The top 100 actions you could take to stand up for social work

A list of large and small things you can do to stand up for social work whether you're a social worker, manager, politician or member of the public

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This article is part of Community Care’s campaign to Stand up for Social Work. We’re standing up for social work by being honest, offering support and providing inspiration.

You can stand up for social work by:

As a social worker

    1. Find one positive thing you have achieved each day and tell somebody about it – a spouse, friend, family member or colleague. It will create a ripple effect of positive stories. Even if they only re-tell one of those incidents to a friend, colleague, family member it will have achieved a greater awareness of the role of social work.
    2. Tell Community Care about an example of where you have changed somebody’s life or made a difference by emailing us at CommunityCare@rbi.co.uk.
    3. Use our letter templates on this site to send letters urging your local newspaper, MP and/or councillors to stand up for social work. Make sure you list one amazing thing you have done to help another person.
    4. Use our downloadable “stand up for social work” logos as your Twitter handle or on your Facebook page.
    5. Take control of your environment – if you are hot-desking do not begrudge the time it takes to set the desk up exactly as you like it – it will make a big difference to how comfortable you feel.
    6. Take a course in mindfulness as a means of preventing stress or monitoring the effects of stress on your own body. Ask your employer to consider funding it.
    7. Monitor your own emotional responses to situations. Write it down if needed but even if it’s just in your head, ensure that you’re aware that you have a knot in your stomach and what the knot might mean – are you anxious, nervous, excited, scared? Think through why your body is reacting this way. How could you change this or how could you better cope with it?
    8. Don’t accept violence or intimidation – report incidents where you feel unsafe at work. This puts your organisation under an obligation to protect staff and will contribute to data as a means of securing more funding/support/resources.
    9. Identify if there are specific training needs you have – e.g. dealing with hostile and intimidating service users, using attachment theory, drug and alcohol awareness. Find out where courses are and the costs and present a considered case for the funding and the impact it will have on your practice.
    10. Don’t accept the argument there isn’t enough funding/resources (i.e. for training or safeguarding staff). Put in writing what you think is required. Ask your manager for a solution. If enough social workers in an organisation do this it will pass the responsibility up the organisation – to local councillors and ultimately politicians where necessary.
    11. Say “no” – even if it is only once a month or once every few months. It doesn’t have to be to extra cases, it could be something much smaller and internal. But make the point that your time and expertise is precious and should be spent wisely.
Double decker sandwich

Photo Credit: Food and Drink/Rex

    1. Take your lunch break – possibly the easiest action you could take to improve your well-being. Switch off and take the time to properly chew your food. Go for a quick walk. You’ll be amazed at the difference it will make to your mental health and your concentration.
    2. In job interviews, ask if the organisation has implemented the standards for employers of social workers
    3. If they haven’t, ask specifically about the amount of time allocated for reflective supervision, the methods used to allocate and monitor caseloads, their policy on violence against staff and their current vacancy rate.
    4. Ask your team and/or manager to consider implementing a caseload allocation system both as a fair means of allocating cases and as a way to collect data on the number of caseloads and how many times it exceeds an agreed minimum. This data will help in negotiations with senior managers and council members.
    5. Set up your own reflective practice group – perhaps over your lunch break. Watch videos or discuss a case. Make sure you are always looking at positives and strengths as well as what did or might have gone wrong.
    6. Ask for proper supervision. Don’t be pushy and overbearing but politely persistent. Ask if there’s someone you could talk through the emotional impact a case is having on you in a safe, confidential space.
    7. Be prepared for your supervision. Have a particular case that you want to talk through with your manager or a list of questions or issues you would like answered. Supervision can only be successful if you know what you want to get out of it.
    8. Ask your team or manager to consider a “buddy” system – with your buddy you could do joint visits if you are feeling scared, have reflective discussions, do role plays to practice handling a difficult, upcoming situation or read through each other’s reports and provide feedback. Try and put a realistic time on this and prioritise it in your day.
    9. If you’re a newly qualified social worker take control of your learning needs. Take a senior social worker out for a coffee or drink (even after work or on the weekend if need be) and ask for the benefit of their experience in areas such as time management techniques or dealing with difficult situations.
    10. Stand up in court. If you need to appear in court for care proceedings or a safeguarding case, for example, remember you are an expert in your area. Show that you have confidence in your professional judgement and practice and make sure you have prepared and researched as much as possible beforehand to help give you that confidence.
    11. Join a union or professional organisation such as Unison, The British Association of Social Workers or The College of Social Work.
    12. Take part in Social Work Watch on 29 April – fill in the survey about your day and tweet, facebook message or live blog as well (Watch Community Care for more details in April).
whistle

