As doctors and teachers fight back, why are social workers laying down to government?

The way our teaching and medical colleagues have been galvanised to campaign against government policies should be a wake-up call for social work, writes Social Work Tutor

Campaigners at the junior doctor's strike. Picture: Dinendra Haria/REX/Shutterstock
Campaigners at the junior doctor's strike. Picture: Dinendra Haria/REX/Shutterstock

The past week has seen two reminders of the power professionals can have in determining the future of their own careers.

In education, the government dropped plans to force all schools in England to become academies. Then, in health, we had Jeremy Hunt’s decision to ‘pause’ the imposition of new contracts on junior doctors.

Both outcomes came after professionals launched committed, coordinated campaigns and indicated a willingness to take strike action to defend their positions (the doctors used the strike option). Facing a backlash against plans to impose change, ministers showed reason – or at least restraint – and are rethinking the proposals.

Lessons for social work?

Social workers are facing major changes being imposed on us too. Among them are accreditation, a new regulator, an overhaul of our education and training system, and the threat of being imprisoned for ‘wilful neglect’ if we’re deemed to have failed to protect children.

Could our profession match the impact achieved by our brothers and sisters in education and health if we stood up and fought back against policies we disagreed with?

History suggests not. I certainly can’t recall an example where social workers have secured the kind of concessions from government we’ve seen over the last week.

Yes we take some action. We join protests with other local authority workers against unfair working conditions and salary issues. However, these generally concern wider public services rather than an effort to stand up for social work itself.

To be fair I do see a number of my more politically active colleagues, those that cling to the ideals of radical social work, taking part in anti-austerity matches whilst holding up placards of support from our vocation.

I also read many opinion pieces and watch a lot of lectures about everything wrong with our profession and all the things that we need to change.

However I see few direct actions to affect any of these needed changes. I also see little recognition, outside of our professional bubble, that frontline social workers disagree with much of what is being imposed on us by the government.

Challenging policies

I’ve never heard from one practising social worker (and at the time of writing I have 164,000 people who are fans of my Facebook page) who thinks plans to jail social workers for a professional neglect of duty are needed.

I can’t recall any social worker telling me they needed compulsory accreditation testing in order to do their job better.

I’m not aware of any social workers who believe it’s fair to take money from traditional university students and divert it towards fast-track courses (although, as I have previously argued, I do feel that the students coming in through this route are needed).

For all that this is the reality as I see it on the frontline, and that is shared with me by thousands of people on a weekly basis, for some reason this message does not reach far beyond our own profession.

Future prospects

For that reason I remain downcast when reflecting on the prospects that a change is coming that will benefit frontline workers.

I am now convinced that Munro’s review of child protection will never be fully-heeded. I have prepared myself for compulsory accreditation. I know that I’ll soon have to double-down on my case recording to protect myself from going to prison.

I’m ready for a workplace that will be dominated by the practices of those coming though fast-track courses and that this level of training will be seen as the gold standard I’ll need to aim for; especially when the first waves of managers from this route begin to emerge.

I’ve accepted all of this because, from past experience, I’ve seen that we allow ourselves to be walked all over as a profession.

While teachers and doctors have been galvanised to fight for their profession, I see little direct action from our own workforce that suggests a will to fight against what is being imposed upon us. The flame of radical social work has burned down to a softly glowing ember.

Lying down?

Why are we lying down? Maybe it’s the fact that, as caring professionals, we give so much of our energy to others that means there’s little left to advocate for ourselves. Maybe our lack of unified professional identity, our discipline spread across so many diverse roles and different aspects of humanity, dampens our roar.

Maybe my own situation typifies part of the problem, a lapsed member of both Unison and BASW, so committed to the job and scant time with my own family that I have nothing left over for direct activism.

Whatever the drivers behind our lot, social workers let ourselves be walked over time and time again to the point where we risk accepting whatever is imposed upon us.

While our friends in education and health fight back and make themselves heard, we risk being subjugated by those who seek to shape our profession to fit their own ideologies. This is an ideology that, as I have explained previously, currently paints our workforce as poorly trained, ineffective and incapable of adequately safeguarding those in need.

I don’t yet know how we can improve our current position and galvanise our profession (I’m working on that one) but I know that accepting we have an issue in this area is the beginning of change.

Social workers must accept that we have a PR issue. We must accept that we lack a clear professional identity and we must get better at working together.

Maybe if we accept these problems and begin a discussion about tackling them, we might eventually be able to stand up for ourselves and have a shot at achieving the kind of victories recently seen by our medical and teaching colleagues.

