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Tagged In:  Social Work, Social Worker

It’s 8,000 miles away from mainland UK, but what can we learn from the Falkland Islands’ model for delivering social services?

In Sanctuary Social Work News Magazine, we catch up with one of Sanctuary’s candidates, Kathy Fricker, a Children’s Social Work Practitioner currently working in the remote territory off the coast of South America, to find out what it’s like delivering social services within a population of just 3,500 people.

The Falkland Islands is exceptionally remote in every sense and internet access is at a premium, so whilst there is the opportunity to FaceTime or Skype family and friends back home, it’s extremely expensive. We were intrigued to find out why Kathy chose to work on the Islands. Kathy is quick to point out that there’s a personal reason for wanting to work there, “I was serving in the Royal Navy during the Falklands War and I had a friend who died in the conflict and a number of others who were serving on ships at the time; this makes me feel I have a degree of connection to the Islands.”

She adds, “Some people ask me why I want to work somewhere so far away, but my answer is always ‘why wouldn’t I?’ I get to travel to the other side of the world to help children and their families, and experience a different way of working as a social worker. I also had the opportunity to ‘hop’ over to Chile and travel around Patagonia. I’ve visited a number of the many smaller Islands of the Falklands where the most amazing array of wildlife can be seen in their natural habitat”.

In the Falkland Islands, social work is very much“ part of the health service”, explains Kathy. Social services are delivered by a small multi-skilled team under the Health and Social Care Directorate. The team includes one adult social worker, two children’s social workers, two family support workers and a manager overseeing service delivery. This team supports the social care needs of the entire population, “which is incredibly diverse” says Kathy. At the heart of the community are families whose heritage can be traced back through nine generations, and who have subsequently been joined by people from over 60 nations. Predominantly of British descent, the Islands’ population also includes large Chilean and St Helenian communities.

In contrast to the UK, this small, close-knit community, has no children on the child protection register (at the time of writing). Residents generally have a good standard of living and there is very little unemployment, which means there is less of a reliance on social services for financial support.

There also seems to be an element of self-regulation and co-operation with social services in the community. “Extended family members may work with social services to address any issues with a family member before the situation escalates”, recalls Kathy.

Reflecting positively about the level of face-to-face contact working in such a small community affords, Kathy says “I am able to spend a lot more quality time working with children and families, which is what I came into social work to do”. In part, this is because there is not a backlog of cases and the team is able to respond very quickly to referrals, which averages just two or three a week.

While social workers in the UK have to contend with traffic jams en route to each appointment, their colleagues in the Falklands use a Land Rover, or even a light aircraft to reach the West Island. But since most people live in Stanley, which is around four square miles, the majority of clients live close by. As a social worker, this can present a real challenge. “Stanley is an incredibly small town and there’s a very real possibility that a family you are supporting lives in your neighbourhood”, says Kathy.

Where social workers in the UK often choose to work in a different locality to where they live, there’s no option to do so in the Falkland Islands.

To read more about what interventions Kathy uses and what support is available, check out pages 26-27 in the latest issue of our magazine

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