What does a welfare officer do?

(86 Posts)
Ipsos Sat 30-Apr-16 12:12:06

Hi,

I have to go to a meeting with my son's headmistress and the welfare officer this week, and I wondered if anyone might be able to explain what a welfare officer does? I'm mainly wondering if he has any power to help, or if he is just there to wield a bit stick when families are not trying hard enough.

For context, my son gets a lot of viruses, so his attendance isn't at the level that they want. He had obstructive apnoea as a baby, and lost a lot of sleep and has food intolerances. I'm not sure how this connects with the viruses, but I'm working very very hard on figuring it out. Ds's attainment in class is very good. His reading is very advanced and everything else is in the top of the normal range, so they are not worrying about him falling behind academically.

I get the impression that the headmistress is under a lot of pressure from the welfare officer.

Thanks!

Jennifer

apple1992 Sat 30-Apr-16 12:17:20

Does he have poor attendance? Did they say 'educational welfare officer'?

howtorebuild Sat 30-Apr-16 12:18:05

There are SEND documents you can view online, also look up equality laws, for direct and indirect discrimination. Sadly these people have no clue they are breaking laws and abuse children with health needs because they want to impress their boss, other professionals or OFSTED.

apple1992 Sat 30-Apr-16 12:19:02

I imagine they will go into depth about any issues which are affecting attendance,to identify where they can offer support, and identify if you should be doing more/any differently. It would depend if this is the first letter/meeting you've had or if there is precious.

apple1992 Sat 30-Apr-16 12:19:17

*previous! Not good at typing on phone sorry..

Ipsos Sat 30-Apr-16 12:28:12

Thanks, yes he has poor attendance and it says education welfare officer. This is our second letter but our first meeting. My son gets colds and things as people do, but he also had scarlet fever for a month last year and a bad flu virus this year. It's not just me being pfb, he does really get illnesses, and there would definitely be no sense in sending him to school with them.

I've found that with many people in authority it makes sense to just go in and explain in detail what's going on and ask for advice. However, I tried that with a health visitor once and found that I'd more or less put my head in a man trap. I just wondered if this guy is like that health visitor, or if he is likely to be kind and sensible and potentially helpful.

Thanks!

apple1992 Sat 30-Apr-16 12:40:11

Hopefully kind and helpful! Definitely go in and explain in full and ask for advice. The EWO is the expert and will be there to support you, but also to improve attendance. Both the EWO and HT are under huge pressure to improve attendance.

Have they already asked you to provide medical evidence for absences?

What they're likely to say is provide med ev for every absence - they might ask for permission to contact your GP, they'll offer suggestions and relevant support, and will explain the possible legal implications of poor attendance (don't be scared by this, it is their duty to make sure you are aware!).

Ipsos Sat 30-Apr-16 12:49:16

Thanks, that's good to know. I've to provide medical evidence for future absences.

It might actually be good if they contact the GP, as GPs and consultants always fob me off and say that it's normal for children to have 8 to 10 viruses a year. I don't think they realise just how much we struggle with gribbly virus things, and that I'm talking about a fortnight of misery every time we come down with something.

I feel as if the GPs have no time or money, and the schools have no time or money and that inevitably some unlucky kid is bound to suffer as a consequence and that for no particular reason, mine is the one. Maybe the EWO will have ideas.

catkind Sat 30-Apr-16 15:37:36

I don't think you can expect any help because how can they help? He gets ill, he needs to stay at home, they can't fix that. At best they will tick their "spoken to parent" box and let you get on with it, at worst they will try to require medical evidence and threaten you with fines.

I would not agree to providing medical evidence. GPs will either refuse to provide doctor's notes for minor ailments, or will charge for this as it is not an NHS service. Even if they only want to see an appointment card (which isn't actually evidence of anything), GPs will get very peeved if you go in on the first day of every minor ailment.

Ipsos Sat 30-Apr-16 16:05:04

Cat yes I know what you mean. I have an appointment with the GP before I meet the EWO so I will ask about it.

corythatwas Sat 30-Apr-16 17:41:16

We found the first one we saw did help by backing us up against the school and agreeing with us that there wasn't anything we could do about dd's medical issues.

The second one, a few years later, not so helpful.

Ipsos Sat 30-Apr-16 21:20:52

That's good to know Cory thanks. I kind of thought it would be all down to which person I saw. The head and deputy head seem quite scared of the guy so I'm not sure if that is good. I feel as if the very fast-paced curriculum is not helping ds, but I'm not sure where a welfare officer would stand on that.

apple1992 Sat 30-Apr-16 21:23:22

I would not agree to providing medical evidence.
You don't agree to it, it's not optional. I am not saying I agree to it, but if you refuse to provide evidence you risk facing legal action, and I don't think disagreeing with the principle will have much effect.

Ipsos Sat 30-Apr-16 21:33:56

I wouldn't refuse to do it either. To be honest, I think it would be helpful for the GP to realise how much we are struggling with health issues. One of the problems I find is that GPs always think I'm being pfb and don't really believe me. I think that if the school also said that ds was struggling then they might listen better.

apple1992 Sat 30-Apr-16 21:36:23

I agree. Out of interest, what is his attendance %?

Ipsos Sat 30-Apr-16 21:43:20

It's 78.6%, and all the absences were authorised and due to illness. The last absence he had was because of a really nasty flu virus that went on for three weeks+ and only two of those weeks were during school term time so he was ill through the holiday too. The week before he had the flu he had a really bad cold and just soldiered on through it, going to school every day.

