Category Archives: Stress

Plan, win lose or bust!

Is it possible to write a five year plan for your future? Once it might have been potentially easy to write.  However, at present in Social Work, I wonder whether this is still the case. Or whether it is possible for anybody to still maintain a long term carer in Social Work? Budgets have been cut, services have been cut.  Not just in one area but in every area, Health, Education and with Charities and voluntary sectors to.

It is worrying with the current lack of investment in Social Work, especially as the work is with vulnerable client groups that desperately need support and help.  It is worrying that confidential information is still being taken out of the office, instead of the information being scanned on to a system where it can be read from an encrypted laptop.  Where bin men are given Ipad’s to help with their bin routes, instead of pre programmed Satellite navigation systems or maybe Bin Men that are not under pressure to collect all of the rubbish in half the time with half the staff!

Despite this and equipped with just a note book and pen (that is counted in and out of the office, and every page checked to see if it has been used) I would not want to change my job.  Case loads are growing, teams are getting smaller, which is good in a way because so is the office space! Guidance is growing and changing quicker than you can blink.

So it is not surprising that Social Workers are going off sick, battling with the work load is a constant struggle.  Managing cases that you can not give enough time to, whilst still completing the vast amounts of paperwork required to access funding needed to support the clients.  The real skill is to come back still focused and willing to do the job, knowing that the job will change again and again.  Knowing that the staff you rely on may not be there due to cut backs or promotions.  Knowing that when you are off that your work carries on and this has to be carried by the team, further creating pressure on individual workers.

So my five year plan is to carry on with my learning and training, to keep up with the changes that are taking place.  Hoping that I can balance work and my home life and that the pressures of work do not come home because of decisions that have needed to be made.

Hard decisions

Have you ever wondered about how wonderful Social Work is.  Despite the negative media attention, there still is a sense of job satisfaction.  The one “Thank You”, or the one smile.  Or maybe seeing a client several years on still doing well.  Of course the other good side of Social Work is the diverse nature of the job.  Which I saw today when I met a Student Social Worker completing her final placement within a School.  But it could have been a Prison, Children Centre, Family Centre, Youth Centre, Drug and Alcohol Centre, or other Voluntary settings.  That is without the statutory settings or even independent Social Workers who have their own exciting roles.

But what happens when you stop enjoying Social Work? What happens when you stop noticing the work that you do.  When the issues become bigger than you can imagine and they start coming home with you.  Sadly this can happen more often than not, poor Supervision, and a blame culture that does not promote a positive environment to work in.  

The idea of a protected case load ensures that this does not happen to newly Qualified Social Workers who may full prey to these feelings, and may who may not receive good feedback about the work they are doing.  

However, this week my Manager has shared her recent experiences of these feelings.  Oddly I am asked to look over her CV as she wants to send it out looking for new work.  “I want you to apply for my post when I leave” she informs me.  “I can not carry on working here like this” she tells me “I need to find one more challenge or retire!”  

However, as nice as her comments are, doubts are placed in my mind and if this is what I want to do.  Do I want to work in an organisation where after a few years I may find myself in the same position.  Everyday, the pressure is on.  And rightly so, ensuring that the right plan is considered for each Young Person.  The argument to fight for services and funding for services grows harder.  With an expectation and reliance on using universal services that often do not meet the need of the young person.

The question is how long can you fight for the Young People and also for your own emotional well being.  Can I be strong enough to develop the team and ensure that they also do not feel this pressure.

Time out

Have you ever had a day where everything is going wrong, cases blowing up around you? and you look up, and watch what everyone else is doing?  Have you ever noticed how its always the same people that always keep their heads down and that are in early and leave late.  I often wonder whether this is sign that everyone else is feeling the same as I do.

When days like this happen it is so easy to allow everything to get on top of you, and sink in the feeling of dread that you are not making any progress! 

And for one Social Worker this week, I could just see this starting to happen.  After she had called in sick I became concerned as to why.  Over the weekend two of her cases had been playing up and it was clear that she was worried about them.  Both were making complaints about their care and demonstrating extreme behaviour of self harm because they were not    getting what they wanted.

Added pressure was being created by the placements not coping with their behaviour and the recent cut backs straining the support available for both the young people and the Social Worker.   

A common question that is often asked by almost everyone is “How do you cope with the job that you do?” and the easy answer is that some people can not.  We are human after all and when dealing with stressful situations sometimes enough is enough.  But what is important is good Supervision, and a good peer support.  And at a time where there is a lot change taking place, as team members change due to long term agency staff being replaced.  Offices are changing as Local Authority’s sell off buildings in order to save money.  All of which impacts on the working environment, and increasing stress and pressures on workers.

So this week I have been exploring the need for good Supervision, helped by completing a half day training course in ‘reflective Supervision’ provide by Research in Practise.  Supervision is an important part of Social Work, and to providing job satisfaction “Social work supervision: contexts and concepts” (SCIE).  I recognised that for this Social Worker there was a need to help facilitate supervision to help understand how she was feeling and also be reflective on the practise and help develop plans.  

Since I have joined this team it has been an interesting process developing supervision and Peer Supervision.  When I joined the team, supervision was a prescriptive meeting for the workers only interested in me giving decisions for their cases.  My training reinforced my supervision style, and has also created a new way for my Supervises to reflect in their own supervision.