Tag Archives: burn out
Like many Social Workers, I have been desperately holding on to the dream that maybe one day the promises of a ‘different way of working’ will come true. Change, is, and always on the cards within the day-to-day life of Local Authority work. However, ‘Real’ change does not happen as often. When Eileen Munro reviewed the child protection system there were plenty of areas that needed improvement. No one could argue that this was not true.
The level of red tape often meant that social workers were not spending enough time with children and families – this had to be cut and reduced, with more autonomy to be given to each Local Authority. In order to adapt its policies and procedures, to meet the needs of the child in need within its area. Consideration was to be given to the journey of the child through what is and remains complex and often slow child protection system, before a permanent placement could be found either within the family or away from the family.
Sadly, like any other great idea it comes at a cost – one where savings need to be made, ring fenced budgets removed and the consequences higher if mistakes or errors occur. Of course this is really important, Child deaths are completely unacceptable as is any child abuse.
But and there is a but! a big one as well. Is the continuing rise in cases being held by social workers and the one factor that makes a difference to the quality of work being completed. A factor that will stop social workers seeing children, completing their assessments, direct work with families and ensuring that their case recordings are completed. Let alone complete the research they need to keep their learning up to date.
It is easy to see how social workers can ‘burn out’ very quickly as the better you are at understanding complex cases the more you have. Where new procedures at the front door and early intervention work is supposed to be reducing the number of cases needing statutory assessment and intervention. The actual number of referrals continue to rise, as does the growing level of cases being held by social workers.
Whilst this Government feels and focuses on the need to better educate or create super social workers, the reality remains, that this will not resolve the current situation in social work. Even the strongest of social worker can only manage the daily pressures and struggles for so long before the pressure becomes too much. Armed with the knowledge however, that the grass is not greener anywhere else, often social workers are faced with hard decisions when the levels of stress have reached capacity. Meaning often social workers leaving front line social work with their experience and knowledge lost.
So as the number of cases rise so do the numbers of social workers leaving, making it more complex for local authorities to recruit and maintain experienced staff.
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.