The author is a child protection social worker and tweets at @socialworktutor

29 Responses to As doctors and teachers fight back, why are social workers laying down to government?

  1. Peter Endersby May 11, 2016 at 11:06 am #

    As far as education is concerned the governments. Climb down was not due to the professions collective but because Toey backbenchers opposed good and outstanding schools in their constituencies being forced to change.
    The government are presently ignoring the early years sector despite years of resistance. Education and social care share alot of similarities but education doesn’t kid itself that it is evidence based or driven by practice like social work. Education realised long ago that it is money and resources that drives change and social work needs to stop trying to justify itself and wake up to this reality we share.

    • Fizz May 11, 2016 at 12:49 pm #

      Social Workers over time have said less and less as a collective group about the way that they are perceived by the general public and yes, ‘we’ do not appear as strong as Teacher and Junior Doctors in standing up for our profession. You only have to look back several years to when case loads began increasing and more and more administration crept in ‘requiring’ longer hours to just get the job done, never mind try to do more, as most workers want and would like. The norm now is that Social Workers will do all the extra hours as it is expected of them for a contract of say 37 hours and they have allowed this as a group of professionals to happen. Slowly, slowly, the voice of the Social Worker has slipped away which suits those in power and with accreditation more hours will become a possibility to ensure that hoop is properly jumped through and ‘we’ don’t end up in a bad position.
      The media has got a lot to do with the perception of Social Work. I really enjoy working with the families on my case load, but sometimes I have had families who are already anti Social Worker quoting what has happened in the press, whether that report is accurate or not.
      I feel that Social Workers are often seen by other professionals (not all) as not a proper profession, again not helped by the media. Even with the accreditation, I don’t feel that it will change this view for many, including the media, ie. it will never be good enough!

    • Ian kemp May 11, 2016 at 2:34 pm #

      Re social works lack of response to what has happened to it over the last 10 to 20 years . First there are no social work departments with social work directors to argue the social work case . There is very poor intellectual base.
      2/ Social work has no real professional ethos. It is part of local gov bureaucracy and has been essentially deskilled and marginalised. 3/ much of social work is in large bureaucratic teams with little professional contact . Social workers are treated as operatives with the system tasked to carry out whatever the latest fad the government imposed on them . 4/ There is little debate in social work offices with colleagues. People in order to survive just carry on the best they can to carry out what task is required under close supervision some times of a range of managers whose main purpose is make sure that backs are protected and what ever budget restrictions are maintained .
      When I started over 40 years ago as a graduate social worker who had worked in industry the ethos was so different . There were young social work departments with keen young graduate committed social workers with the support of a strong union, so you could challenge government and the local authority .The moral was high .
      Now because partly because its low status and very poor intellectual base it is the whipping boy of the media .. Indeed further, can you imagine what our lovely free press would do to social workers if they were able to challenge, anything , go on strike, work to rule.??
      The medical profession is being given a hard time by sections of the right wing press, and they have status and a very strong union in the shape of the BMA… It does not bear thinking about. It is sad because social work does a lot of good despite the suffocation of local gov bureaucracy. Then of course there are locum social workers who come and go .

  2. Tom Hughes May 11, 2016 at 12:35 pm #

    Because Social Work isn’t a unified profession. It tries to convey a sense of shared professional values but the reality is, most are just employees of any local authority which offers them a wage.

    Most managers don’t see themselves as Social Workers and believe they are a separate entity, while Children’s services is so distinct from the rest it may as well be another profession entirely.

    It isn’t like junior doctors or teachers who have one clear shared sense of employment duty and employer.

  3. Glenys Turner May 11, 2016 at 12:52 pm #

    Some of us, including me, would be happy to fight back but I know the majority of social workers in this area, are comfortably off and appear to have lost sight of their value base and are accepting of the ideology of Individualism.

  4. Martin Porter May 11, 2016 at 1:07 pm #

    The old problem of who speaks for Social Work.

    BASW is a professional body and wouldn’t get involved in something as messy as a showdown with the government. UNISON speaks for all council employees, of whom Social Workers are not the worst paid or most insure, and rarely takes up practise issues.

    There is nobody to take up the fight on our behalf.

  5. D Jones May 11, 2016 at 1:25 pm #

    If social workers are having to face the threat of being imprisoned for ‘wilful neglect’ when deemed to have failed to protect children; why not doctors or policemen or teachers for that matter. Why should social worker be singled out in this way when other professional are in contact with vulnerable children just as much.

    How many times have we heard health professions announce that “lessons will be learned” when they have allowed something to go very wrong. They do not accept the full responsibility of their actions yet social workers alone are to be vilified? All professionals should be considered in the same way and be made equally accountable no matter which section of public service they come from.

  6. Paul Brown May 11, 2016 at 1:26 pm #

    In my experience i have found that often there is a very apathetic approach to challenging what is going on. If meetings are arranged hardly anyone turns up for them. This could be a mixture of what is stated in the article and a lack of believe thay can change anything. Also some seem to just accept it as just needed cuts and don’t see any political agenda which i find bizarre. There is also a lack of trust or believe in the union by many people . I have always thought that social workers find it more difficult to be fully represented because of being lumped in with other work forces in a local authority for example. Unlike other professions we don’t have that single profession union which you could join when you join the profession, which would be a full representation of Social Workers . Quite often in Unison you have to explain what exactly you do. I work in Adults by the way.

