1. Get a pay rise
Number one on the list, but if anyone had already found a foolproof
way to get more money from an employer, they would have patented
it. That social care workers are underpaid for the job they do is
not news in itself, but the lack of a reasonable wage that reflects
responsibility and expertise is one of the main reasons so few
people want to enter – or stay – in the profession.
Chance of success: marginal, unless you have compromising
2. Make use of “time off in lieu”
Most social care staff have – in theory – a “Toil” (time off in
lieu) system enabling staff to recoup extra hours they have put in.
Unfortunately, in many departments, people know only too well that
if everyone took what they were owed the result would be meltdown.
Some respondents reckon the Toil they have accrued could take them
to Australia and back. If this is one of your new year’s
resolutions, it goes without saying that taking a lunch break or
going home at 5pm doesn’t mean that you’re not committed to the
Chance of success: potentially good, provided you’re strict
3. Find more time at work
Given resolution number two this may seem a bit optimistic. But no
matter what the excuses, finding ways to improve efficiency and
time management do pay off. This may vary from something simple
like grabbing a coffee on the way back from the loo rather than
making two separate trips, to vowing to never touch the same piece
of paper twice – act on it or throw it away.
Chance of success: good, but only if you can identify where
you’re wasting those precious seconds.
4. Reduce paperwork
Paperwork has long been identified as the bane of social care
workers’ lives but, despite protests, continues to take up a major
part of the working day. You want to be out there dealing with
clients, (wasn’t that the reason you chose this career?), but more
often than not you are chained to your desk filling in complicated
and, dare it be said, unnecessary forms. If you have regular access
to a computer, it seems somewhat backward for paperwork to continue
to play such an essential role, but then even technology has its
shortcomings. Remember those 368 e-mails waiting for you when you
returned from holiday?
Chance of success: slim to non-existent, given the government’s
attachment to the stuff.
5. Tell more jokes
A great new year’s resolution in the interests of office harmony
and good working relationships, unless you’re the sort of joke
teller who can never quite remember the punchline. Most people
would admit their workplace could do with brightening up,
particularly when the job is stressful. To help you on your way,
here’s a joke to be getting on with. (Disclaimer: if you don’t find
it funny blame the reader who sent it in.)
Q: How many approved social workers does it take to change a light
A: None – they enjoy being kept in the dark.
Chance of success: excellent – buy a joke book.
6. Improve relations with health colleagues
This may be a tricky one to stick to, so don’t feel bad if you’ve
fallen by the wayside and had an argument by the middle of January.
A survey before Christmas revealed that almost half of social
services staff had enjoyed an office romance, making them joint
15th in the list of professionals most likely to find love at work.
But health professionals failed to make it into the top 20. Perhaps
it’s not just their working relations that are in need of some
Chance of success: no comment.
7. Persuade senior managers to get back to the front
Most senior managers claim to remember only too clearly what it was
like to be on the front line, but how many have spent any time
there recently? To really understand how times have changed it is
essential to spend time on the job. Readers suggested that the
government could set a good example by sending children’s minister
Margaret Hodge to spend a couple of months working in a child
Chance of success: senior managers – reasonable; Margaret Hodge
8. Campaign for an end to social-worker bashing
Social care staff are usually totally committed to the job and work
extremely hard to ensure positive outcomes. Yet they are exposed to
extremely damning media coverage, may have to deal with hostility
and aggression from service users and are held in generally low
esteem by the public. Many respondents felt it was time this
culture changed and social workers were recognised for the
day-to-day wonderful stuff that they really do.
Chance of success: would probably require some major campaign
action and significant attitude change.
9. Say no to clients and colleagues
By virtue of their chosen profession, people who work in social
care tend to be reasonably nice. But being nice doesn’t mean that
you can’t ever say no. Nice people are the ones who are taken
advantage of and, although they may genuinely want to help others,
are often the ones that end up losing out. Say “yes” when you can,
but otherwise stand firm and don’t be afraid to utter a
non-negotiable, guilt-free “no”.
Chance of success: reasonable but may take effort. Practise
saying no in front of the mirror.
10. Blag a new computer system
This will probably take all your powers of persuasion to achieve
but, if manageable, will be worth it in the end. Just imagine a day
where the computer doesn’t crash and all your documents are
miraculously edited, printed and saved.
Chance of success: have you tried shutting down and
– Thanks to all the readers who sent in their top new year’s
The mood on the ground
Comments from social care professionals were wide-ranging, some
light-hearted, but many with a serious side. Here is a
“To spend less time grumbling and more getting on with the
“To make senior management stop social-worker bashing and
realise what a demanding job it is”
“To encourage social workers to be more confident about their
professional judgements so they can learn to say ‘no’ to clients as
well as colleagues without fearing they’ll hit the
“To achieve a better shift pattern at work that considers our
life outside of work”
“When the communication is right the working environment clicks
too” the mood on the ground
“To persuade managers to begin to trust the judgement of social
workers, to stop living in constant fear of a child abuse scandal
and to give back decision-making powers to social workers”
“To make the government recognise that public sector managers
and practitioners are here to work hard and make things
“To not accept the status quo and request better
“To make myself not available during lunch breaks by removing
myself from the office – lunch breaks are becoming a myth”
“For the government to enhance the status of social workers and
care staff by increasing their pay”
How to keep resolutions
- Be determined and don’t give up.
- Don’t let yourself become too demoralised when you have a
- Write your resolutions down and read them every morning.
- Monitor how you are doing and reward yourself when you have
- Make realistic resolutions that have a chance of succeeding (so
perhaps none of the top 10?).