The way our Family Support Worker service is set up

Understanding the current Family Support Worker team practice

A message from SBHI CEO, Tom Scott - February 2016

Since beginning with SBHI in July 2015 I have been working hard to learn about every aspect of the organisation. This has informed a short-term plan to give the charity the best foundation ahead of launching a five-year strategic plan in October at the 2016 Annual Conference.

It is inevitable that along the way we will experience difficulties in this process, and one such difficulty is an understanding of the way the Family Support Worker team is currently structured.

It is important to note at this stage that work will soon be underway to review the work of the FSW team, as with every other aspect of work at SBHI, and that we will be seeking to overcome both historic and current challenges with the service.

One of the most significant areas of this work which I believe needs to be clarified is that the Family Support Work is a referral service. This means that people are either referred to the FSW, or the individual/their parent or carer refer themselves to the FSW.

To be completely clear here, referral means that you can contact your Family Support Worker if you have a question or an issue you would like support with at any stage. Just like booking an appointment for a clinical service, it is typically necessary to book in for a visit or a meeting. Please note there may also be a waiting period for letters or actions to be followed up on.

I am very aware that there is a feeling from some that FSWs should be calling all those in their area with a ‘checking in’ approach, and consideration of how this need can be met by SBHI is something that will be included in the review of the FSW role. However, at present there is neither the plan present, nor the resources available to provide such a service.

It should be noted also that when a FSW is off sick or is on annual leave, there is a clear message left on both phone and email to direct people to the National Resource Centre so that follow up can be offered.

I can assure you that whilst we know that the service needs improving, everyone of our small staff team wants the very best for everyone affected by Spina Bifida and/or Hydrocephalus. The workers cover significant geographical areas and there has been an increase in demand recently, leading to a further test on resources. If you can offer us the benefit of the doubt in this respect, I know that we can move on positively together.

I was waiting until tomorrow to announce the good news that the new FSW to cover Clare Riordan’s role in Dublin, South County Dublin, and Wicklow will start this week, however given that I have heard this to be one of the concerns raised, it is with great pleasure that I can share with you that Verena Mähr-Byrne will begin with SBHI this week. Verena is really looking forward to getting started and supporting everyone is this area who has the need for support.

The message I started with at SBHI in July remains the same today - if there is something you wish to feedback to me then you can get in touch any time - by phone, email, letter, social media, or whichever way works best for you. The negative effects of discussions taking place behind closed doors inevitably make their way to those who are genuinely seeking to do the best job they can. I encourage anyone who wants to let us know their thoughts - whether good, bad, or ugly - to get in touch in a constructive way so that SBHI can be the best service possible to you going forward.

These are my contact details:

Telephone: 087 1121500
Twitter: @TomScott_SBHI
Post: National Resource Centre, Old Nangor Road, Clondalkin, Dublin, D22 W5C1

The work which I have started, and which will take some time to develop in terms of long-term change, is very much underway. The best approach to being a part of this, and for us to ensure that it is as relevant as possible, is to work in a positive way to be the change we want to see. I look forward to hearing from you and to working together towards this way of developing SBHI, our work, and the support required.



Tom Scott





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