The W word: Witchcraft labelling and child safeguarding in social work practice.

We are very proud to have published an important new title, The W Word: Witchcraft labelling and child safeguarding in social work practice by Prospera Tedam and Awura Adjoa. In this post Prospera and Awura outline their reasons for writing the book and the approach it takes.

We are delighted to see our book published and wanted to write this first blog to reiterate our commitment to halting the practice of witchcraft labelling which we know is ongoing in some of our communities. In the last year, we have continually reflected on Awura Adjoa’s childhood experiences and considered how things may otherwise have been for her.

Our motivation to write this book emerged from our shared desire to expose the practice of witchcraft labelling and the impact on its victims. We outlined the psychological, emotional and physical impact on Awura Adjoa and examined the ways in which her migration and family dynamics placed her in a vulnerable position and open to witchcraft labelling.

We were particularly concern about the widely held view that witchcraft labelling is a recent phenomenon in England and sought to explain how this form of child abuse is often hidden and silenced within communities and in families. We make the case for a more robust framework for assessing families where witchcraft labelling may be occurring.

We appreciate that the book makes difficult reading in parts, due to the honest and deeply concerning narrative presented by Awura Adjoa, however we felt there was no way to present this information to the audience for whom it is intended. Awura Adjoa would like to see parents and families engage with this book in order to evaluate their own parenting particularly if they hold beliefs about the presence of witchcraft.

We felt that this book would provide social workers and child safeguarding practitioners with additional insight into this form of abuse and develop their skills in identifying, assessing and intervening in families where children have been labelled or are at risk of witchcraft labelling.

A prominent theme in the book is the role of the faith leader or pastor in the labelling process. Awura Adjoa essentially had two pastors determine her fate- the one who labelled and the one who cleared her. Conversations must be ongoing with faith groups and leaders if we are hoping to address this growing issue.

The role of the school and educational establishments is also considered in the book, particularly around what could have been done to identify that Awura Adjoa was at risk at home and within her community.

The need to understand complex family forms and dynamics is another key area we wanted to bring to the attention of readers. Complex family systems can impact on the effectiveness of any intervention with and for children who may have been labelled.

The 3 main arguments proposed by the book are:

  • Witchcraft labelling in England is not new. It is a real and present concern among some communities and within some faith groups.
  • There are multiple actors associated with this form of child abuse. It is never a ‘secret’ and members of the family and community will be aware of the accusations and label.
  • Witchcraft labelling requires intervention from child care practitioners who are culturally aware and sensitive, non- oppressive and who understand the complexities of working cross-culturally.

Gay (2010) suggests that stories are told for multiple purposes- to entertain, educate and inform or to evoke emotion. The W word is by no means entertainment. It will evoke various emotions as it did for us as the authors and its primary aim is to educate and inform. Consequently, we make no apology for the content, it is Awura Adjoa’s lived experience and needed to be told in the way that is has.

Awura and Prospera

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Who are you? The Power of Self in Newly Qualified Social Worker Practice

Today we have the second blog post from our NQSW, Daniel! Have a read to find out his thoughts on the importance of self as a Newly Qualified Social Worker.

Maclean (2016) argues consideration of self is a vital aspect of critically reflective practice. I am developing my sense of self as a mindful, reflective, and self-aware practitioner. I have reflected how I identify with the concept of the ‘wounded healer’ in my journey into social work education and post-qualifying practice (Brown et al, 2016:76). As a former user of secondary mental health services and practitioner with lived experiences of mental health problems, I bring several positive insights into my professional role. For example, experiential learning as a service user myself and the genuine rapport these experiences developed. Furthermore, as a man in social work I am in the minority. Several authors (Brown et al, 2016:83; Turner, 2016:18-19) acknowledge this gender imbalance, placing an emphasis on how men can make a positive and valid contribution encouraging the celebration of positive male identities in our profession.

