When I came into social work I was full of
ambition, drive, attitude, energy, passion and above all the
feeling that I could change the face of professional practice
forever. But reality quickly set in as I was overwhelmed by a
barrage of outmoded thoughts and procedures.
I don’t mean to suggest that good ideas and
positive methods of working don’t exist. It’s just that time and
the eternal issue of resources are real pressures, and the ideals
learned in the classroom soon become the stuff of dreams.
We are entering a period when finally the
government is taking stock and appears to have a policy for
recruiting social workers. It is a shame, though, that it is not
anywhere near as high profile as the television ads with celebs
reflecting on what it must be like to be police officers.
Social workers are often targeted by service
users, as well as people from other professions who appear to have
little knowledge of what social workers actually do. This hostility
is reflected in media coverage, leaving the social worker a target
for criticism by the public. We often hear about casework that has
failed, yet rarely hear about casework that has succeeded by
achieving its aims.
I have chosen to work as a locum initially,
the intention being to explore the various disciplines before I
committed to one of them. During this time I have been to many
teams and worked alongside some fantastic people, with tremendous
stamina and ethics, in spite of everything they have to go
Staff morale is often low, procedures are not
in place to support workers, the knock-on effect being that more
and more practitioners are either on long-term sickness or leaving
the profession altogether.
There appears to be no policy that addresses
the retention of existing valued staff, so it is no surprise that
practitioners are leaving permanent positions to become locum
staff, as there is a strong sense of being valued and fairly
represented through this method of working.
The word “resources” is normally used in its
monetary sense. There appears to be no recognition that resources
are people who have dedicated their lives to serving others. It
doesn’t take money to safeguard people; it simply takes time and
“Prevention” is a word that is drummed into
you as a student, but it quickly evaporates as you learn that it is
just another ideal. There simply is no prevention because there is
The government, practitioners and policy
makers must think imaginatively about ways to make our devalued
profession feel valued once again. There is a wealth of committed,
hard-working people in social work today who deserve better.
Gaynor Bane is a locum social