future changes

There is one thing that I can say about social work, and that is you never really know what direction you could be going in. What I mean is that working in a Local Authority you are always subjected to the effects of budget cuts, and in all the years that I have practised the budget has always been reduced.

For some of us in social work especially children services we became excited over the prospect of social work becoming social work again. So looked forward to the next change with a glimmer of hope that it would bring the promise of more direct work.

It appeared that the sun was going to rise upon the social work profession. A new body monitoring and regulating social work practise, The College of Social Work to offer support, guidance and much more. The Munro Review providing the argument and understanding why the change is needed for social work and a direction that it could take.

But like a firework display on a very wet night the hype was there and dampened by the rain it so far has not amounted to much. The promise of reclaiming social work may still be a dream relying on social workers to give more of their own time to offer a small percentage of what the greater public expect of the profession.

The effect is staff that burn out, children and families that stay in distressed states unable to manage and unsure what is happening. The trouble is that often intervention for families does not need to be at a high level, often intervention at an effective level at the right time will prevent stress and separation within families. And the changes that are still promised in social work are geared up towards this work.

The trouble is everyday that passes by leads to the risk of another serious incident putting young people and adults at risk of significant harm. Although serious case reviews take place and learning is applied to professional practise, this does not give the information needed by each local authority to redesign their provision to meet the needs of the most vulnerable.

Change will happen, I am sure of that but what I am not so sure of is whether it will bring with it a glimmer of hope. A service that can prevent family breakdown where possible. A service that keeps children safe at home and when they are in care, can invest in better quality contact and therapeutic interactions.

But don’t be fooled every day positive work still goes on, social workers going beyond what is expected for the people they work with. It is also important that social work myths are challenged and dispelled and it was good to see the three-part TV series Protecting our children. I hope that more will follow and show all aspects of social work in the same caring positive light.

4 responses

  1. I agree that the optimism many of us felt after Munro Part one seems to have faded a bit as no detailed practical proposals seem to have emerged and we’re left with a feeling that the mere fact of having had someone eminent do a report is supposed to bring about wholesale changes by itself.

    I see plenty of good social work being done by good, committed and child-focussed workers; sadly the age old problem of ‘find a good social worker, give them loads and loads of tricky cases till they burn out’ still seems to be there – not a criticism of any one LA, its been the pattern everywhere I’ve been.

  2. Thank you for your comment, I agree that plenty of good social work happens. And as you say they carry the burden of the complex and demanding work until they burn out and either go long term sick or leave social work altogether.

    There are many positive changes that can be made, which will bring about positive change. Its a shame that the cuts to the budget are happening faster than an organisation can be changed to meet the needs.

  3. Look at the high ranking posts in any LA; Chief exec, service managers etc and see just how fat their wage packets are; many with no clue about ‘real’ social work. Their salary bears no resemblance to that paid to front line workers. Short cuts, budget restraints, tick box data collection. Social work diminished to a job that could be undertaken by an office junior will inevitably lead to more safeguarding concerns for those requiring social work input and support. I fear serious incidents will become more frequent and vulnerable members of our society will be unprotected and at risk. The front line of social work needs more resources and yet local authority organisations remain top heavy and wasteful.

    1. It’s true many chief exc and directors have no social care experience. Even worse they are victims of the councillors they answer to! Budget comes down to votes and social work is a dirty word that is bottom of the pile.

      However, even with the large amount of paperwork required, I would argue that experience is still needed and more importantly change!

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