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In our latest edition of Sanctuary Social Work News, we catch up with social worker, author and trainer, Mark Hatter, who explains why he has written a children’s book to help practitioners assess family circumstances. 

As a 16 year old, I decided to follow my father into the police force and became a police cadet. Prior to leaving home for the first time I was filled with anxiety as to what the next two years would bring and asked my father for advice. He told me ‘face your fears head on and always do the hard stuff first’. Seven years later I found myself as a newly qualified social worker sat in an alien environment waiting to go out on my first solo home visit to see a family; reliving those feelings I had as a 16 year old. I felt ill-prepared, de-skilled and had no idea how I would talk to the children and find out about their experiences of living at home. 

Move on 20 years and I have had the privilege of working with, and managing, some of the most dedicated and caring social workers one could find, but it remained evident that far too frequently social workers were not spending enough time with children, who were also not the focus of the assessment process. Conversations with social workers suggested they continued to receive little training in how to communicate with children and they were, as a consequence, frequently anxious when faced with having to talk to children they had not met before; in my mind a serious safeguarding concern that needed to be systematically addressed. After all, we are human first and social workers second and as with all humans we will often avoid what makes us anxious and what takes us out of our comfort zone. 

Two years ago I published a book called the Tales of Bushey Lane and accompanying activity packs to address the above. As demand for the book and activity packs increased, I decided to further learning opportunities by developing a specialist course programme with Sanctuary Training

‘Effective Communication with Children’ is now a CPD accredited course which I run as a one-day workshop. This helps participants to improve their communication and engagement skills with children and their families, meet the requirements of Working Together to Safeguard Children, make the best use of reflective supervision, and evidence a child’s journey. All those who take part in the course receive a free copy of the Tales of Bushey Lane, which has been endorsed by Professor Eileen Munro as an effective communication tool. 

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