Community Care is re-launching its popular Stand up for Social Work campaign to raise the profile of social work in the face of budget cuts, unprecedented demand for services and even threatened jail terms.
When we first launched the campaign in 2006 social work was under threat as traditional social work departments were disbanded and social care was increasingly becoming an after-thought rather than an integral part of public policy. We relaunched the campaign again in 2009 when social work’s profile was at rock bottom following the tragic death of Baby P.
Readers galvanised the push for a more positive portrayal of social work, even succeeding in getting a consumer magazine to create and give away badges with the slogan ‘thank god for social workers’.
Overwhelming caseloads and vacancies
However, six years on and our surveys and stories show social worker stress levels are rising across both children and adults services due to overwhelming caseloads, vacancies and budget cuts.
Our duty to you is as great as your duty to the vulnerable in our society.
Combined with more high profile abuse cases and the relentless media and political thirst to blame social workers, Community Care believes it’s time to regroup and once again, stand up for social work.
Not only do we need to raise the profile and increase awareness of the life-changing work that social workers do day-in and day-out, but we also need greater honesty about the challenges facing social work.
Need for greater transparency
We need to showcase the inspiring work that is being done every day by social workers but we also need greater transparency about the impact of budget cuts and the huge increases in demand seen over the last few years. The toll this is taking on dedicated and skilled professionals cannot be ignored if service users are to stay safe.
Politicians cannot be allowed to threaten social workers with jail terms, when children are harmed, if they are not also willing to prioritise and provide the resources and support needed to allow social workers to do their jobs properly.
We believe that standing up for social work means three things:
- Taking pride in the great work you do and talking about it to inspire others
- Being honest about the challenges you face
- Giving you the support you need to protect vulnerable people
Taking pride in the work that you do is remembering why you trained for this great profession. It is recognising the difference you make each day. It means standing tall in the face of setbacks. It means providing inspiration to others.
But positive stories alone are not enough. We need greater honesty about the challenges you face – huge increases in demand, larger and more complex caseloads, budget cuts, long hours, a lack of support, too little time for reflection and personal development. The toll this is taking mentally, physically and emotionally on social workers needs to be acknowledged by those in power.
Giving social workers the support they need to do their jobs should be something every single person takes seriously, be it government ministers, policy makers, senior managers, other professions, the media or the wider public. The work you do is a public service and for the benefit of the public. Our duty to you is as great as your duty to the vulnerable in our society.
Social workers deal with the biggest challenges facing our society today – child abuse, lack of adequate support for people with disabilities, a shortage of beds for people in mental health crisis and too little funding to enable all older people to live with dignity.
Politicians, national newspapers and the general public care when something goes wrong – when a child dies, when they watch a person with learning difficulties being abused, when an older is maltreated in a care home – but they don’t seem to care enough about the vital role social work plays in preventing these scandals.
Good social work is at the heart of any decent society, but it only flourishes with adequate funding and support. As the public sector faces more spending cuts, join us and once again, stand up for good social work.
To support this campaign, we’re asking you to do one thing to stand up for social work. It can be large or small.
We have created a list of the top 85 actions social workers, managers, politicians and members of the public can take to stand up for social work.
Tell us what you are doing and we’ll add it to our interactive map so everyone can see what is happening in their area and be inspired to do something themselves.
Get some friends or work colleagues together and do something bigger. Get on Twitter or Facebook and do something huge. Who knows where it could end up?
In 2015 Community Care will be standing up for social work by providing:
- Inspiration: Sharing and promoting stories where social workers have made a difference and changed somebody’s life as well as sharing good practice happening around the country.
- Honesty: Using cutting edge investigative journalism to reveal what’s really happening in the sector – from burnout to high caseloads, to rising child protection thresholds and the impact of mental health cuts, we pledge to investigate and reveal the reality of social work in 2015.
- Support: Publishing easily accessible resources, tools and guidance to help social workers and their managers in their jobs. This will be through time-limited free guides from experts, currently available on our premium data sites Inform Children and Inform Adults. It will also include webinars and conferences to provide that vital space and opportunity for you to reflect and connect with others.
Tell us what you are doing to stand up for social work by commenting on this article or emailing us at CommunityCare@rbi.co.uk and keep up to date with all the campaign news.