Social work diary: ‘Post-inspection, our improvement plan is making the service worse’

The culture of distrust within my service after a disappointing inspection leaves little room for creative practice anymore, writes an anonymous social worker

Image: Monkey business images/rex features

Monday

My six-year-old daughter asked me this morning, ‘What do you have to be good at to be a social worker?’ I’m concerned to say the first thought that came to my mind was auditing.

It’s a terrible indictment of my work at the moment. The culture in my service has changed quite drastically into one dominated by process and performance management. 

I’m told not to trust. The culture is now one where everything is checked, managers are constantly cc’d into our emails and mistakes are magnified.
 
The change is in response to a disappointing inspection. Improvements need to be made, without doubt, but there seems to be no critical appreciation from senior managers that the inspection only actually looked at process and recording.

The client group was not consulted on their views, no observation of practice occurred, and there was little consideration of whether our outcomes for service users or the public were good or not. 

I have a strong fear that we could meet every element of our improvement plan and end up with a far worse service than when we started. In fact, it’s not just a fear, I am already seeing it happen.

There’s no creativity to practice well when social workers are at their computers all day, anxious about getting their processes correct.  

Tuesday

It’s my day off . Time to think about my other job. It’s the start of a new year for my part-time role as a lecturer on the social work degree. Can’t help but think about my daughter’s question, ‘What do you have to be good at to be a social worker?’

It’s a good question for social work teachers. I love having a new group of students and am always excited by the opportunity to start teaching a new course, although at present I am somewhat concerned that some of my current pessimism about my own role might show through.

As I prepare my session I think about when I heard Professor Michael Preston-Shoot  speak about working ethically. He said that the General Social Care Council (now replaced by the Health and Care Professions Council) code for social workers should really mean something to us.

Our first loyalty is to our social work identity rather than our agency, and when these feel in conflict we can go back to this code for clarity and encouragement. Being in a multi-disciplinary service no longer managed by people with a social work background I sense this conflict is going to be increasingly real for me. 

I copy the definition of social work the GSCC code is based on, which says that ‘principles of human rights and social justice are fundamental to social work’, and send it to a few of my colleagues. We might need it.

Wednesday

I have a four hour supervision session this morning. It’s a stupidly long meeting, but I’m supposed to check every case in some detail in case anything has been missed. 
I always said I wouldn’t use the computer in supervision sessions. How would I really listen if I was concentrating on writing notes. What about eye contact, and the good communication skills we all know about?

Luckily it is only half way through the session that my supervisee actually realises I’m writing notes. Years of multi-tasking as a working mother have come good. I can listen and write at the same time. This could be a useful.

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