondays and getting out and about. Also because I’m worried about the kids we work with and I want to make sure we are there supporting them.
“And we’ve seen some really special moments, a friend of mine manages a pizza company. One Friday night he gave us 10 free pizzas to give out to the young people. It was a really special moment and brightened up the young people’s evenings as well as ours.”
“We’ve some of the most amazing and difficult conversations over the phone and through video calls. I feel it has allowed some of our young people to express how they are feeling, and be more open about their thoughts and feelings. However others have found it much more difficult, and have struggled with the lack of face to face visits, so for those young people we have put on PPE and continued to visit face to face each week.
“If any of our young people are reading this, we are so proud of how you are handling this. You have managed so well in such difficult circumstances.”
If anyone is worried about a child or young person please call the Sheffield Safeguarding Hub on 0114 273 4855.