It’s the efforts and resilience of service users that makes social work so worthwhile

Sharing the positive work we do will help more people engage with our profession, writes a social worker and Frontline participant

Photo: Ikon Images/REX Shutterstock

By a social worker

Social work’s not a job that everyone has had direct experience of growing up. We probably all had a teacher when we were a child, we probably all saw a doctor, and we probably all have an idea what it might be like to be a bus driver.

But I think social work remains a bit of a mystery for most people and as a result our profession is quite often misunderstood. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons social work doesn’t have the same status as other public sector jobs such as teaching or medicine.

It’s a shame because the work of social workers is vitally important. That’s been reinforced to me since I began my training with Frontline in the summer of 2014.

Everyone has different reasons for entering this profession. Personally, I was drawn to children and families social work by an experience in my late teens. I was supporting a family member through an extremely difficult time. Seeing them come out stronger really strengthened my belief in people’s capacity for change. I think that’s what really motivated me to enter social work.

Frontline cohort one

Frontline cohort one

Pressure

I qualified as a social worker last September as part of Frontline’s first cohort. I’m now on my assessed and supported year in employment. In all honesty, it is a challenge. Every day really is so different and there’s a lot of thinking on your feet.

The responsibility that comes with statutory child protection work can feel like a lot of pressure. But for me great social work should be about working alongside families to make sure that every child is getting the positive start they deserve, and every parent feels supported by society in the most important job of raising the next generation.

This isn’t always easy to do in the environment social work currently operates in. We are working in local authorities which are subject to constant change. Our services frequently face restructures. The political climate seems to be continually adding new pressures and challenges for practitioners and the families we are working with.

Despite these challenges, it’s important to remember the positive work social workers do. World social work day is a good opportunity to reflect on the many good parts of being a member of this profession. The positives are not heard enough.

Amazingly resilient

For me, the most inspiring thing about being a social worker are the amazingly resilient people that we’re lucky enough to build relationships with.

I’ve worked with women who’ve themselves experienced trauma and abuse in their lives, but are trying, despite systemic disadvantage and social isolation, to do the best they can for their children.

The generosity of some of the families I work with also keeps me motivated. I have one family who have no recourse to public funds but despite that they still give £10 a month to UNICEF. Another family who were about to be made homeless over Christmas still budgeted and made the time and effort to get me a card and a present.

I could list so many examples of inspiring actions, moments, and reflections from my job. It really is a privilege to work so closely with people, often during the most difficult times in their lives.

More positive stories of social work need to be shared, by social workers and by the families that we work with. Of course our work isn’t rosy all the time.

There are days when I’m so angry and frustrated that I could (and often do) cry. There are also days where I feel like all I’m doing is further stressing out people who are already on the edge.

But if we can move towards being a profession that people want to engage with, and are happy to be associated with, then I think it will be a huge step in the right direction. It might sound clichéd but despite how emotionally draining and exhausting social work can be, the changes that we can support families to make, however big or small, make it a hugely rewarding job.

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One Response to It’s the efforts and resilience of service users that makes social work so worthwhile

  1. Matthew Tagg March 25, 2016 at 12:19 pm #

    Great article with some important and neglected points. However I feel we should also highlight the resilience and efforts of social workers who in conditions of high stress and emotionally demanding work help make positive changes in service users lives. Despite the improvements to social work training, are newly qualified social workers prepared to face the realities of frontline practice In this current political climate; where the social workforce are being exploited and oppressed by the system
    It is a testament to the values of the profession and the people within it that despite the environment we operate in, every day we help inspire and create positive change in the lives of vulnerable. And, get out of bed in the morning to do it all again.