This week I was asked whether it is easy for a social workers to become complacent in the work we do? I would like to argue that for me, that I would not let this happen in my own practise. However, I know I am not the only social worker practising in this country.
The argument that was put to me was that after many years of practise can the decision making process become based on assumptions rather than fact. This question was posed by a Barrister representing me in a case at court so it shows really the difference in thinking in the professions. Answering that years of practise working with family’s and their support networks, gives you a greater understanding of the complex issues and an understanding of the stresses and coping mechanism families have. This includes a knowledge of the community and resources available.
However, does this mean that social workers always use this knowledge appropriately? or even with the knowledge, are there the appropriate services in each area to provide the right interventions at the right time. Often needing to make the services that are available fit the needs of the family or having to wait a long time on a referral list waiting for the service.
This was made worse for me this week as one of my social workers told me that one of her cases was in a unstable foster placement. The fostering social worker was concerned that the young person was not engaging with the foster family! should it not be the other way around? with the foster carers trying to engage the young person. Often professionals and families wanting a quick answer and solution to the difficulties that are being faced.
With the cut backs in the service and training budgets that are easily targeted as there is a big move to ‘train the trainer’ and ‘e-learning’ could make this situation worse. The office space is reducing meaning that resources and tools are not able to be kept in the office. Often the complexity in the cases that are now being held makes time precious, and spare time desperately needed to unwind and let go of the issues being dealt with in work. Means that training through new ways is going to be harder to achieve as the pressure will be on achieving positive outcomes for the young people.
Social Work will sadly always be needed in some form and more importantly now needs to be protected and promoted. Social Workers should be allowed to be treated as the experts we are in the case work we do on a daily basis. And to do this should be supported in doing this through better systems and working environments and also training that can count and promote the expertise of social workers.
The aim of which would reduce mistakes when working with children and their families in order to protect them and challenge appropriately before taking steps to safeguard children when needed. When needing to do this that the court process is not delayed or slowed down because of further assessments that maybe asked for.
With more emphasis with the right training in practise and when qualifying as a social worker I hope that when speaking with other professionals there would never be a doubt or need to ask whether social work practise becomes complacent or stale!