Photo credit: © designsoliman

    1. Blow the whistle on poor practice – if social workers do not show they are fighting for the most vulnerable and dispossessed, then who else will?
    2. Laugh – go to a Stand up for Social Work comedy gig. Two practising social workers who are also stand-up comedians and who devote all their earnings to the social work benevolent fund. Invite your friends.
    3. Don’t be afraid of the media – ask your organisation if you can write some articles or get some media training – the more social workers appear in the media, the better understood the profession will be.
    4. Ask your employer how they let people know what support they can expect from social workers.
    5. When people ask you what you do, say with pride, ‘I am a social worker’.
    6. Remember why you went into social work – write it down and stick it somewhere you will see it every day.
    7. Remind people that social care is a vital ingredient of high quality healthcare, education and policing. Without it these systems would collapse.
    8. Go to an event to connect with other professionals and take time to reflect. Community Care events include our massively popular free events CC Live Birmingham and CC Live London.
    9. Wear a badge with pride – at all our conferences we will be giving out badges with Stand Up For Social Work on them. Wear it everywhere.
    10. Take part in the biggest scientific study of social worker burnout in the UK. As part of the campaign, Community Care will be distributing a Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI) via our email newsletters. The MBI is a scientific measure of burnout. Make sure you take part so the evidence it produces is irrefutable. Watch for more details later this month.
    11. Enter our inspiring images competition. Winning images will be displayed on our 2016 calendar.
    12. Enter the Social Worker of the Year awards and celebrate your success.
      Don’t be afraid to sometimes share feelings of stress with your team to help create an open and honest environment- remember you’re all in the same boat and just acknowledging your job is stressful can help.
    13. Take care of your physical health too- don’t ignore a nagging problem because you’re too busy or put it down to stress.
    14. Sign the “support social workers not imprison them” petition started by social worker Zowie Overy or sign our open letter to David Cameron.
      As a front line manager
    15. Celebrate success – create a “wow” board where everyone in the team nominates something good they did this week and it gets pinned to the board. It will act as a physical and visual morale booster.
    16. Put together some inspirational quotes from service users – get them laminated and put them on a board.
    17. Start a “shout-out” email to go out each week highlighting at least three things that have made you proud of the team or proud to be a social worker that week.
Toddler walking - feet only

Photo credit: PhotoAlto/Rex

    1. Remember small steps count. Constantly reflect with your team how much progress has been made from the same point last week, last month, last year.
      Monitor your own burnout and take action to prevent it. A burnt out manager is as damaging to a team as a burnt out social worker is to service users.
    2. Save evidence – either anecdotal or collect statistics that matter to the team (rather than the organisation) – be it caseloads, violent incidents, near misses. This will help you fight your corner for extra support and resources.
    3. Collect personal stories – people respond to personal stories, particularly if you can combine it with hard figures and statistics. Use this as a weapon to fight for the resources you need.
    4. Spend time thinking of creative ways to meet service user needs and involve your social workers in coming up with innovative ideas. Finding solutions to problems will be a more successful at getting managers to listen than constant complaints. For social workers, it will also help boost morale and give some ownership over their job.
    5. Spend time  researching how other teams and employers manage difficult issues or problems. Try and arrange to meet them.
    6. Spend time broadening your network and join forums and online discussions about social work and key issues.
    7. Don’t be afraid of the media – find ways to write opinion pieces or clinical reflection pieces to help other social workers or ask for some media training from your organisation. If they don’t allow it, consider doing it anonymously. Contact CommunityCare@rbi.co.uk if you would like help with this.
    8. Listen to what your team tell you- you may think you’re being reassuring but if someone says they’re struggling, they may not just want to hear ‘you’re doing fine’Make time to de-brief with staff after particularly difficult or emotionally demanding cases

