Local authorities are having variable amounts of success in using early help services to reduce demand on child protection social workers, according to the latest research.
As with any interview it is essential that you prepare yourself. Whether you are an experienced support worker or going for your first ever interview you will need to read up on current policy and do some research into the responsibilities you will have in that job. Make sure you fully understand the job your are being interviewed for and rehearse with yourself how you can ensure your experience is relevant. Even if you’ve never worked in health or social care before, you still have skills such as team work and communication which are relevant. There are some key policies you should also be aware of as a support worker, ones which will directly affect how you provide support for a service user.
The social care reform was launched on 10 December 2007 entitled “Putting People First”, and here are two of the key themes included in it that you should be aware of.
Personalisation in care was part of the social care reform that began in December 2007, and its principle is that people should be entitled “to live their own lives as they wish, confident that services are of high quality, are safe and promote their own individual needs for independence, well-being and dignity”. You can read the full details of the guidance on the Dept of Health archive.
You should be aware of this guidance as it’s one of the fundamental principles of delivering care to a service user. The guidance was updated last year, and the Social Care Institute for Excellent have produced a rough guide to personalistion, which you can access here . The Dept of Health have also recently produced a paper giving details of evidence of how the principles of personlisation have been applied in practice.
Safeguarding and dealing with abuse was another key factor in the social care reforms. There was a large consultation held that involved 12,000 people each contributing their opinions. You can read the detailed Safeguarding adults report here. The results of this consultation were instrumental in producing the guidance we have today, which was published earlier this year and is available to download here. It goes into details about the role every social care professional has to play in safeguarding.
You can read more about the social care reform policies and look at the other themes contained within the guidance on the Dept of Health archives.
Example Interview Questions:
What qualities and experience can you bring to this role?
Many interviewers like to start with a fairly open question like this. It gives you a chance to relax a little and to speak freely about your experience and your personal qualities. It gives the interview panel a chance to get to know you a little, and for you to highlight everything you want them to know about you. It goes without saying that you should stick to talking about things that will be relevant for the support worker job you’re going for, they’re not that interested in knowing your hobbies unless they are directly relevant to the role.
What do you feel are your strengths and weaknesses?
Make a big deal of the things you are good at such as communication, motivation, commitment, time keeping and give a reflection on your weaknesses to let the interview panel know you’re aware of your weakness and have plans to improve on them. For example, a weakness of yours could be that you are sometimes a perfectionist, but you can overcome this by realising it’s not a perfect world and as long as a task is done safely and the client is happy, then that’s satisfactory.
What is your understanding of professional boundaries and how would you ensure they are maintained?
Professional boundaries are essential in social care, but especially in a support worker role. You will be working closely with individuals who require intimate and continuing support from you in order to maintain their independence and wellbeing, but that should be the limit of your involvement. You should acknowledge that any contact with a service user outside of work is not consistent with maintaining a professional boundary, nor is giving out personal information about yourself, and nor is accepting inappropriate gifts from a service user or family. If you are offered an inexpensive gift from a family member or service user as as gesture of thanks, as long as there is no conflict of interest you may accept but only after consulting your manager and logging receipt of the gift.
How would you ensure your are supporting a client to minimise the risks to themselves and you?
Risk is a key issue that must be addressed on a case by case basis. As a support worker you will be involved in undertaking risk assessments and once published, ensuring they are implemented. The process of carrying out the risk assessment will involve talking to the service user to find out the tasks they require support for, and how much they can undertake safely on their own. You will design robust working procedures that ensure your safety as well as the service user’s safety, and it will be your responsibility to introduce them to these routines as well as support them to learn how to carry out tasks safely.
Imagine a situation when you are faced with a service user who is aggravated and distressed. How would you manage this behaviour?
Challenging behaviour can present in many different forms, it could be anger, aggression, confusion or frustration, but however the service user is behaving you need to know how to handle it. If you’ve never been trained in how to manage challenging behaviour, just use your common sense in the interview to answer the question. You should always remain calm and listen to what the service user is saying, take time to fully understand their problem, and only then should you try to help them resolve the issue. If you feel your safety is being put at risk by their behaviour then you shouldn’t try to handle the situation alone. Leave the situation in a calm way and immediately get help. It’s important to let the interview panel know that you understand where your ability to manage the situation ends and when to ask for help. You should also let them know that as soon as the situation is resolved you would complete an incident report and ensure the entire event is properly documented.
You will be required to complete an assessment of a client’s needs. How would you go about doing this?
The assessment of a service user’s needs is done in conjunction with a risk assessment, and it also involves the client’s input. Start by talking to the service user about what they can do, what they struggle with and the things they need assistance with. Make sure you cover a complete range of activities from basic daily life tasks such as washing, dressing, cooking and eating to leisure activities and hobbies. Promoting independence and wellbeing is key to being a support worker, so your role is always to advise and assist but unless specifically required, never to undertake the task on behalf of the client. You should let the interview panel know that you understand it’s crucial for the client to feel a sense of achievement and independence in their every day lives and that you are there to facilitate that. This would be an ideal time to show your understanding of personalisation in care.
Give us an example of a time when you have worked in a small team, and how you personally contributed to that team
This is a great opportunity to draw on a range of your experiences of team working. Make sure you give enough detail about how you worked as part of the team to support the other members, but also to ensure your contribution worked in conjunction with the team’s overall aim. Backing up any claims you make with previous experience shows the interview panel you have prepared well for the interview and that you can analyse your own behaviour to recognise the key skills you have achieved.
