Who cares 5

An anonymous social worker stands on the doorstep of her casework

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I work in children’s services. We’re now working from home, but that in itself is quite hard because the nature of the job is that we have awkward conversations with parents at difficult times in their lives, and it’s like you’re inviting those people into your house and into your safe space.

We have been advised that we can control our risk with good hygiene, so that means no more PPE. What worries me is sometimes it’s not enough for us to stand at a doorstep and have a chat with a child, or with a parent. Sometimes we do need to go in and lay eyes and see what’s going on in the context of the home.

My husband is diabetic so he’s in the high risk group. I’d probably be all right if I got the virus, but my husband wouldn’t, and I can’t put him at risk for this job.

It’s getting stressful. We’re having far more domestic violence calls. We’re trying to deal with stuff where under normal circumstances we’d be able to go to the home, sit down and have a chat with people and put a safety plan together, but now we can’t do that, and because the kids aren’t in school we don’t have eyes on these kids every day. We don’t have the relatives who would normally be keeping an eye out, aunties who might have the children after school a few times a week, and who would normally report an issue – we don’t have that now. It’s making it far more stressful.

Normally when we have a domestic violence incident we would ask the perpetrator to leave the home for the night, to go to a relative’s or, if worse comes to worst, we would put them into a hotel for a night, but we can’t do that now. We are having to allow domestic violence perpetrators to remain in the home when we know there has been an incident because we can’t send them anywhere. We have to just hope for the best that they won’t kick off again. It’s really scary.

Lone working is so much harder. I had a visit recently where I had to go and see a mum who was a known alcoholic, and I had to stand there on the doorstep and work out whether she was drunk or just a bit dopey. I have to weigh up now what’s more important – my safety or the kids’? And on that occasion I had to go into the house and the first thing I saw was a can on the side, but because I don’t know her it was difficult for me to assess whether it was safe for the kids to stay with their mum that night. Ordinarily I would have said no and made the decision for them to go elsewhere, but on that occasion I couldn’t do that because I didn’t have the resources.

The lockdown is a huge issue for child safeguarding. I totally understand why parents don’t want to send their kids to school, but at the same time school, for a lot of kids, is their place of safety and it’s where we know the teacher will phone up if there’s a concern.

Quite frankly I’m knackered, but I can’t sleep properly because I’m always thinking about whether I have made the right decision or whether I have done the right thing. What I’m struggling with is the fact that I think there are going to be so many kids who are missed at the moment, and I do think we have a ticking time bomb.

We’ve got the perfect storm. We’ve got a virus that is allowing parents to stop sending their kids to school, and to stop letting professionals in because it’s a perfect excuse – they can just say their child has a temperature or a cough.

Nobody goes into this job for the glamour of it, but it genuinely feels like we’re in between a rock and a hard place.

I really feel for all my colleagues across the country because it’s just impossible, but nobody ever recognises us – because who loves a dirty baby snatcher?

As told to Saskia Murphy 

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