By Lucy Hopkins, Head of Practice, WillisPalmer
WillisPalmer is delighted to announce the introduction of our School Social Work Service that commenced with a one term pilot at Hazelmere Junior School in Colchester.
There is an increasing level of responsibility placed on schools when it comes to safeguarding children, which is challenging and often time consuming for teachers whose primary focus is to provide children with an education. Whilst it is great that there is so much more support being offered to children, in terms of their mental health and wellbeing, at WillisPalmer we recognise a need to provide support to the teachers and school staff. We are doing this by offering an expert social worker to be on site one day per week to provide advice and consultancy, attend Social Care meetings on behalf of the school, make referrals to relevant agencies, and help better equip staff to understand and manage social issues that affect children and may be impacting on their education.
WillisPalmer decided to launch this service by piloting it at a local school and be part of the local community after a challenging and traumatic couple of years as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, where the whole community has been affected.
I was excited to have personally delivered this pilot service and it was a privilege being able to regularly spend time at a local school. I joined the world of social work as an administrator back in 2004, the year WillisPalmer was established, and throughout the years that followed I qualified as a social worker and worked in Adult Social Care, Children's Services, and at Cafcass. One of the things that has been really important to me is working in my local community; I have always worked within Essex. There is something rewarding and motivating knowing that you have made a difference, even if only in a small way, to your community, and that's part of what social work is all about.
Hazelmere Junior School work hard to provide their pupils with positive experiences that support their emotional health and wellbeing. I was able to observe some Lego Therapy taking place with groups of children. The children were in groups of three and each assigned a role, and they worked together in those roles to build a Lego model. Not only do the children learn about team work, building confidence, listening skills, choosing helpful words, asking helpful questions, and patience, but they are also encouraged to say please/thank you, offer to help each other if one person is struggling, and to praise each other when they do something well. The groups of children were all smiling throughout their sessions, owning their roles, being proud of the part they played in the group and what they achieved together. They were rewarded with praise, encouragement, and stickers from the member of staff facilitating the session, which made them feel even more special and proud of themselves. It's important to remember that some children do not experience this often enough and Hazelmere Junior School recognise this so are able to provide children with these types of positive experiences.
In addition, I was able to further understand the needs of the children who are part of the Hazelmere community, and the types of problems and issues they are experiencing out of school that subsequently impact on them in school. This was invaluable as a social worker, allowing me the opportunity to reconnect with the needs of local communities and understand first hand what life is like for them, and further informing the development of the WillisPalmer School Social Work Service going forward.
Diane Wills is Consultant Social Worker at WillisPalmer, responsible for quality assuring the forensic risk assessment reports.
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