The social work sector relies on the use and accessibility of valuable resources, to aid the development of skills and the facilitation of change for those in need. With this in mind, One Stop Social has a dedicated resource page on our website enabling us to take the opportunity to highlight certain resources we feel passionately about. The children’s book “The Tales of Bushey Lane” is one such resource.
Endorsed by Eileen Munro and written by Mark Hatter and Josephine Thompson, the Tales of Bushey Lane is the first children’s book that’s been specifically written and illustrated to assist social workers who are working with or assessing children and their families to effectively communicate with children. It helps to gain a full understanding of their life experiences and to assess the level and quality of the parenting they are receiving. The Tales of Bushey Lane has proven itself as an effective assessment tool; being used during Special Guardianship assessments, initial child and family assessments, Section 47 investigations and with both the birth children of prospective foster carers and with foster children.
The book is accompanied by activity packs which can be completed with the child and are used to expand on the themes within the book and further encourage the child to talk about their life experiences.
Whilst the book is designed for children within the 3 to 8 years age range it is equally as effective for older children who may have learning difficulties. It has even been shown to be a very effective tool when used, alongside an interpreter, with children whose first language is not English.
We leapt at the chance to talk to Mark about the book and activity packs to see why he is so passionate about this resource and his answer was a relatable one: “I have been a social worker for over 30 years and throughout this time I have seen the impact that a lack of confident social work practice has on our collective responsibility to keep children safe and its impact on the trust the general public has of the profession. Too often children’s voices continue to not be heard, and it can be difficult for social workers to effectively talk to children and to assess any harm they may be suffering.”
When asked about how social workers can be trained to use the book and activity packs, Mark explained: ‘it is always hard to convince a Local Authority to use a new resource, particularly when there is a cost involved prior to being able to demonstrate a positive outcome for them. As an alternative to this potential barrier we aim to meet with the Head of Service and together we will agree to train a number of social workers or a specific team over a day, we offer ongoing supervision and a review of the outcomes after 3 months. We do not charge for this. Only after the review would we discuss with the Local Authority costs and whether they wish to roll out the book and training across other parts of the service. That’s how confident I am that the book and activity packs do what I and others say they do.’
Mark further explained ‘when we began marketing the book and activity packs we were surprised to find that parents were also buying the book and the feedback we have received is that it is helping parents and carers talk to their own children who are struggling to articulate or express their feelings.’
Helping children learn about understanding their emotions – what could be a better path than that?
Alongside the book and activity packs Mark Hatter Associates is a company that offers training to social workers, family workers, teachers and early year’s practitioners providing professionals and provides an online resource, training and social media platform and an Independent Social Work and Family Support Service.
Mark Hatter Associates also offer a wide range of training courses, from introductory sessions to current topics, including CSE, to bespoke in-house courses – all of which are designed to suit both the individual and the business’ needs. The company is becoming a tour de force, with an unstoppable drive to improve access to training and development across the social care sector!
Mark added ‘we are always looking to find what works best for social care professionals and as a consequence we will soon be launching a catalogue of E-learning courses, designed to support professional development’.
So, what do we think makes The Tales of Bushey Lane such a helpful tool? Maybe it’s the bright and colourful pictures, to help keep children attentive; or perhaps it’s the interesting and engaging stories which encourage multiple readings. As we’re front-line practitioner driven ourselves, we at One Stop Social can see that it was written with social work practice in mind. Cleverly woven into the story of Willow and her family are all the key areas of family life and parenting that social workers need to understand to enable them to complete a comprehensive assessment.
It’s not just us who are shouting from the rooftops about The Tales of Bushey Lane and the impact it could have on the social work sector; numerous bloggers have also noticed this addition to a social workers arsenal. Lifestyle blogger Rachael Jess has recognised this as “a very special book” which she can use with her son when days are “tough”.
As if supporting local practitioners isn’t enough, Mark Hatter has been going global, having, via Skype, trained the social workers in St Helena, an island in the middle of the South Atlantic, 4700 miles away. Yes, you read that right, social workers on an island were trained by Mark Hatter Associates with The Tales of Bushey Lane. Books and activity packs have also been sent to the USA and Australia. This resource is proving its worth on an international scale, so we think it has definitely earned a recommendation to our community of UK social workers.
Therefore, if your involvement with One Stop Social extends only as far as reading this one blog and you never again find yourself needing our services, let us now offer this one recommendation: check this book out. It’s a real asset for the sector!