Social workers at Southern Eastern Health and Social Care Trust found a new way to gather the views of young people who are in care, to support decision making at their looked-after-child review meetings. They started using the Mind Of My Own app, as featured in our ‘Bottoms up’ film. Here we look at how the project came about and what was involved.
Senior social worker David Hamilton says that communication is one of the most challenging aspects of children’s social work. ‘We have to find out the child’s view of their new care place, if they’re happy, if they’re settled, their views on school, friendships, anything to do with their lives. But it can be very difficult to just talk verbally.’
The social workers were finding that the consultation forms they were asking young people to fill in were only completed for around half of review meetings. They also felt that some questions were leading, such as being asked to identify ‘three good things about school’. They wanted to find a way to get meaningful input from every young person so they made this the focus of a Safety, Quality, Experience project.
The first time they met, the group looked at different ways of asking young people their views. One option they explored was the recently-launched Mind Of My Own (MOMO) app, which was developed with input from young people in care.
‘We all got our phones out, downloaded it and gave it a go,’ explains David. ‘All of us thought it looked intuitive and that the children would love to use it – so we decided to try it.’
The MOMO app gave the team a new way for young people to communicate their views to their social worker. ‘It asks the child a number of different questions and they can decide to answer or not... Most meaningfully, it asks them what do you want to change, or what do you want to happen?’
David adds, ‘it’s better to get a streamlined view of one thing the child really wants to communicate, rather than a lot of potentially tokenistic communication.’
Trialling the app
The team worked closely with the app developers to make sure it met strict data protection requirements, then chose a project champion to put it to the test. ‘We had really positive feedback from the children, from the social worker and from the chair of the looked-after-child review as well.’
The new way of working was gradually rolled out to other teams of social workers, with a project champion leading the way each time. Early on, social workers had to borrow an iPad from the local hospital, which was 20 miles away. But David says their willingness to make this effort showed how much they valued the tool. Eventually they secured funding to buy iPads for seven social workers to use the app with the young people they work with.
A cultural shift
David believes MOMO has made a real difference to the way social workers interact with young people. Because the answers are sent directly to the chair of the meeting, there is no chance for details to be left out or miscommunicated.
‘We thought it’s most important that the child’s views are there on the table in the most uncensored way,’ comments David. ‘It means we start the meeting with consideration of the views of the child, which is a cultural shift for us.’