A range of social workers are set to give an expert talk at the University of Edinburgh this week, in an attempt to help improve the way social workers deal with the issues that impact on children, young people and families.
The event, called ‘Making Social Capital: Building Social Capital for Kids’, will be organised by Dr Lisa G. Johnson, from the School of Social Work at the Edinburgh University.
Dr Johnson, a former social worker herself, is currently a lecturer in social work at St John’s University.
She said she was inspired by the work of sociologists such as Michael D. Johnson in the 1980s, who were working on the issue of the need for social skills to be developed.
“When I heard about the work Michael D Johnson had done in the 80s, I thought, well I think I want to take that on,” Dr Johnson said.
“I thought that was the way to go and I have really done a lot of work in the last couple of years, both in Scotland and in England, on what social skills development could be done in Scotland to address social problems in the way they are affecting the children and young people in our communities.”
What I have been able to find out, in the course of doing research, is that the focus is on the needs of children and families and not necessarily what the social skills are for the children.
“So I thought I would do an overview of the needs that I believe should be addressed, in terms of social skills, and then how I would help children and their families develop their own social skills.”
Dr Johnson said she would be working with the University’s School of Sociology, the Centre for Research and Policy Development and the School Social Work, to find ways to help young people who are struggling to connect with others and engage with the community.
“One of the things that we do is we do a social skills project which is where we look at what young people need to do to connect to their families and to the wider community and I think there is a lot that we could be doing to help these young people.”
Dr G. J Johnson is one of the speakers for the event, which is being organised by the Social Services and Child and Family Support Programme (SSCSFAP).SSCSFLAP, the Department for Social Protection’s child and family support unit, was set up in 2011.
Dr G Johnson said that she was particularly interested in exploring the challenges young people face in social and emotional development.
“It’s an area where there is an enormous gap in our work, because it’s really the most difficult area of children’s social development,” she said.
“We don’t understand what is causing this.
I think it is the most misunderstood area of child development.”
Dr J Johnson said it was important that children were able to learn the skills and resources that they needed to help them grow into better individuals.
“There is a huge amount of emphasis on child development, and that is a big thing that needs to be taken into account, because if it is not, then we can be complacent and we can’t tackle the real issues that are happening,” she explained.
“And we are often complacent because we are too quick to think that children can only learn how to do certain things, when we have this huge amount that we are neglecting.”
Dr John Molloy, Director of Research and Practice at the Scottish Association of Social Workers (SAWS), said the conference was a good opportunity to hear from people who had a particular role to play in supporting young people with social skills.
“The issue of social development is an area of enormous potential and we need to understand how we can develop this area, and to support those young people,” Dr Mollow said.
Dr Mollouy said it could be argued that there was a huge need for a national education programme, to help teachers to understand what young children need to learn.
“But when you have a teacher who is only doing the best they can, you are not really helping them,” he said.
The Scottish Government has launched a ‘Focus on Learning’ programme, which will provide specialist guidance to schools and other educational providers on how to best support young people, to enable them to develop their social skills and to meet the needs and challenges of society.