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Using social pedagogy to transform children’s social care

Sam joined St Christopher’s on our training scheme and has since progressed from support worker to team leader before his current role managing a 16+ service. He enjoys using social pedagogy to work with young people and empowering them to try new things (and fundraising for St Christopher’s as pictured!).

Social pedagogy is St Christopher’s core philosophy of care. Our work with young people centres on positive relationships built through “common third” activities, where people with a genuine shared interest do something purposeful and fun together.

These activities shift the traditional power balance so young people can teach staff something new and both parties learn alongside one another as equals.

We use the diamond model to build on young people’s strengths by focusing on their “inner diamond”, representing their individual talents, skills and value. Although young people may have had bad experiences in the past, we want to show them that they still have so much to offer the world.

Since implementing social pedagogy the way we record information has changed to position young people as experts on their development. They lead on setting their own targets and plan how they will achieve them.

Genuine participation shows young people that their opinions are worthwhile and impactful. They tell us about areas where staff can develop knowledge, like understanding self-harm and mental health, and design appropriate training sessions.

In one of our homes, the number of incidents reduced by 25% in the year since regular reflective practice was introduced as we took the time to implement considered changes. We focus on developing young people’s own risk competencies so they can manage their own safety, instead of us doing it for them – that’s a skill that will help them be independent in the future.

Changing an organisation’s whole model of practice is a dynamic process, so we are still transitioning in different services at different times. The process of change has put a huge portion of the organisation out of their comfort zone, which is both a terrifying and amazing thing, but we are ambitious and always look for opportunities to learn. To say we operate in a socially pedagogic way at all times and always do everything right would be misleading, but we are constantly getting better and striving to improve.

Even when things don’t go to plan we see it as a learning opportunity and reflect on what happened. We show young people that even though life throws unexpected things at you, they can still be positive experiences.

The best bits of practice from before St Christopher’s implemented social pedagogy still remain, but now we can properly articulate the purpose behind our actions. It has provided the theoretical context to allow us to better advocate for what young people want as we can evidence why these decisions will work.

Find out about our approach to care