Have you ever sat in your office reflecting and thought about the amount of work that is required from you? You stop, look up and around you, you see time is flashing past; phone calls coming in from families, professionals, e-mails pinging into your inbox. I have had these thoughts and it has reminded me of a scene from the film ‘The Matrix’ where, the characters slow themselves down by controlling the computer coding within the matrix, in order to be able to control their surroundings and in one scene – dodge the speed of the bullets. I can often feel like this in my current role, the matrix code instead being the complex code in the world wide web is the complex amount of legislation, additional guidance, case law, private law and policies and procedures that social work tries to work within. Instead of bullets it is questions and they are fired in my direction all day. Many social workers will relate to the feeling they have everyday, of being completely overwhelmed and recognise that there will never be an ideal caseload that will prevent any person from this feeling.
Since the review of Child Protection in the UK by Eileen Munro, there has been no escape of the review and public scrutiny of social services and children services. There has been no decline in the number of referrals to children services or early years intervention or in the number of children that come into care. There has however, been dramatic cuts in funding to services, changes in the terms and conditions of employment, training and support to social workers. Where working over your hours was offered by social workers as a good will gesture in order to improve the outcomes of the children and families they were working with, has now been taken as granted in order to achieve the targets so tightly set.
It can feel suffocating as the timescales crash in, challenging assessment timescales to shrink to fit to court timescales. Further challenging the skills and assessments of social workers balancing the needs and demands of courts within the needs and wishes and feelings of vulnerable children and families. Social Work remains a complex serious of interventions based on communication, trust and learning of what it is like for the children to live within their home and family life. Of course, this involves skilled approach to break the quiet mistrust of the media stereotype image of social workers as child snatchers.
As a manager within this process I have found myself being pulled in all directions (literally sometimes), challenging the workers with their practice, whilst supporting and developing their learning needs and experiences. Hoping, from role to role within the umbrella of my title; manager, coach, educator, mentor, support. Carefully managing the day to day crises and enabling the work to be completed. Sometimes I wish I did understand the matrix code, I would delete the strands that bring suffering to the vulnerable. And programme more support services, to provide the support and understanding needed. Removing the stigma of living in a dangerous environment and the feeling that you can not speak up for fear of your children being removed or harmed. Instead of a multi million pound movie, I will carry on working within the offices, homes, schools, children centres and courts I visit, challenging my practice and experience in order to ensure the decisions that are made safeguard and promote the right outcomes.