Christmas, season of overindulgence, panic shopping and journalists pontificating on their highlights and lowlights of the year. While I enjoy pontificating as much as any other journalist I will on this occasion restrain myself. Instead I will rely on the collective wisdom of the learned inhabitants of CareSpace, the online community for people working in social care, which enjoyed its first year of existence in 2008.
So what has been on the minds of CareSpace members over the past year?
Unsuprisingly the most popular discussion topic of the last twelve months has been the tragic Baby P case and its implications for social work, in a thread titled “The next Victoria Climbie?” The discussion generated well over 200 comments, often passionate and well argued, railing against systemic failures, shortfalls in practice and the Sun’s resultant attack on the profession. Here are a couple of quotes that caught my eye:
Grinch: “If we take a moment and step back from all of the media hype, the recriminations, and look at the context in which this kind of risk is managed then apportioning blame on the individuals (certainly before we know all the facts in the case) just doesn’t sit right with me. When it comes to assessing harm then it needs to be acknowledged that identifying risk(s), the process of decision-making, and then establishing the likelihood of future harm is never easy, clear or straightforward at the time, and yet when things go wrong hindsight so often makes it all appear so obvious.”
lizzer: “Last night I had to sit my 15 year old son down and try and explain things to him as it was the second day he came home from school blaming social workers. The first day I sort of ignored it as I thought it was an offhand comment that my son makes. He also has a paper round in the mornings so he can see the front page of The Sun each day. I think someone needs to get a grip of The Sun as I do think it may end in vigilante action.”
From a very specific response to a particular incident we move to an issue people have been debating since they first developed the ability to debate – religion. It started in April as a plea by a Christian social work student for colleagues to stop swearing using the words “Jesus” or “Christ” as they found it offensive:
BBHG: “As a Christian I do find this offensive, though have never had the courage to say anything. I mentioned this to a supervisor in supervision and was told that this is MY issue, and not other people’s and that I should accept that I live in a secular world.”
Much heated debate followed and by May the discussion had moved on to one about respecting individuals but not necessarily their beliefs. It rumbled into June with issues of censorship under examination:
Kirst: “Why does your right not to hear me use certain words outweight my right to use them? Why does my right to use them outweigh your right not to hear them?”
And by July, contributors were debating the existence of God – CareSpace members certainly like to get stuck into a weighty topic.
Social care was hit by another tragic event in April with the death of Lancashire social worker Philip Ellison. The incident again raised the question of safety for social care workers on lone visits and consideration of how much publicity the case would have generated if Philip had been a policeman or teacher.
The local government pay round set another popular thread going in February, with social workers pondering how much they should claim for the year ahead and whether they would be prepared to join a strike. Opinions were polarised:
Lins: “I for one will not strike. I did not come into this profession for the money ( I would be stupid if I had) I came in to protect children and I can’t do this if I am on the picket line.”
kymb21: “I find the offer of 2.45% insulting for the work that we do (including all the additional hours we put in, unclaimed), and this would effectively be a pay cut. Even if we strike, I know that many of my team still go in and do the work, but at least it would send a message to the government.”
A particularly thorny issue reared its head in July with popeye asking the question: “So what is an inappropriate relationship with a service user?”
The GSCC may have thought the issue was clear cut but CareSpace proved that ordinary social workers certainly did not.
AJT: “What if a worker’s existing partner needs a referral to social wervices? What if a worker meets someone socially away from work and does not realise they are receiving services?”
popeye: “I lived and worked in the same area and within my groups of friends there was a crossover between service users and service providers. I constantly bump into a service user in the pub, they were never on my case load but I’ve been privy to personal information about them.”
Those were the big topics of the year but CareSpace members have also got stuck into The Apprentice, mental health and social work, and stress. So, if you’ve never got involved in CareSpace before why not pay a visit today?