We asked you to tell us about the strangest things you have ever been asked to do at work. Lauren Revans compiles your Top 50 tales of weird things you have become involved in in the line of duty.
- Puncturing a goat’s bloated stomach that had been buried during a heatwave and was causing the ground to rise.
Colin Luger, social worker, Bristol
- Being stopped leaving a cemetery with a spade in the middle of the night after accompanying a man with learning disabilities to set a headstone on his parents’ plot.
- Diving into a skip to retrieve a prosthetic leg belonging to a mental health client whose belongings had been disposed of when he was evicted from his sheltered accommodation.
Kim McPherson, social worker, The Highland Council
- Being asked to do something unrepeatable while standing outside a brothel (looking for a missing teenager and her baby), having naively told an inquiring gentleman that, yes, I was working!
Helen Kirby, social worker, Newport
- Being asked to go down to the filing room to judge the winner in the office’s annual ‘best egg’ competition.
Clare Jackson, approved social worker, Cornwall
- Being asked by a mum in labour to identify the colour of her newborn baby as it entered the world in order to establish the colour – and therefore identity – of the child’s father.
Mo Watson, children’s services practitioner, NSPCC Lincoln
- Feeding bantams, potting plants and watering tomato plants so as to ensure a client’s livelihood (his profitable market garden) did not suffer as a result of his detention under the Mental Health Act.
Judy Parker, social care and adult business support, Doncaster Council
- Being asked to play table football for 33 hours and 35 minutes non-stop as part of an awareness-raising stunt.
Rhian Jones, education co-ordinator, Shelter Cymru
- Running away screaming from the shedded skin of a tarantula after mistaking it for the real thing while checking whether a service user’s collection of unusual pets needed rehousing.
Gail Burgess, social worker
- Having a dummy MRI scan in order to persuade a client to have the scan she needed.
Jenny Baker, social worker, west London
- Being asked by a homeless service user to secure a refund from a prostitute he had visited as he was not satisfied with the service he had received.
Steve Hyde, Cardiff Council
- Writing a court report on a service user’s Rottweiler facing the death penalty. The dog was spared and put on probation after the judge welcomed a report “from someone who knows the dog”.
Julia Blanchard, Wiltshire Council
- Being asked to visit families in rent arrears on a council estate to discuss methods of contraception so they wouldn’t have any more children and could afford to repay the arrears.
Sharon Shenker, health visitor
- Being asked by an old lady (and avid Star Trek fan) to help her plant her orchard so there would be something to eat when the shield went up.
Christine Masters, Bromley Advocacy Alliance
- Sitting on an imaginary toilet and taking an imaginary shower in the rain to explain plans for a ground floor extension to a client’s wife.
Carolyn Davies, Wokingham Council
- Being asked by a GP to make a visit with him to establish whether an elderly man was dead as he didn’t want to go alone as he had never seen a dead body before.
John Duffy, social worker, East Sussex
- Trekking across London on the train with a client’s spare artificial leg in a bag – only to find it wasn’t needed after all as he was being made a new one.
Maxine Segalov, Norwood
- Recruiting a “sensitive, pretty young prostitute” to help a family organise a “last wish moment” for their young disabled son who did not want to die a virgin.
- Arranging a “Jake rota” for the taking home, feeding and cleaning of Jake the parrot, a client’s pet “fostered” by the duty social work team as part of a deal to get a client into respite care.
Lynn Paterson, CSCI
- Supporting a service user to purchase a dildo – and checking with my manager beforehand that it was OK to do that.
Janet Brown, care worker
- Being a king for the day and riding a camel through the local village in support of the children’s Christmas festival.
Katrina Slater, media officer, Barnardo’s
- Being asked to check the thickness of dust on a TV belonging to a client who claimed his cleaners were not doing their job properly.
Samantha Trickey, senior social work assistant, Somerset Council
- Putting stickers on bananas as part of the launch of an over-50s initiative.
Brett Nelson, Bury Council
- Organising a burial service for a client’s pet snake, Muscles, in the back garden of a mental health day centre in the pouring rain. The epitaph, written on a grave stone made out of an old roof tile, was written in red paint symbolising dripping blood.
Steve Cookson, Plymouth Mind
- Freeing a cold, but otherwise unharmed, fuzzy white rabbit from a North American-sized refrigerator after being called out on an emergency child welfare investigation at 4am.
