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Social work see rise in demand

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By Fiona Reid
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Social work see rise in demand

SOCIAL work services in the region have seen a 40 per cent increase in demand for family support over the last year.

And council staff have been ‘sprinting’ to keep on top of the workload, councillors were this week told.

They also heard about the success of an early intervention and intensive support project which was set up with the aim of keeping families together and improving their skills.

So far, the 13 support workers have helped 47 families and and 67 children and young people, ranging in age from two months to 14 years.

The reason for referrals include neglect, mental health, sexual abuse, substance misuse, parenting capacity, challenging behaviour and physical abuse.

And the work being undertaken ranges from support with meal preparation and practical tasks such as shopping and budgeting, improving living standards and home conditions, to parenting skills, budgeting and help to understand healthy living.

It is offered seven days a week from 7 am to 10 pm in homes as well as over the phone and virtually.

Senior social work manager Stephen Morgan stressed that “every family is different and has different needs’, adding: “We want to help families make the right decisions for themselves.

“We work with families for a short-term, focussed period of time.”

The aims are to reduce the risks to the children’s overall welfare; remove children from the Child Protection Register and to remain in care of their parent(s); break the cycle of poor parenting and reduce admissions to care; reduce the length of time children remain in neglected situations and encourage nurturing environments.

Members of the social work committee heard more about the project at their meeting on Tuesday morning.

Mr Morgan said: “The service has been an integral part of our response to the covid pandemic.

“Early intervention is trying to keep children and families together and that’s working well.

“The intensive side is where situations are quite complex but we really need to intervene more intensively to try and keep families together.

“They have both been successful.”

He noted that the type of support available across the region ‘varies’, adding: “During the pandemic, families have less access to the support than they normally would.

“Early intervention tends to be children and families we have not previously known. We get in there to try and stop them coming into the system.

“We are working really intensively quite often with contacts we already know to try and build their skills so they stop coming into the service again and again.”

Chief social worker Lillian Cringles added: “There has been increased demand for social work services during the pandemic and it’s an area of concern around increased demand for services for children.

“There’s been near enough a 40 per cent increase in terms of referrals.

“It’s important we continue to intervene at the very earliest opportunity.”

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