Its been three years since I have worked as a social worker in a child protection team, let alone a child protection team where change is the current theme. However, it worrys me that ‘Burn out’ or ‘Stress’ despite being well looked into in social work practise, still affects many social workers. It therefore seems appropriate that this week that in my email box this article appears from the Gaurdian ‘Social workers must look after themselves and recognise their limits’ For many social workers ‘Burn Out’ can come come from their own passion and desiree of wanting to make positive change and to do good for the families they work with; managing this from working long hours to try and keep up with the pressures and demands of the paper work and number of visits.
The pressure of ensuring all information is recorded and the pressure of ensuring visits are completed within timescales and the right assessments and plans are created, whilst ensuring training is completed and somewhere at the back of all of this the need for a personal life. Something many social workers give up to ensure that they can keep up with their case work.
Child Protection remains the key focus for all children’s social workers, working to safeguard children whether they are at home or in care. There has been many reviews of Child Protection to help inform and develop practise from the Laming Inquiry, the Munro review and Lord Carlise review of the Edlington case. All looking at specific issue of social work practise. Particaly the Munro Review, which looked to introduce a radical change in social work practise in order to reclaim social work and also cut the red tape that had created many pressures for social workers and prevented good social work interventions for both social workers and the vulnerable families they work with.
Significantly the new Working Together document is published this year, giving guidance to some of these changes or rather allowing changes to be made. However, for many families these changes may not bring hope or help for many of the hardships and difficulties that they face.
However, on the inside of social work practise the changes have brought closer working, greater reflective practise and a sharing of experience, knowledge and resources (of what is left).
Sadly however, cuts to mental health services, charity’s and now benefits are causing greater demands on dwindling resources and sending many families to social care for social work support.
So where case loads should be dropping to support these changes they continue to rise, and so does the pressures upon social workers to met their satutory requirements. Working long hours, and often dealing with distraught vulnerable and angry families out of hours resulting in more pressure from lone working.
Despite all changes in practise the best prevention of burning out remains good experience developed safely with good learning opportunites and practise development; managed with good supervision and ensuring that there is a break and rest from the work. Most importantly dont bottle the stresses up, share your concerns as soon as you feel the anxities developing and use other colleauges to help with reflecting on the work you have done and still need to do. Social Work is a stressful job and will always be stressful especially when you are still learning the different process and systems, so take advantage of training and your supervision to learn.