Diary of an emergency social worker


At work 8.30am to 9.30pm. As soon as I set my computer up the e-mails from control begin to flood in. I am on my own (the support staff don’t start until later) and I desperately need to go to the toilet but I daren’t leave as the phone won’t stop ringing.

The police want me to meet them at a house as they have issued a protection order in relation to a baby. In another case a father is worried as he has arrived for contact with his sons but they are not there and their mother isn’t answering her phone – the last time he spoke to her she was threatening to kill herself and take the children with her. And a section 47 (Children Act inquiry where there is likely to be harm against a child) involving an assault by a foster carer has landed in my tray that needs urgent attention.


At work 8.30am to 9.30pm again. Long shifts would mean to most people a long day – but I know that in this job each one will fly by in a blink of an eye. I just do not know what I will be walking into. It is quiet when I turn my computer on so I start typing up yesterday’s assessments.

It is still quiet at 10am when everyone else arrives so I think this might be a precedent for the day ahead.

At 10.12am an e-mail comes in from control confirming that there are five unaccompanied asylum seekers claiming to be children at the police station. They have just been found in a wheelie bin behind a Chinese takeaway. I wish I was joking. Police are asking for a social worker trained in age assessments. I look around and there is only me who has completed the training and it was ages ago. It looks as though it will have to be me then.

I leave the police station at 9.30pm and realise I haven’t even had my breakfast.


At work 4.30pm to 8am thursday. There is a team meeting. My manager is concerned that at times we are not busy enough and spends the whole meeting thinking of ways to spread the word that the emergency duty team is there for everyone.

We look on in horror. Eventually someone says: “When exactly do you think we are not busy enough?”

“Hmmm… from around 4am ‘til 6am,” comes the reply.

Two whole hours.

“I think you have been in management too long,” we reply as one.

I come out of the meeting to be greeted by one of our support staff. She is not smiling.

“It’s gone tits up,” she says.

I look on my desk to see a section 136 (police power to remove a mentally ill person to a place of safety) and two section 47s. I think I will be using those two hours of “quiet time” to type up these three assessments tonight.

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