Meet Birmingham's newest social workers supporting families

Following an independent review into the death of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes, the spotlight is on the work of social workers.

Arthur was under the care of Solihull Local Authority when he was murdered and a government-led review found that wider family members of the murdered six-year-old were ignored by Solihull Social Services.

As part of a special series, we have spoken to a number of newly qualified social workers from a different area who work for Birmingham Children's Trust, which was not involved in Arthur's care when he died.

Speaking to our reporter Lucy Kapasi, they told us about their work, what they wish they'd known and what they'd like to see change in the future.

What made you enter a profession that's under so much scrutiny and is it what they expected?

Davia Williams Credit: ITV Central

Davia Williams said: "One of the best things about being a social worker is when you have worked with a family and you see them make positive changes."

Simeon Walker said: "The stigma around social work for years gone by has been that we're almost child snatchers.

"We come into homes where children and families they think we don't understand their life and stuff that they are going through.

"But actually we are there to support them and keep families together."

What's the one thing you wish you had known before you became a social worker?

Mason Poore said: "I wish I knew about the good side of social work more. I think at university they tend to try and prepare you for the worst.

Mason Poore Credit: ITV Central

"You build really amazing relationships with your colleagues, the families you work with, you kind of help them get back on track."

Ayesha Patel said: "You can't stick to your job description there is no such thing.

Ayesha Patel Credit: ITV Central

"With a social worker you're a cleaner you're a childminder, you're a person who does removals, you're an advisor, you're a friend, you're someone who they trust so it's lots of different roles I think that you generally cover in social work.

We hear a lot about social workers being over worked? What are your case loads like?

Simeon said: "Our case loads especially newly-qualified social workers are very carefully managed and I think that's through the Birmingham Children's Trust, the Academy.

Simeon Walker Credit: ITV Central

"I think they give a lot of oversight to make sure we are well managed."

Mason said: "I think it's really important to acknowledge the fact that with social work a lot of people enter the profession and then leave.

"I think when you finish university there's this difficult transition where it's not the same as how you prepare at university.

"What's good about the programme that Birmingham offers is that it's really progressive and they really slowly integrate each of the cases and they tailor them to your relative skills."

When you go into someone's home for the first time, someone new that you are working with how do you introduce yourself? How do you break the ice?

Leah Campbell Credit: ITV Central

Leah Campbell said: "Because of the stigmas and the negative narratives around social workers I like to ask them what do you think my role is.

"Sometimes we assume that everyone knows the role of a social worker but they don't always know.

"So it's about checking with them and then just providing some clarity actually this is why I'm here and this is my role and I find that sometimes that does break down some of the barriers."

When there is a report in the media like Arthur Labinjo-Hughes how does that affect you personally and professionally?

Mason said: "It does rock the social work world. It does anytime you hear a child death. However, we react to it as professionals.

"We don't just think another child has died, let's just o on with our lives. We take part in a thing called a serious case review.

"So anytime a child thats involved with services dies there's a review to look at areas of potential good practice and look at really where it went wrong.

"it's continuous learning for us as professionals as well and we are always striving to identify ways to try and prevent any child death occurring.

"So our response is to never a careless one, it does hurt and damage us as well. It damages our reputation as professionals."

Rachael Wilks Credit: ITV Central

Rachael Wilks said: "When I hear about stories like that it is really upsetting but it just reiterates why I have chosen to do the job that I have chosen to do.

"There is a child that has been missed, but there are so many families that we are working with and I think it is needed."

Leah said: "The media portrays that we didn't do enough and we didn't take the child away in a timely manner and we didn't prevent this child from dying.

"But then, on the flip-side when sometimes we do have to actively take children away from their families as they are unsafe, then we are still the 'bad' social workers, but what we do is we try our best."

Looking to the future, is there anything you would like to see change?

Rachael said: "I think there needs to be a change in the narrative of what social workers do because that in itself may help people wanting to get into this field."

Simeon said: "You don't want to be spending an hour with families and five hours doing admin, that's an imbalance straight away and I think that needs to be looked into.

"Because that's why people are having the burn-out and that's why they're leaving.

"They are not leaving because they don't like children and families or working with them. They are leaving because there is mountains of paperwork and admin and form filling and statement writing that actually I think could be reduced.

Mason said: "If all they hear is that social workers are there to take their children and we don't talk about the support and advocacy we provide to families as well, by the time we come round to calling up families or going to knock on their door the barriers are already up, it makes our job harder.

"It would be much easier if people knew what we did and why we are here."

Are they still committed to being on the front line?

Leah said: "Social work is a brilliant career to have, it is going to be difficult, any career choice you have is going to be difficult and I think if we can move away from all those negative nuances and for people to be able to see that its a brilliant role to have.

"It's rewarding, we make such a difference to the lives of a lot of the children and families we work with."

Ayesha said: "I'm really proud to be a social worker. I feel that it's so rewarding as a profession.

"I know i'm giving back to a community, i'm giving back to children and if I can just make a difference to even one child I would feel that the qualification and the experience that I have achieved to date is worth everything that I have put into it."

What does the trust say?

The Birmingham Children's Trust said it tries to reduce bureaucracy and red tape so social workers can spend most of their time with families.

But added they need more help from the government to go further with that.

The Trust also said the support of its Academy doesn't stop after year one, it continues.

It keeps an eye on case loads and do what they can to make them manageable.

At the heart of the report into Arthur's death was a recommendation that police, health and social workers should all work together more to investigate allegations of serious harm.

The trust says it needs more detail of what is proposed, but any steps to ensure vulnerable children are better protected can only be a good thing.

And pointed out that when enquiries or concerns first come in, it already makes sure the appropriate bodies are involved from the outset.