Ipsos Sat 30-Apr-16 21:46:08

The thing that worries me is that we went through this in pre-school too, and a letter was sent to my GP and health visitor who were really nasty about it and said I was just being pfb and keeping him home for "sniffles". They made up all sorts of new parenting rules that I needed to follow and said that I had to report back in a month with the rules in place or there would be "consequences". One of the rules was enforced weaning. I contacted the chief of health visitors in the area and that other health visitor was taken off my case and ds was allowed to wean naturally (which was only a few weeks later). It just really marred my trust in the health professionals though.

apple1992 Sat 30-Apr-16 21:51:52

sad sounds really difficult, and like you've had a tough time. At no point should any professional be being nasty!

Have you presented him to the GP when he has been mid-virus (easier said than done..) so they are be witness to how ill he is?

The EWO will try to support but it does sound like from what you've said, if they speak to medical professionals they might state he shouldn't be having so much time off? If they have previously not taken it seriously?

Ipsos Sat 30-Apr-16 22:08:28

I used to take him to the GP when he was ill but he used to perk up no end the moment he went into the surgery and coo and smile and make eyes at the GP, which is partly why they were convinced that I was being pfb. One time when he had been projectile vomiting fluids for 29 hours and we went to the out of hours GP three times in one weekend he still kept practically tap dancing just for the five minutes that we were in the surgery. Eventually I just stopped taking him because it wasn't helping anybody.

Oddly, when he had scarlet fever, the out of hours GP and the normal GP both refused to see him because they said it was too infectious. But then when I called up again after two complete courses of antibiotics, when his temperature had shot back up to 38 degrees, then said that they couldn't even be sure he'd had scarlet fever as I hadn't brought him in. It's enough to drive anyone scatty.

The one thing I learned from the previous health visitor fiasco is that it's important to remain calm and keep just talking gently and kindly, and explaining. I gather that they are just over-stretched professionals trying to do their job, and if they behave appallingly I'm not to take it personally. I really learned a lot about staying calm from that previous time.

Thank you for letting me talk this through btw. It's really helping me to think through what needs to be said and done at this meeting.

apple1992 Sat 30-Apr-16 22:14:42

It's enough to drive anyone scatty.
I bet!!

Yes, remain calm, explain as you have done here. I do this for a living and do sympathise with your situation. They will challenge you but it isn't personal. Let us know how it goes.

Ipsos Sat 30-Apr-16 22:24:18

Thanks apple I wondered if you maybe did. It's so reassuring to know that you are doing this job and that you are an understanding person. I'll make sure to have my calm, explaining head on. I'm apt to lapse into worried-little-girl-voice under pressure, which just gets everything diagnosed as stress and helps no one. :-)

catkind Sat 30-Apr-16 23:48:42

Apple, no point agreeing to do the impossible. The NHS does not do sick notes for common childhood ailments. If OP goes into the meeting with this information then she might come out with knowledge of what the EWO actually expects her to do about evidence, rather than saying yes yes I'll see the GP next time he's ill and then finding she can't actually get an appointment let alone evidence.

Hi op! My dd's attendance is very similar to your ds's, she's in reception and was 5 in February so became compulsory school age a couple of weeks ago at the beginning of the summer term.

We suspected dd had asthma from a young age and was constantly on steroids and antibiotics plus inhaler.
Doctor said they're reluctant to diagnose before 5, after a bad episode which resulted in a trip to a and e, she was referred to a specialist and lo and behold a week after turning 5 she was diagnosed and given different inhaler/treatment. Thankfully she has not been off school with asthma since.
School were very quick to ask for her asthma plan and diagnosis letter which we had, it was like they didn't believe us.
Last week I was called to the head teachers office and was told her attendance is unacceptable, I explained why and said there's nothing I would have done differently. She simply wasn't well enough for school.
Dd is doing very well, way above average in everything and teacher said that's with missing almost a quarter of reception.

I'm expecting a summons like yours. What can you do but tell the truth?
It annoys me as my ds went through the school ( now in secondary ) and his attendance was excellent so they know I'm not the type to keep dc off for no reason.
Our ofsted was bad and I think the school is under a lot of pressure.
Good luck op, sorry for the essay smile

apple1992 Sun 01-May-16 06:56:42

The NHS does not do sick notes for common childhood ailments
They do. I'm an attendance officer. When we ask families with poor attendance to provide evidence for poor attendance they generally stop having unnecessary time off or provide evidence for every bout of illness. The only families who don't are the ones who are totally disengaged and it ends in legal proceedings. I'm secondary though so less minor illnesses that should cause extended time off. I'm not saying j agree with wasting GPs time but this is what the government expects, and they stated that as what schools/EWOs is doing is working, they raised the persistent absence % to 90% for 'extra challenge'. Those with medical conditions are able to provide some kind of evidence which make them excempt. Those who get caught a bit in the crossfire are the OP who are unfortunate in that their child has more than normal levels of illness, and I do sympathise.

redexpat Sun 01-May-16 07:37:53

I think you need to stop accepting the way you are spoken to by health professionals. Your child has just as much of a right to healthcare as everyone else. Some good phrases are I'm not happy with that and what are our options. If you know you're not good under pressure then write it down before you go in. If he is vomitting you record the time and if possible how much.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now