Dear Mrs. Morgan,
This week you announced your plans for the future of child protection social work, setting out a range of goals that you hope to achieve over the course of this current parliament. In this speech you detailed plans for accreditation tests and a new intake of high achieving graduates that you hope will help my profession to ‘get it right’.
This week I have once again worked at least 10 hours over the 37 I am paid for and I have no hope of claiming this time back. I have either skipped lunch or eaten at my desk every day in order to dedicate my time to vulnerable people. If I didn’t work these extra hours, I would have no chance of providing the written evidence that I am demanded to in order to justify every action I take and every decision I make. If I didn’t work for free I would not have any time to see families; around 80% of my time being spent at a desk creating reports and observations.
‘Getting it right’
You claim that you will help my colleagues and I to ‘get it right’, with the inference we must currently be ‘getting it wrong’. Am I getting it wrong when forced to apply for food parcels because families cannot afford to eat? Is it my fault that changes to legal aid mean vulnerable parents cannot afford legal advice when facing private law proceedings? Should I accept the blame for having to provide gas and electric funds when benefits sanctions mean children are living in cold and dark homes?
Your government is presiding over a period of inequality that I have not known in my lifetime and the narrative you are feeding the public is that my profession is not getting it right. Worse than this, your solution is to seek to recruit bright young things who will come and save the profession by following a ‘fast track’ approach to training.
‘The pressure of accreditation’
You admit in your speech that you and those close to you have no experience of social care and yet, in the same breath, claim to offer us a solution to our problems by raising standards and recruiting a new wave of workers. The profession is haemorrhaging staff, with many failing authorities kept afloat by an increased reliance on agency workers, do you not consider what the pressure of accreditation and individual grading will bring?
On that point I should actually be grateful for only working 50 hours this week; next year I might be facing a 50 hour week followed by revising at home in order to justify that I am still capable of completing a job I have sacrificed my life to.
Please reconsider this approach you are taking and reflect on the underlying issues here. A new wave of intensely trained professionals will not address cycles of deprivation that are decades in the making. Threats to jail social workers will not save young girls who are targeted by sexual predators due to mental health issues, a lack of adequate parenting and vulnerability.
Accreditation tests will not prevent the societal risk factors of deprivation, domestic violence and poverty your own government’s policies are fuelling.
Before you look to blame our profession, look at the changes your government can make. Then we might stand a better chance of ‘getting it right’.
The author is a child protection social worker (@socialworktutor)