  7. Ian Mancor May 11, 2016 at 2:59 pm #

    Unfortunately, many social workers seemed trapped in a pseudo-professionalist mindset which appears to prevent them showing solidarity with other council workers or even defend their own interests. The number of times we’ve have one day strikes to oppose pension cuts or redundancies and the majority of social workers have gone into work as normal. Social workers can waffle on about their “practice” as much as they like but when push comes to shove they are employees of the council the same as binmen and kitchen staff. The number of social workers made redundant in this age of government imposed austerity underlines this basic economic truth. It hasn’t helped that many middle and senior managers have stabbed front line workers in the back by adopting the moronic jargon of the free market. Referring to clients as “customers” is an hilarious example that comes to mind. “Business plans” is another. Idiotic changes to working practices like “hot desking”, getting rid of clerical staff and requiring social workers to input reams of meaningless data onto a computer were imposed without any resistance. As well as serving to deskill the social work role and reducing the time social workers have to work with directly with clients, they have sent stress levels through the roof. It’s no secret that this Tory government despises the public sector and is actively seeking to dismantle it and flog off whatever’s left to the private sector. Social workers will only have themselves to blame for not uniting with other workers to defend jobs and services.

  8. Blair Mcpherson May 11, 2016 at 7:44 pm #

    Interesting to compare this article with the interview with a director who is “heart broken ” about the cuts.

    And the adass looked on helplessly

  9. Interested May 11, 2016 at 9:23 pm #

    There a number of interesting thoughts shared about the apathy within social work as a profession. From where I sit as a middle manager within a LA Children’s safeguarding service, every day I see committed and enthusiastic social workers who maintain their values and fight for the children and families that they work with. It takes a great deal of courage and commitment to challenge organisations on a daily basis.

    I would suggest that the lack of outrage in challenging the notion that a SW will receive a prison sentence for wilful neglect is because the idea is weak and easily argued within a criminal justice system. I have not yet read one SCR that places the ‘blame’ solely at the feet of one agency or individual professional.

    I do think that there is a need to review training and qualification of SW’s – I see too many qualified people who are not up to the task, largely because they are not committed to CPD and changes to practice standards – if this means accreditation in some format, then I support that. Similarly we need to be accountable by reporting poor practice and giving honest references.

    It is true that SW as a profession is not valued in society in the same way as education or health – we are not a vote winner and the majority of the public do not want to think about what we face on a daily basis – until something goes wrong. We will therefore not gather the same momentum of support to challenge the systems around us and as noted above do not have an organisation willing or able to challenge on our behalf.

    I disagree however that offices are full of people who do not have conversation and are head down trying to get through the day. Good Social Workers (of which I am lucky enough to know and work alongside many) spend every day challenging discrimination and oppression, underfunded systems, societal perceptions and creatively do more, with less, to increase safety and support families to make positive changes. Most professionals working within the public sector have experienced cuts year upon year – sometimes it takes a key issue such as academies or junior Dr’s contracts to encourage the organisation of the collective to stand up and say ‘no more’ – the question is – where is that line for social work??

    • ian Kemp May 12, 2016 at 12:06 am #

      I do not think that there are not good social workers around . There are.
      As highlighted above there are lots of frustrations.. I think that I pointed out previously some of the organisational problems involved. I have seen it all in 42 years of social work.. Since retirement I worked as a locum in over 24 different local authorities as a team manager senior social worker social worker in children / families mental health and adult services. I can say that a lot of what has been said above is a true reflection of my experience.. Social work is demoralised and mainly a operative job. They are employees of local authorities as some body said above . Just like bin men ect . They can no longer be considered a profession and are not really treated as such by the local authority. They are just employees. Nothing more . The only way forward is for social work to develop let along survive as any sort of profession is to set up a separately funded department away fro m Local authority. Then over time a proper profession could develop.
      Its probably a fantasy .. No politician would touch it . But when you think about the massive bureaucracy that is social work in local authority, with manager after manager paid a lot of money it would be much cheaper in the long run…
      I have seen a job that i started in as a graduate 43 years ago, who had worked in industry and came in with lots of idealistic young committed graduates with a very supportive union and management which was very small compared with what it is to day. There was high moral . We had lots of support . Admin were helpful . We did the job we were trained to do .Now all one does is spend hours on a computer .putting in meaning less data for god knows what purpose. Contact with clients is limited. Yet despite all this there are some great social workers around .However, many over the years have left to do something else. The job was to limiting and really there was only a marginal interest in client’s service users and god help us customers The management speak that some people used to climb the local Gov hierarchy away from what the job was supposed to be about. It is anathema to the ethos that used to be social work. Without protest social work became swallowed up by the local gov bureaucracy
      The manager above seems not to understand that social worker as a collective group does not exist any more. They are employees without any real power. and what union there is is extremely weak unlike the BMA.
      I have now finished with social work… I now do voluntary work which is much more satisfying . I am lucky . I have a good retirement pension and a wife in a proper profession who works .

