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:
- Sharing this article
- Sharing what you’ve done to make a difference today
- Writing a letter to your MP
- Changing your profile picture
As a social worker
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Use our downloadable “stand up for social work” logos as your Twitter handle or on your Facebook page.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- In job interviews, ask if the organisation has implemented the standards for employers of social workers
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Join a union or professional organisation such as Unison, The British Association of Social Workers or The College of Social Work.
- 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).
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- Ask your employer how they let people know what support they can expect from social workers.
- When people ask you what you do, say with pride, ‘I am a social worker’.
- Remember why you went into social work – write it down and stick it somewhere you will see it every day.
- Remind people that social care is a vital ingredient of high quality healthcare, education and policing. Without it these systems would collapse.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Enter our inspiring images competition. Winning images will be displayed on our 2016 calendar.
- 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.
- Take care of your physical health too- don’t ignore a nagging problem because you’re too busy or put it down to stress.
- 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
- 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.
- Put together some inspirational quotes from service users – get them laminated and put them on a board.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Spend time researching how other teams and employers manage difficult issues or problems. Try and arrange to meet them.
- Spend time broadening your network and join forums and online discussions about social work and key issues.
- 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.
- 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
- Spend a day a month shadowing a frontline staff member to see the current realities of the job.
- Attend training with your teams. Demonstrate that you see it as important too.
- Prioritise reflective practice, reflective supervision, zero tolerance on violence against social workers and reducing caseloads.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Speak out about the life-changing work social workers do and the difficult and complex decisions they have to make day-in, day-out.
- Consider paying your social workers more. Nothing shows how much you value a workforce more than a good salary.
As a social work academic
- Host a social work book group
- Share your publications and research
- Share teaching and learning innovations
- Host a social work Twitter chat
- Join a social work Twitter chat using #swhashtagaday or #standup4SW or both!
As a social work student
- Make a short video blog on positive experiences on placement
- Take in biscuits to the social workers in the local authorities or organisations you are with on placement
- Go to the CCLive closest to you to connect with social workers and the issues affecting practice
- Wear “stand up for social work” badges on campus
- Start up a conversation with an unknown student about social work
As an MP
- Send a thank you note to the social workers in your area for the work they do.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Ask to spend a day shadowing a local social work team to get real insight into the work they do.
- Highlight the good work and good practice social work teams are doing in your area in the local media.
- 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.
- 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
- Press for a healthy work environment to be a priority in social care inspections.
- Assess and ensure there is adequate funding for new frameworks and policies to be introduced.
- Make the standards for employers of social workers mandatory across all local authorities.
- Demand accurate national figures on social worker caseloads and absence due to sickness in each local authority.
- Fight against further budget cuts for social care sectors.
- Publicise the impact of further budget cuts on social care.
- Publicly acknowledge the duty of every person to help social workers do their jobs.
As a service user, advocate, carer or assistant
- 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.
- 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
- Make a cup of tea for a social worker.
- Ask a social worker how they are.
- Say ‘thank you’ to a social worker.
- Ask a social worker why they went into the profession
- Ask a social worker about their job.
- Research and understand what social workers do and the complex decisions they have to make.
- Use your new-found knowledge to comment on articles that are critical of social workers and point out the other side.
- 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.
- 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.