As a senior manager

    1. Spend a day a month shadowing a frontline staff member to see the current realities of the job.
    2. Attend training with your teams. Demonstrate that you see it as important too.
    3. Prioritise reflective practice, reflective supervision, zero tolerance on violence against social workers and reducing caseloads.
    4. Make sure you are co-ordinating active media activity to highlight the good work social workers are doing even if there are critical stories being published in your area as well.
    5. Consider media training and supporting at least one of your frontline managers or social workers to do more in this area. Quotes will always have more impact coming from a frontline worker than a manager or director.
    6. Collect evidence including anecdotal and personal stories from service users – both good and bad. Find somewhere to publish this evidence either on an internal website or using local, national or trade media or through manager or social worker organisations.
    7. Consider spending two hours a week or month in an open forum with your frontline social workers – either virtually or in person. This would be dedicated time they can ask questions or tell you problems they are struggling with.
    8. Set key performance objectives such as use of agency staff, service user satisfaction and/or social worker absenteeism. Send out a survey to gain an understanding of the current situation and the reasons for it. Go to your frontline teams with the results and ask them for suggestions to improve the situation.
    9. Eradicate bullying by all managers of social work staff. This kind of culture can only be tackled from the top down.

As an employer of social workers

    1. Implement the standards for employers of social workers – these were developed with cross-sector approval as the best method to ensure good quality, safe social work.
    2. Set funding priorities to improve service users lives by reducing social worker caseloads, prioritising reflective practice and taking a zero tolerance approach to service user violence. This will improve productivity and outcomes.
    3. Allow social workers and managers to talk to the media and support them to do so by providing media training and promoting opportunities to engage with the public in this way.
Social media

Photo: Rex

    1. Have a specific social media policy for social workers, allowing them to get the benefits of using social media but also help them navigate the potential pitfalls.
    2. Speak out about the life-changing work social workers do and the difficult and complex decisions they have to make day-in, day-out.
    3. Consider paying your social workers more. Nothing shows how much you value a workforce more than a good salary.

As a social work academic

    1. Host a social work book group
    2. Share your publications and research
    3. Share teaching and learning innovations
    4. Host a social work Twitter chat
    5. Join a social work Twitter chat using #swhashtagaday or #standup4SW or both!

As a social work student

    1. Make a short video blog on positive experiences on placement
    2. Take in biscuits to the social workers in the local authorities or organisations you are with on placement
    3. Go to the CCLive closest to you to connect with social workers and the issues affecting practice
    4. Wear “stand up for social work” badges on campus
    5. Start up a conversation with an unknown student about social work

As an MP

    1. Send a thank you note to the social workers in your area for the work they do.
    2. Write to all the local authorities in your electorate asking them if they have implemented the employer standards for social workers which includes monitoring and reducing caseloads and providing reflective supervision for social workers.
    3. Find out the average social worker vacancy rates in your local authorities, how much is being spent on agency social workers, how many incidents of violence were recorded, how much reflective supervision is provided to social workers, what the levels of demand are.
Houses of Parliament

Photo credit: Gary Brigden

    1. Bring these issues up in parliamentary questions to ministers. Many of the scandals and high profile child deaths or cases that hit our headlines are often partly attributable to the pressures social workers are under – including high caseloads, poor supervision and high vacancy rates.
    2. Ask to spend a day shadowing a local social work team to get real insight into the work they do.
    3. Highlight the good work and good practice social work teams are doing in your area in the local media.
    4. Don’t provide easy knee-jerk reactions and comments to the next high profile abuse case – find out the facts as much as you can and try to present a balanced view to the media at every opportunity.
    5. Propose an early day motion that the house should support Community Care’s campaign to Stand Up for Social Work and that the duty of politicians to support social workers is as great as a social worker’s duty to protect the vulnerable.

As a member of the government

    1. Press for a healthy work environment to be a priority in social care inspections.
    2. Assess and ensure there is adequate funding for new frameworks and policies to be introduced.
    3. Make the standards for employers of social workers mandatory across all local authorities.
    4. Demand accurate national figures on social worker caseloads and absence due to sickness in each local authority.
    5. Fight against further budget cuts for social care sectors.
    6. Publicise the impact of further budget cuts on social care.
    7. Publicly acknowledge the duty of every person to help social workers do their jobs.

As a service user, advocate, carer or assistant

    1. Hold a coffee morning or open day to improve the perception of social workers – invite social workers along to talk about their role and to help them understand more about yours.
    2. Look for and share good practice in your area about ways to support social workers or achieve better outcomes.