Young people and children can often be more affected by a family crisis than adults may first think. The breakdown of a relationship or the diagnosis of a serious illness can affect their moods and behaviour, even if you try to protect them from the worst. Some children can go off the rails at this point, misbehaving at school and at home, while others become withdrawn and unwilling to engage with family members or friends. A social worker can help in either of these situations by providing a friendly ear and some practical suggestions that could make the child’s life easier.
Social Work and Schools
Sometimes a school may contact the local social work department if they have a concern about a particular child or their parents. They may suspect child abuse or perhaps the child has suddenly started behaving badly and out of character. The parents would also be contacted by the school as social workers would need to involve them from the start. No matter what the suspicions of staff may be. The social worker, along with child psychologists if necessary, would try and figure out what is upsetting the child and then come up with an appropriate care plan. This might involve something as simple as an eye test – if children are struggling at school and misbehaving, they might need glasses. Sometimes healthcare professionals might need to be consulted to see if the child may be autistic or have ADHD. Social workers can ask for these tests to be carried out and help the parents and child deal with the results, talking them through the consequences and possible treatments. If the situation is found to be more serious, then outside therapy might be needed or if the child is being abused, they would have to be removed from the home for their own safety. All of these situations are often diagnosed with the help of vigilant teachers who work with the local social work department to help protect the children in their care.
Social Work and Problems at Home
If a family is facing a crisis, often the children can be the most affected; sometimes they may not understand what is happening and this can cause them to become withdrawn and quiet or alternatively loud and badly behaved. Specialist social workers can help children through difficult times, either by just talking with them and spending time with them, or arranging for them to get help through local voluntary organisations. In most towns there are befriending groups that match up kids who have had some problems in their life with adults who will take them out for a day and become a good friend to them too. Social workers can refer children that they think would benefit from this befriending to the charities and hopefully improve the child’s life while their family deals with whatever crisis is affecting them.
There are lots of children and young people in the UK who are in trouble with the police, either for minor crimes such as vandalism or more serious offences. Sometimes a stern word from the police is enough to scare a child into behaving better, but it is more common to find that the problem runs deeper and further action needs to be taken. Social workers, in conjunction with the family and the police, have to help come up with a plan that will punish the child for their misdeeds, but not to the extent that it interferes with their life or schooling.
Social Work and ASBOs
ASBOs or an Anti Social Behaviour Order has become a very common way to deal with children who persistently misbehave, but whose crimes are only minor ones of vandalism or damage. The ASBO can restrict where the child can go and between what times. The social worker will work with the council and the legal authorities to establish these boundaries and communicate them to the child and his family. It is important that the social worker is able to emphasise that this is a punishment, as some young people see their ASBOs as badges of honour! The social worker must maintain regular contact with any child that has been in trouble with the police; this will hopefully stop any more serious discipline problems for developing. It is also up to the social worker to try and understand why the child is misbehaving. Perhaps they are having problems at home, struggling at school or have fallen in with a bad crowd. Social work professionals understand that it is not enough to punish badly behaved children; you also have to try and find out why they are badly behaved in the first place. Fixing this problem is the only sure way to get them to calm down.
Social Work and Young Offenders Institutes
When a child’s bad behaviour has become more extreme or more persistent, the legal authorities may take the decision to send them to a Young Offenders’ Institute. This is a sort of prison for children, though the sentences are much shorter and they are sometimes taken out of the centre, under strict supervision, for days out. The child’s social worker will continue to have contact with them while they are inside and will also maintain contact with their family, so they can communicate any worries too. The job of the social worker in this environment is to act as the go-between, passing on worries and concerns to the social worker and the authorities at the Institute and keeping an open dialogue with their client and his or her family. The social workers attached to the Young Offenders’ Institutes are specialists in dealing with children with behavioural problems. Here the children will undergo counselling sessions to find out the causes of their problems and may even take part in therapy sessions to try and improve their behaviour for when they are ready to be released. Obviously, the social worker will continue to have regular contact with the child upon release, to ensure that they do not slip back into their old ways.
One of the key aspects of adult services in social work departments is care for the elderly. This is an area that is only going to become bigger as our population continues to age, without a support structure in place. There are already shortages of social workers willing to work in this area and also of places in nursing and care homes run by local authorities.
Social Work and Care Homes
The first contact that a social worker might have with an elderly person is when they are starting to find it difficult to manage day-to-day activities in their own home. This can be because of physical health problems or conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s. The best course of action, if possible, is to try and maintain the client’s independence by allowing them to remain in their home, but with support from social carers working for the council. These workers will come in and bathe and dress the client, deliver meals and even clean the house. When things have become too difficult or too dangerous for the client to remain in their home, then the social worker will become involved again in trying to find a suitable care home for them.
Social Work and Dementia
Social workers will also be involved in helping to identify clients who have problems with dementia and other similar conditions. In this diagnosis, they will work with healthcare professionals and the client’s family to establish a care plan that will keep them safe in their home, but also provide stimulation. Many councils run day care centres or days out for the elderly that the social worker can help arrange. Often without the backing of a social worker or a doctor, it can be difficult for families to get the support they need and want from local authorities. Dealing with clients who have dementia can be quite frustrating, so social workers often specialise in this area and may even take extra training in how to speak and communicate more effectively with people suffering from this condition.
Abuse of the Elderly
A phenomenon that is sadly becoming more common is abuse of vulnerable elderly people. Sometimes this can take the form of physical abuse, when a family member or carer has become frustrated with their behaviour; on other occasions family members or carers are taking advantage of their confusion to steal money or items from the house. If there is suspicion that this may be happening, then a social worker would get involved to try and talk to the client and find out what has been happening. Social workers will often also become involved when there are complaints against a care home, especially one that is being run by the local authority. It can be difficult to get elderly people with health problems to open up and articulate the problems they are suffering, particularly if they are scared, and this is where the special communication skills of a social worker are useful.