Category Archives: Clip Board Profession

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.

Fish Bowl working

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a hamster stuck in a cage in a pet shop.  That is what the new ways of working feels like in the office.  With seven Social Work teams all sitting on one floor, hot desking.  With an average of three workers fighting for one desk.  The result is Social Workers climbing walls, hiding under paperwork and nesting in the kitchen area. occasionally a visitor will walk onto the floor and be circled by Social Workers checking with the visitor to ensure they are not stopping.

The idea is to save the Local Authority money, in reality it did not.

Don’t get me wrong I want to see Social Work develop and become in line with the rest of the world, no longer a tick box and clip board profession.  But the true knowledge is held within the team and the experience of the workers within it.  More importantly the need to find privacy in order to discuss, reflect upon day to day practise and case decisions.  Also to have a laugh and vent the frustrations in a safe and supportive environment.

Now I could be taking a complaint about a member of staff I am sitting next to, whether it be a Social Worker I supervise or a Fostering Social Worker or previous Social Worker involved in a case. 

Now when trying to write up an assessment, I have to analyse conversations, observations and interactions with the noise and discussions around me.  Something that I have yet to be able to achieve in work.  Instead I am having to distance myself from the team and working from home.  Making my experience less available for the team and for the people I supervise.

In order to support this way of working, I have been provided with a 3G laptop.  Which, is a start in the right direction for faster mobile working.  A visit out of County now means that e-mails can be sent, and the case recording completed straight away.   Thankfully we have so much security on the laptop that often it can take 20 minutes to load up.  Meaning that there is time to drink Costa Coffee without disruption.

This does mean that when I am back in the office I am up to date and not having to read through hundreds of e-mails to read through.  But that is it.  You still have to stop somewhere safe and secure to access this information.  

There are some very good positives about open plan working with other teams.  This can mean good information sharing, working together with the fostering team and smoother transfers from team to team.  Or gaining information and insight into a case that may not have been recorded.

However, I look forward to a time when ICS is completely fit for purpose, that mobile working truly means mobile working and I can leave my heavy bag at home and just carry around one item that allows me to communicate quickly and freely, and be up to date with all case information.  

Until then I look forward to the restructuring next year and what this may bring! and continue to enjoy spending time with the Young People doing the work that is important.