As a member of the public

Tea being poured

Photo credit: Food and Drink/REX

  1. Make a cup of tea for a social worker.
  2. Ask a social worker how they are.
  3. Say ‘thank you’ to a social worker.
  4. Ask a social worker why they went into the profession
  5. Ask a social worker about their job.
  6. Research and understand what social workers do and the complex decisions they have to make.
  7. Use your new-found knowledge to comment on articles that are critical of social workers and point out the other side.
  8. Understand that caring about vulnerable children, the elderly and the disabled means caring about social workers and the resources they need in order to do their job well.
  9. Go to a comedy gig. Stand Up for Social Workers are two practising social workers who are also stand-up comedians and who devote all their earnings to the social work benevolent fund. Invite your friends

If you have any suggestions you would like to add to the list please add a comment below. We will update it regularly.

More from Community Care

30 Responses to The top 100 actions you could take to stand up for social work

  1. AMLTaylor March 4, 2015 at 11:47 am #

    Would it be possible to add ‘As a Social Work Academic’ to the list? and advertise the #swhashtagaday

    • Judy Cooper March 4, 2015 at 1:30 pm #

      Great idea..I’m going to update the list once a week. Do you have any other ideas that social work academics could do?

      • AMLTaylor March 5, 2015 at 4:17 pm #

        Hi Judy emailed Andy this morning

  2. Sharon Shoesmith March 4, 2015 at 1:05 pm #

    Absolutely brilliant list – well done. Please can we have badges that say – ‘I support social workers’ so I and others can wear it – thanks

    • Judy Cooper March 4, 2015 at 1:31 pm #

      Thanks Sharon. Another great idea! I’m sure we can. I’ll keep you updated!

      • Susan March 4, 2015 at 9:44 pm #

        I would wear one in support of social work

  3. Chris Upton March 4, 2015 at 1:44 pm #

    Please add a section for things that Non Social Work qualified staff can do – Once again you seem to have forgotten that social workers cannot do their jobs without:

    Admin support staff
    Therapy staff
    Early help staff etc

    We want to offer support but as always at the moment it seems unless you are a social worker you are forgotten.

    • Judy Cooper March 4, 2015 at 4:00 pm #

      Hi Chris
      Very good point. Do you have any specific actions people in these roles could do that we could add to the list? Otherwise more than happy to include them in one of the other categories.

      • jacqui dennis March 10, 2015 at 4:49 pm #

        We have unqualified workers called Children’s Practitioners who work in all the teams, including safeguarding, and we case hold too. Totally agree witih Chris and the fact that we are forgotten.

  4. megroberton March 4, 2015 at 1:50 pm #

    Fantastic but the biggest problem we face, which no one seems to want to discuss, is that social work as a profession has been totally undermined by local authorities who employ unqualified staff, in just about every child care or adult social care team, to do the same work as a registered social worker. Lack of qualification and experience leads to the tragic cases we repeatedly read about. As for the public they just see us all as social workers, no distinction made. A care manager can, for example, be anyone. What does it mean?

    • jacqui dennis March 10, 2015 at 4:52 pm #

      sorry Meg but some SW’s are not up to the job but as they have letters after their name they can do no wrong. I have had over 10 years of experience in this field in various settings and my manager would be the first to let me know if I wasn’t doing a good job, so please don’t judge all unqualified by perhaps your own experience of them.

    • jacqui dennis March 10, 2015 at 5:00 pm #

      oh dear, that is a really disappointing comment to read.
      Unqualified staff are just as capable, and as we all know there are good and bad SW’s and unqualified staff.

  5. jim kenny March 4, 2015 at 3:31 pm #

    Dont vote for Cameron, unless you fancy a prison sentence.

    Total madness.

  6. jim kennie March 4, 2015 at 3:32 pm #

    Dont vote for Cameron unless you fancy a prison sentence

  7. Andy Townsend March 4, 2015 at 11:47 pm #

    As an academic has pointed out may I take the time to point out social work students need a list too? This will boost our morale; especially with the uncertainty of the direction, social work will take, due to recent media speculation and government criticism. We too can demonstrate that we are proud of the profession we are entering, seen as we do spend an invaluable 170 days on placement and another 30 days developing our skills.

    As students, we could perhaps create a short video blog on positive experiences – for here?
    We could arrange to take in biscuits to our professionals within the local authority?
    We could wear badges on campus, being proud of the profession.
    Make a conversation with another unknown student and talk about social work?

