Name: Laura Murphy
Degree and university: BA (hons) in Social Work at London Southbank University
Title: Children’s Practitioner
What do you actually do?
I work for the London Borough of Hackney in the Looked After Children Service. I work with children who, for various reasons, cannot be cared for by their families. The children are in foster care or in residential care. I work as part of a small Social Work unit, which is led by a Consultant Social Worker and also comprises a Social Worker, a family therapist and a unit co-ordinator the administrative jobs that Social Workers hate. We work as a smallb team responsible for the care of 40 children. This way of working is new and unique to Hackney, which is what attracted me to the job. The work involves responsibility for ensuring that the children receive a good standard of care in their placements. I deal with problems that occur for the child or the carer, for instance if a child is unhappy at school. I ensure that good plans are in place for the children’s long term care. My role in working with Looked After Children is to promote the child’s welfare and ensure that his or her needs are being met. I monitor the child’s health and educational development as well as working with other professionals and foster carers to help meet the child’s social, behavioural and emotional needs, this may include joint work with the unit’s family therapist. To enable me to do this, a big part of the role is building relationships with the children and I make regular visits to them. I also work with the children’s birth families and, where appropriate, promote, support and sometimes supervise ongoing contact between the child and their family. As a unit of professional working with our 40 children we meet every week together to discuss the progress of our work with the children and to plan to address any potential problems for any of the children. These weekly unit meetings enable us to share our different perspectives on each child and to share the worries and responsibilities of such important work with often very vulnerable children. Although we don’t have the day-to-day care of the children, we certainly feel that we take the same sort of responsibility for decisions that parents have to take.
Why did you decide to do Social Work?
I wanted to do something that mattered. I also wanted to do something that involved hands on work and would enable me to make a practical difference to children’s lives.
What do you like most about what you do and are there any downsides?
I like having the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of vulnerable children. Working with children is very hopeful, and often their resilience in the face of some of the terrible things they have experienced is really inspiring. I often have to travel long distances late in the day to visit children after school in different part of the country. This can be very tiring.
What skills do you believe you need to succeed at what you do?
You need communication skills and the ability to communicate with both adults and children. You also need organisational skills, and you have to be a calm person under pressure, who has sensitivity, and also empathy.
What advice would you give others coming into this sector?
If you are considering doing social work, get some work experience to see if you’ll like it and to see if it matches your idea of what it is. Children and adult social work is very different in my experience, so try and get some experience in both to see which you like best.