Open Forum with Martin Stevens

Social services staff need to take the opportunity afforded by change to champion their values, writes Martin Stevens

Changes in children’s and adults’ social services may result in practitioners losing their identity and their work being devalued. In the new children’s social care agencies, which are often integrated with health or education organisations, the values and approaches associated with social work and care will be less embedded than in the former social services departments.

In adults’ services too, increasingly complex partnerships and the predominance of inter-disciplinary teams, sometimes managed by people who are not social workers, may mean that these values are not shared.

But this time of change provides an opportunity for social care workers to promote their perspectives within the new structures and teams, and broaden their impact. It is crucial that practitioners champion their unique and essential contributions.

So what is it in particular that social care professionals have to offer?

First, they respect and champion social justice and human rights. These values are embedded in social work and social care approaches in ways that influence practitioners’ methods of working. They practise in a way that helps people to make choices about their lives and empower themselves in the wider arenas of policy and practice.

Second, social care practitioners support people during times of distress, acknowledging individuals’ feelings while helping them to find their own solutions to practical problems. They also maintain respect for individual dignity and manage conflicting interests in ways that maximise the control that people can have. They help service users to navigate social and health care services, on the basis of a shared understanding about an individual’s needs, aspirations and fears.

This is the time to debate the importance of social work and social care and to stake a claim for their unique value. This is the time for practitioners to stand up and be proud.

Martin Stevens writes on behalf of the Assembly for Social Work and Social Care Education, Training and Research

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