Moreover, I am a practitioner with dyspraxia and Irlen Syndrome. Dyspraxia is a recognised disability and ‘a form of developmental co-ordination disorder, a life-long condition affecting the organisation of movement, perception and thought’ (Dyspraxia Foundation, 2016). Irlen Syndrome is a perceptual processing disorder which effects the brain’s ability to process visual information (Irlen, 2015).   My professional identity and sense of self consists of one that contains multiple differences and strengths.

            These differences bring with them several challenges and opportunities. There is the challenge of reasonable adjustments as outlined in section 20 duty to make adjustments of the Equality Act 2010. I have experience of the intrusion of assessment alongside the relief of appropriate and helpful intervention. I have been deemed eligible for several adjustments to be made to my work environment such as provision of a job coach, specialised computer speech-to-text software, a smart pen and coloured overlays. The opportunities this sense of self offers is abundant such as awareness raising of specific learning difficulties within social work, building on the work of charitable organisations (Dyspraxia Foundation, 2016). There are opportunities to feel more supported, comfortable, and competent in the workplace. These challenges make me seek opportunities to use my creativity and resilience to influence the workplace making a difference for myself and others (Adams and Sheard, 2013:54; Howe and Caldwell-McGee, 2016:93).

In her model of reflection, Maclean (2016) encourages consideration of goals in practice. My goals for this practice were to achieve the reasonable adjustments to my workplace which I am entitled to and eligible for. I acknowledge that others’ goals, specifically my assessor and line manager, aimed to facilitate and support me achieving these. Consequentially, this could lead to more efficacious support of and practice with the people I serve.

            Finally, the use of self in newly qualified social work practice is powerful. I believe if we combine the appropriate use of legislation with critical reflection, resilience, and self-awareness we can develop into confident and competent practitioners. I feel more help is needed for male practitioners in social work to do the work and continue to build gendered alliances with people in practice.

Daniel Wilding, Community Mental Health Practitioner/Social Worker, December 2016

References

Adams, J. and Sheard, A. (2013) Positive Social Work: The Essential Toolkit for NQSWs. Northwich: Critical Publishing.

Brown, P., Cook, M., Higgins, C., Matthews, D., Wilding, D. and Whiteford, A. (2016) ‘Men in social work education: building a gendered alliance’, in Bellinger, A. and Ford, D. (eds.) Practice placement in social work: Innovative approaches for effective teaching and learning. Bristol: Policy Press, pp. 71-87.

Dyspraxia Foundation (2016) Join the Foundation. Available at:  http://dyspraxiafoundation.org.uk/what-we-do/join-foundation/ (Accessed: 6 November 2016).

Equality Act 2010, c. 15. Available at: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2010/15/section/20 (Accessed: 6 November 2016).

Howe, K. and Caldwell-McGee, P. (2016) ‘Managing the personal: from surviving to thriving in social work’, in Keen, S. Parker, J., Brown, K. and Galpin, D. (eds.) Newly- Qualified Social Workers: A Practice Guide to the Assessed and Supported Year in Employment. 3rd edn. London and Califomia: Learning Matters/Sage, pp. 85-107.

Irlen (2015) What is Irlen Syndrome? Available at: http://irlen.com/what-is-irlen-syndrome/ (Accessed: 11 November 2016).

Maclean, S. (2016) ‘Whatever the weather’, Professional Social Work (March), pp. 28-29.

Turner, A. (2016) ‘The Great Divide’, Professional Social Work (July/August), pp. 18-19.

If this post interests you and makes you wonder about the thoughts of NQSWs, why not look a bit further? Starting Social Work: Reflections of a Newly Qualified Social Worker by Rebecca Novell offers a fantastic insight into the thoughts and feelings of NQSWs. More details about the books can be found on the Critical Publishing website.

If you have any questions, you can reach me at keisha@criticalpublishing.com – as always, we would love to hear from you!

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Preceptorship as a viable alternative to the Assessed and Supported Year in Employment

Introducing our new social work blogger! Today we have a great post from our new social work blogger, Daniel Wilding. If you are a student or newly qualified social worker, this blog post is a great read for you!

Have a read and see why.