- Climbing onto the roof of a seven-foot building in pursuit of young people armed with missiles and cans of gloss paint, then finishing a 16-hour shift covered in said paint.
Tanya Callaway, Medway Council
- Being asked by the chief executive to dress up as a six-foot womble after Postman Pat failed to show up at the opening of a new children and family centre.
Gary Vaux, head of advice (benefits and work), Hertfordshire Council
- Being responsible for stirring the chocolate fountain at a youth consultation event.
Rebecca Anthony, communities research support officer, Caerphilly Council
- Being asked to use my powers of persuasion to get a client to agree to wear his pyjamas when he went to bed instead of his suit. He agreed to wear the pyjamas. But only on top of his suit.
Barbara MacArthur, Cardiff
- Spending two whole Sundays with semi-professional models trying on clothes, learning how to walk down a catwalk, and learning choreographed dance routines after agreeing to make up numbers for the Youth Counselling Service’s annual fashion show.
Shaun Last, approved social worker, east London
- Climbing a step ladder armed with an old wire coat hanger and plastic bucket to clean faeces from a very high ceiling of a bedroom in a residential unit for pupils with learning disabilities. Needless to say, this was in the days before risk assessments!
Gary Evans, senior practitioner, Staffordshire Council
- Being karate-chopped by 50 children at a community Christmas Party while dressed as a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.
Debbs Holt, social worker
- Purchasing a fishing licence for the sibling of a disabled child who was under threat of prosecution but was unable to read the letter from the Environment Agency telling him about this threat.
Julie Clark, social worker, Surrey Council
- Being asked by the grandmother of a young Nigerian boy with learning disabilities and behavioural problems to find him a nice Welsh wife to look after him.
Fran Rawlings, Cardiff Council
- Arranging for a lamb (that had been living with one of my clients in a third-floor flat) to be received into care.
Heidi James, social work assistant, Buckinghamshire Council
- Being asked to dress up as a chicken for our foster carer’s Easter Egg Hunt. This year, I was wheeled into the family centre in a wheel barrow.
Nick Crabbe, children’s services assistant, Hampshire Council
- Snooping round the park in the middle of the night armed with a can of spray and tent pegs building for national play day, on my bosses instructions, “the biggest and best maze, so that even parents will get lost”.
Neil Clayton, empower mentoring co-ordinator, Merton Council
- Being “mounted” by Max, a large dog belonging to an older service-user, while trying to hold on to him in the rain waiting for a vet to arrive to give him the shot required for him to be accepted at the kennels.
Norma Kallstrom, social worker
- Dressing two members of staff, five mums and one dad in dresses and shorts fashioned out of bin liners after a mass water fight at a family centre.
Kate Stokes, social worker, Somerset
- Being asked to visit school playgrounds dressed as a Cool Cat.
Helen Harvey, Birmingham Council
- Being asked to go and buy a pair of ladies, size-four wellies and three hard hats. To this day, I still don’t know what they were for.
Natalie Golden, senior research assistant, Barnardo’s
- While returning a runaway foster child, being asked to trap a mouse in the foster carer’s kitchen armed with just a colander and a Tupperware box.
Paul Webster, emergency duty team social worker, Derby Council
- Being asked to accompany a client while he sprinkled his aunt’s ashes.
Karen Howard, social worker, Isle of Man
- Being asked to fit a water butt to the drainpipe in the front garden of a service user’s home.
Lesley Hall, domiciliary care worker
- Placing clothes pegs all over my face in a school assembly.
Ed Ross, youth worker
- Being asked to monitor the amount of toilet roll being used in a children’s home.
- Being asked to pick up confidential waste that had fallen off a council waste wagon. I declined – it was snowing at the time.
Alastair Smith, quality assurance manager, Herefordshire
- Carrying a stranded seagull through a busy project for people living with HIV in Brighton and releasing it out the front door – three times.
Nick Boston, project manager, Brighton
- Capturing a white ferret in the laundry room of a small residential house four times – it kept getting back in via a hole behind one of the washing machines every time I released it!
Moira Watson, practice teacher and care manager, Aberdeen
- Burying hamsters, gerbils and any other pets that happened to die while residing at the children’s home I managed.
Vickie Morgan, Northamptonshire Council