Ali Williams’ first brush with social workers happened when she was fifteen. It has coloured her opinion of them ever since.
“There was violence at home from as far back as I can remember,” she says. “But after an incident involving my mum, social services decided I had to be fostered.”
Ali, 26 and from Andover in Hampshire, says once social services got involved, they failed to communicate with her at all.
She couldn’t go home so she’d been staying with a friend’s family for a couple of weeks.
“They told me I was being moved from there half an hour before it happened. So I literally had half an hour to pack up and go. I didn’t even have a chance to say goodbye to anyone at school.”
Worse still, Ali’s foster home was miles away from the community she’d known since she was born. But when she complained that she felt isolated and on her own, no-one listened.
“I think the way they treated me was appalling. It made me feel like I wasn’t worth anything. I felt like I was being punished.”
Now Ali’s on a mission to encourage social workers to listen more carefully to the people they’re supposed to be helping.
Fixers has helped her create a short film. It features a young woman interacting with social workers. Two seem uninterested, uninformed and judgmental. One is engaged and very much involved in her client’s well-being.
“The film’s called Listening Is The Key and that’s the main message. Sit and listen and be a friend rather than looking at the person as just part of the caseload," Ali explained.
The film was also informed by a recent episode, when a social worker failed to listen to the concerns Ali had over the possibility of her two children being taken into the child protection system.
Eventually the decision went in Ali’s favour and the children live at home with her.
“I suffered from depression and anxiety but the social worker twisted what had been said when I met her,” she says.
“I went for two years psychological therapy when I was 19. And so I’ve got all the coping strategies I need. She could have treated me better by listening and not jumping to conclusions.”
Recently Ali showed her film to a group of trainee social workers at Winchester University.
“It went down really well. A lot of them agreed with the message and I think they got a different view of things. I know that social workers have a hard job but they need to take time to listen to what’s being said to them.”
Ali’s project is supported by the Blagrave Trust.
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