by Kirsty Rowe
I’ve been qualified as a social worker for almost seven years now and I still can’t get over other people’s perception of our profession.
I started typing the following into Google: ‘social workers are…’
I had to take a second look at the autocomplete of the most commonly made searches. I was horrified at what I then saw when clicking on the links.
Social workers are…evil
Social workers are…idiots
Social workers are…scum
Social workers are…stupid.
I expect evil people sleep well at night after a day of being evil. Sadly my sleep’s been disrupted for years as I worry about the people I have in the community. I also worry about their families who are struggling to look after them.
I also expect evil people would leave the office at 5pm regardless of what emergencies families are in. Clearly my colleagues and I are doing something wrong. We often work 8am – 8pm, Monday to Friday as standard, and this might be later in a safeguarding situation. This is despite our 37 hour-per-week contract.
We also have emergency duty team social workers who provide support every night, weekend and bank holiday in emergency community situations.
We support doctors by working seven days. We help get those hospital beds emptied because the government think it’s appropriate to close hospitals across both general health and mental health services.
We now work seven days, not only to facilitate weekend discharges, but to prevent the unsafe discharges that would take place without our intervention. No pretend pay rise or media attention for us though, because we’re the scum.
People think we don’t care and we’re heartless. If I’m heartless, I wonder why I’ve shed so many tears in the office and at home over the years for various people I’ve worked with. Tears of happiness, tears of relief, tears of frustration and tears of sadness.
Social workers care and we’re there to help our service users through the toughest and most difficult periods of their lives. It’s an honour and a privilege to be there and offer a hand when sometimes there is no-one else there to pick them up.
Fancy a go?
This is why we go the extra mile, why we work with people – no matter how much it hurts sometimes – and the reason we keep going.
Fancy a go at my job? You need A-levels, followed by a specific degree to enter the profession.
Then you need to navigate the paperwork we are required to complete, even just for a basic assessment. You need to work through the following on a daily basis: assessments, support plans, direct payments, net, gross, authorisation forms, Telecare equipment, carer assessment, carer care plan, carer direct payments, finance assessments, risk assessment, risk management plans, continuing health care checklists, decision support tools, case conferences, safeguarding strategies, multi-disciplinary team meetings, best interest decision meetings, deprivation of liberty safeguards, appropriate adults…and the rest.
It’s tough, but social work has a way of giving you a gift when you least expect it.
You’re drowning in paperwork. You’re worrying about the people you haven’t got out to see as often as you’d like. You’re thinking about the next allocation to land on your desk, knowing it will probably be prioritised above everything else.
Then you pay a visit to see how someone is doing. They tell you how much your involvement has made a difference in their life, and you walk out remembering why we put ourselves through it all.
So please, don’t be so quick to judge us. But even if you do, we’ll be there to help you and your family when you need us.
Kirsty Rowe is a social worker.
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