2.5 Individuals in context
Social workers usually take account of the service user’s family group or close networks, and consider whether to stay focused on the individual or work with the whole family (or parts of the family network). However, there will be times when service users expressly state that they do not want their wider family or other kin involved. Care should be taken when soliciting carer’s views. However, there are caveats related to abuse and also capacity issues. This is particularly important when working with vulnerable adults and children, where it is important that their voice is heard and heeded in relation to the extent that they want wider family involved.
Legal guidance, such as that relating to community care assessments, specifies that assessments are needs-led, but also that carers and ‘relevant others’ have a right to be involved in assessment and planning. Child and family social workers will usually explore the possibility of placing children with relatives before looking at other options.
Family and close networks are often very knowledgeable about individuals, their preferences and views, and can prove a vital source of support and expertise. Nonetheless, if the service user doesn’t want their involvement, this sets up dilemmas for practitioners, where negotiation and case-management skills are needed to resolve differences of perspective. For some people, the family/network to which they relate is a negative and unhappy place to be, and social workers may be involved in providing alternative care. Families can criticise, abuse and use power to damage some members. In social work, such relationship issues/difficulties are a recurring part of the work with service users. As part of their advocacy role, social workers can support people who are gaining independence and moving away from such negative environments.
Often, however, the state – and therefore social workers – expect or leave family members to help each other, and this can have a profound impact on family roles and relationships. For example, the rights of young carers to a needs assessment were only introduced in England on 1 April 2015. In the next activity, you look at an example where the children’s relationship to their parents has been profoundly changed by their mother’s illness.
Activity 7 Young carers: Helen and Sean
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