I am a newly qualified social worker employed as a community mental health practitioner in an assertive outreach service.  I am currently undertaking a preceptorship with the support of my preceptor and practice supervisor (Lalonde and McGillis Hall, 2016) because my employer does not support the optional Assessed and Supported Year in Employment (ASYE) (Kent, 2015).  The weather model of critical reflection (Maclean, 2016: 28-29) is useful for reflection. This model shall now be utilised in an exploration of how a social work preceptorship can be a useful alternative choice of employment and early professional development for student social workers on the cusp of qualification.

Maclean (2016) asserts that relationships are critical on which to reflect in practice. I have enjoyed the opportunities to build relationships with colleagues in my multi-disciplinary team of community psychiatric nurses, psychiatrists, an occupational therapist, art therapist and psychotherapist, a clinical psychologist, assistant practitioners and several support time recovery workers. We work with adults of working age who are recovering from schizophrenia in the community. I feel the relationships I have built with service users have impacted my practice in the following ways. I have seen how my support is valued and complimented by service users through significant life changes such as moving home and through a mental health crisis triggered by the stress of this transition. Elsewhere, I have seen how delivering support with activities of daily living is valued by a service user with chronic pain and schizoaffective disorder. Lastly, I have seen and heard how my knowledge and skills pertaining to section 42(1)(b)(c) enquiry by local authority of the Care Act 2014 has been sought from me by colleagues in psychiatry and the allied health professions in their work safeguarding clients.

Maclean (2016) encourages critical reflection upon organisation. In my view, there is a crucial organisational issue that impacts on my and our practice. My employer is an organisation that delivers health and social care from a primarily medical model. At a recent away day, our clinical psychologist delivered a presentation on the Recovery Star (Triangle Consulting Social Enterprise, 2015). Prior, she and I discussed the UnRecovery Star (Recovery in the Bin, 2015) as a counterpoint to the former because it is underpinned by the social model of disability. It was striking how my knowledge was shared within the team and the positive feedback this generated from colleagues. Reflecting this back to the organisation, I believe the recruitment of more student social workers and newly qualified social workers could benefit my organisation and improve the service because of our particular set of skills can help aid mental health recovery of service users.

In conclusion, it has been seen how a newly qualified social worker’s skills, experience and expertise can be a valuable addition to an organisation consisting of mainly nursing, medical and allied health professionals. A preceptorship programme can offer a stimulating and interesting career alternative worthy of consideration by student social workers seeking an alternative employment option to the ASYE.

References

Care Act 2014, c. 23. Available at: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2014/23/section/42/enacted (Accessed: 26 October 2016).

Kent, S. (2015) Assessed and Supported Year of Employment – questions and answers. Available at: http://cdn.basw.co.uk/upload/basw_122527-3.pdf (Accessed: 30 October 2016).

Lalonde, M. and McGillis Hall, L. (2016) Preceptor characteristics and the socialization outcomes of new graduate nurses during a preceptorship programme. Nursing Open. doi:10.1002/nop2.58.

Maclean, S. (2016) ‘Whatever the weather’, Professional Social Work (March), pp. 28-29.

Recovery in the Bin (2015) ‘UnRecovery Star’, Recovery in the Bin, (no date). Available at: https://recoveryinthebin.org/unrecovery-star-2/ (Accessed: 26 October 2016).

Triangle Consulting Social Enterprise (2015) The Recovery Star. Available at: https://www.staronline.org.uk/star_mock_homepage.asp?section=152 (Accessed: 26 October 2016).

If this blog post is of interest to you, why not dig a little deeper? Positive Social Work – The Essential Toolkit for NQSWs by Julie Adams and Angie Sheard and Modern Mental Health – Critical Perspectives on Psychiatric Practice by Steven Walker et al. provide interesting and varied perspectives and opinions on the making of a newly qualified social worker. Further details of both books can be found on www.criticalpublishing.com.

If you have any questions, you can reach me at admin@criticalpublishing.com – as always, we would love to hear from you!

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