In the first of a series of regular articles, BASW learning and development chair Fran McDonnell offers tips for improving morale
Recent reports have highlighted low morale in both children’s and adults’ social work teams. In an ever-changing practice landscape, and with the trend towards multi-disciplinary teams, it is essential that practitioners feel supported and that their role, knowledge and skills are valued.
Managers should prioritise:
Team or peer meetings for improving communication, sharing ideas, resources, new ways of working and joint exploration to develop practice and find solutions to problems. Teams are then much more likely to have a commitment to shared objectives.
Supervision Providing effective supervision is a management duty. It should provide a supportive environment to reflect on practice, evaluate the quality of decision making and to cope with risks and uncertainties.
Caseload management is required to prevent high levels of stress and negative impacts on practice. Managers need to involve social workers in developing a workload management systems informed by good quality, up-to-date workload measurement. This will include looking at different models of practice and regular review of outcomes for service users.
Continuing professional development needs to be planned and make the most of potential for work-based learning opportunities such as peer group support or networks, mentoring and coaching.
Addressing pay and working conditions is an important part of improving recruitment and retention. Clear career progression pathways linked to pay encourage experienced social workers to remain in practice. Flexible working conditions should recognise other commitments.
Evaluation and feedback on whether these activities should look at improving morale and what needs to be developed further. These activities should be prioritised by senior management with allocated time. They will help to build mutual respect, understanding and confidence in good working practice, which are essential for good morale.
The Children’s Workforce Development Council’s Share! projects outline the benefits of including regular peer supervision or peer support groups as part of the supervision package to improve morale and confidence.
Fran McDonnell (pictured) is a workforce development consultant and chair of the British Association of Social Workers learning and development committee