CLIC Sargent celebrates social workers this World Social Work Day and looks ahead to new ways of working
This World Social Work Day, (March 16) CLIC Sargent, the UK’s leading cancer charity for children and young people, looks back on how its social workers have adapted over the past year and how they are looking forward to building on what they have learnt.
When a young person is diagnosed with cancer, CLIC Sargent social workers step in to provide children and young people and their families with practical, emotional and financial support.
From applying for vital financial grants to help with the cost of a cancer diagnosis to liaising with a parent’s employer or child’s school, social workers are there to minimise the impact a diagnosis has beyond their child’s health.
In March 2020, as the coronavirus pandemic hit, CLIC Sargent social workers were no longer able to provide this support face-to-face in hospital and had to adapt to remote working. CLIC Sargent invested in new equipment, including new laptops, so they could carry out their support from home.
While they could no longer offer face to face support, social workers continued to be there for families with phone calls, zoom calls, texts, whatsapp and peer support groups online.
While social workers adapted to this new way of working, the support required for families and young people with cancer increased more than ever before.
They were having conversations with families worried about paying the bills, or getting food delivered while shielding and others had challenges with their employers all while trying to navigate ever-changing government guidelines to keep their children safe.
Rachel Driver, CLIC Sargent social worker, said: ‘We are used to meeting with newly diagnosed children and young people and their families on the ward, to offer a listening ear and helping hand.
‘To suddenly have to work from home and figure out how we could still be there without physically being there was tough, but families continued to need our help, more than ever.
‘The pandemic created new anxieties and fears for families, as they worried about their children who, as well as having to go through cancer treatment, were now also vulnerable to coronavirus and had to shield.
‘Many young people and families also felt isolated during this time, and restrictions meant that some parents couldn’t go into hospital with their children (16-25).
‘I have had a number of Facetime conversations with young people lonely on long hospital stays – talking about their worries and anxieties – advocating where I can for parents and carers to visit.
‘Alongside this, I have called and supported parents and carers as they wait anxiously alone in their car while their child goes in for treatment.’
While the pandemic created many challenges, which CLIC Sargent’s Social Workers had to navigate, it also inspired new opportunities to reach young people with cancer and their families.
CLIC Sargent’s social care team developed their offering of peer-support activities by setting up online activities and meetings for young people and parents to join.
Social care practitioner, Laura Rohdich said: ‘I organised new activities online for young people to join, to help them meet others in a similar position and to offer some relief during lockdown and shielding.
‘We were able to reach more young people with cancer than we usually would be able to due to distance.
‘It has been great to see young people, who may not have otherwise been able to join us, get involved in a new activity and meet other young people with cancer too.’
While there have been challenges over the past year, CLIC Sargent’s Social Workers have worked hard to adapt and continue to be there as much as they can for children and young people with cancer and their families.
The charity is now building on what they have learnt over the last year and will soon be launching a new way of working, which aims to reach more young people diagnosed with cancer.
Lynn Charlton, associate director of services at CLIC Sargent, said: ‘Over the past year, our social workers have done an incredible job of supporting young people with cancer at a time when support has been needed more than ever.
‘In this time, we have been able to utilise technology to reach more young people and families. “Going forward, the charity is keen to build on what we have learnt in the past year.
‘We are looking to create a new social care model with support offered through both local delivery as well as via our digital channels.
‘This will enable families to receive tailored support appropriate to their needs.
‘When families first get in touch via our digital channels, the level of support will be considered based on those initial conversations and our team of social workers will be able to target their support based on the requirements of each individual family.’
CLIC Sargent is looking to launch this new model in the next few months and hopes by utilising its digital channels and building on the learnings of the last year, it will reach more young people with cancer and their families to offer vital financial, emotional and practical support.
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