    The list could be endless – lets get creative!

    • AMLTaylor March 5, 2015 at 4:18 pm #

      Great point Andy!

      • Judy Cooper March 11, 2015 at 1:05 pm #

        Fantastic suggestions Andy! I’ll add them to the list. Do let us know if you or how many people start taking these kind of actions so we can publicise it.

  8. Larry Olatunji March 5, 2015 at 6:49 am #

    This is very good and seem like it could also look into involving users of social workers service. Having open day to improve perception of social workers role in effect promoting trust Which in turns eliminating inherent stress associated with being a social worker.

  9. Ruth Smith, editor of Community Care
    Ruth Smith, editor of Community Care March 5, 2015 at 11:35 am #

    Hi Andy,
    Great ideas. If you want to do a short video blog on positive experiences we’d love to publish it – thank you! We’ll add social work students to the list so if you have any more ideas, let us know! Thanks for your support. Ruth, editor, Community Care

  10. Vic Compher March 5, 2015 at 8:53 pm #

    Greetings, As I a licensed, clinical social worker and filmmaker from Philadelphia, PA (USA), I applaud your campaign to “Stand Up for Social Workers”! It is very encouraging indeed and we need a similar campaign here. Much of the misrepresentation and pilloring by the media, which you describe as common in the UK, is rampant in the US as well. Having worked for 20 years as a social worker, supervisor and administrator in child protective services, hospice, and elder care, I am well aware of what it means to live and work under the dark cloud of media that often scapegoats and blames the very professionals who provide care to vulnerable people. For many years I have taught a workshop which I created and titled, “When Trauma or Death Occurs on the Caseload–Ways of Supporting Staff and Clients and Promoting Learning”. The seminar addresses professionals’ grief or secondary trauma/ compassion fatigue. Over the past 4 years, I have also been working on a feature length documentary film about secondary trauma and the emotional impacts upon many professional caregivers who assist and provide care to traumatized patients/ clients. The working title of the film (which may change) is “CAREgivers”. We will begin screening the film in about six weeks. Please check out our website at http://www.caregiversfilm.com or FB at http://www.facebook.com/caregiversfilm . I’d love to to arrange screenings in the UK if there is interest. Please feel free, if you have questions, to be in touch with me through my email which is on the film’s website or through Facebook. Thank you Community Care for Standing Up for Social Workers! Vic Compher

    • Judy Cooper March 11, 2015 at 12:50 pm #

      That’s really interesting Vic. I hope you get enough interest to arrange some screenings. Do get in touch if you do!

  11. Georgia Thompson March 6, 2015 at 3:30 pm #

    I will and STAND UP FOR SOCIAL WORK!!! A good job, but gets so much flack, instead of needed investments to address the social issues, which affects us all.

    • Judy Cooper March 11, 2015 at 12:52 pm #

      Fantastic Georgia! Do let us know what you do. We’re getting together an interactive map this week to chart some of the actions people are taking and would be great to add you to it!

  12. Anna Stratford March 6, 2015 at 9:49 pm #

    Great stuff! Feeling prouder already!

  13. Brian Roberts March 7, 2015 at 10:16 pm #

    Hi everyone,

    I would have also liked a group so that there was a section about what Foster Carers could do to stand up for Social Workers, we are another group that works closely with Social Workers and neither of us can do our jobs properly without mutual respect and support

    • Judy Cooper March 11, 2015 at 12:53 pm #

      Hi Brian
      Very good point- do you have any specific suggestions for what foster carers might be able do? I’ll add them to the list.

  14. V Young March 8, 2015 at 12:13 pm #

    This is brilliant. It could be adjusted for every beleaguered health professional as well. I shall be sending it around my networks.
    It is the opposite to the unhelpful professional corporal punishment advocated by David Cameron, which may be a product of his upbringing.
    Punishment may be needed on occasions but the unnecessary application of fear isn’t.

    • Judy Cooper March 11, 2015 at 12:58 pm #

      Yes we’re certainly hearing that many of the same issues around burnout are happening in health as well.

  15. Zoe March 8, 2015 at 7:05 pm #

    Hey! Brilliant list but what about a section for student social workers? we’re ther next in-line after all. :)

    • Judy Cooper March 11, 2015 at 12:59 pm #

      Hi Zoe
      Great idea. Do you have any specific ideas what students could do to stand up for social work or are you doing anything in particular in your area?