    • Ivan May 12, 2016 at 10:27 am #

      Here here! Sensibility and honesty at last!

  10. Matt Lewis May 11, 2016 at 9:29 pm #

    I agree with all of the above. This profession needs it’s own union that can stand it’s ground and argue the case for social work with authority and a mandate from its membership. The union could support all social workers and take a public stance that explains the often ridiculous demands on the profession to gather support of the public. Most people I know tell me ‘I couldn’t do your job’ and their right…most social workers struggle in deplorable work conditions with young 20 somethings coming into the profession lasting less time than the average first world war fighter pilot..only with a social work union will we get our voice heard. TUSW?

  11. Max May 11, 2016 at 9:42 pm #

    One of the biggest problems is social workers are using there energy to help and support the people they went into social work to protect . To often social workers are perceived as weak when not showing unification when they should have there rights protected by the unions they are a member of . Perhaps if the now non politically funded governing body of social work made a stand for social workers rights the professionals would feel supported and backed by the very profession they have agreed to abide from . Additionally social workers are not meant to be “politically motivated” which I believe is a now defunct position as the governing body is meant to be completely independent from government funding or interference . Damed if you do damded if you don’t …

  12. neil McGregor May 12, 2016 at 12:01 am #

    When social workers stop seeing themselves as the one individual who is the most overworked and least supported “professional” in their environment and have a regard for collective and shared ownership of the problems we face than we can go beyond the usual self regarding whinging. Seeing ourselves as workers who share common interests with other workers and not as “professional employees” would be nice too.

  13. Louie May 12, 2016 at 12:08 am #

    Just an observation. Children Social Workers and Adult Social Workers seems to be the development of two different social care professions

  14. Ellie May 12, 2016 at 12:21 am #

    Here are some reasons why Social Work is struggling so much in the way that the article suggests. ALL of these reasons come from personal experience:

    1. Because Social Workers are utterly “bombed out” with mountains of paperwork and tick-box assessments to complete (which divert time away from working with service-users), and spiralling caseloads (which means that they can spend less and less time with each individual case). They are struggling to cope with ever-increasing cuts to funding and services and staffing levels. Many risk professional “burnout”.

    2. Because Social Workers do not seem to have a unified identity as a profession – there are different types of Social Workers, all of who perform different roles, and seem to have little real understanding of each-other’s jobs (e.g. Childrens, Adults, Mental Health…) and do not really spend much time around each other. This serves to divide the profession into distinct groups based upon job title. Also, Social Workers are simply one class of Local Authority employee, and local authorities do not really seem to recognize Social Work as having any particular status and identity.

    3. Because Social Work has been completely separated off from other health and care professions, most of whom are NHS employees. Doctors, Nurses, Physiotherapists, Speech Therapists, Occupational Therapists, Psychologists, Radiographers, Psychiatrists… most of these are employed by the NHS, which is therefore the biggest and most powerful employer of health and caring professions in the U.K. (giving it immense Government lobbying ability). ALL of the NHS professions tend to club together when it comes to industrial action, which means that people just have to take them more seriously – unlike Social Workers, who do not really seem to have much power, and nobody to stand up for them.

    4. Because NHS funding is often “ring fenced” in a way that Social Services funding is not. This makes it so much harder for the Government to impose cuts, and other threats of changes to terms and conditions of employment, upon NHS staff than upon Social Services staff. It also means that, even in this time of austerity, the NHS faces far less of a struggle to continue to fund adequate levels of services than do Social Services departments. Besides, when employees of any organization know that much of their funding is “ring fenced”, it makes them feel valued and feel more secure in the knowledge that their jobs are safe. Thus, they feel much safer taking industrial action.

    5. Because the media generally portray Nurses and Doctors and Paramedics as “angels” or “heroes”, but portray Social Workers as “baby snatchers” or “thought police”, or simply “incompetent”. Even though this is totally wrong and there is evidence to prove it – such as Harold Shipman (killer doctor) or Beverly Allitt (killer nurse). This gives NHS professions like Nurses and Doctors a sense of being “godlike” and “untouchable” – it inflates their egos and gives them a sense of security that Social Workers do not have. As a result, Social Workers and the Social Work profession have become pretty much used to being the “fall guys”.

    6. Because Social Work does not seem to have any professional body that actually fights its corner. Nor is there any body that really engages in positive PR and networking for the Social Work profession. BASW does not seem to do this. UNISON and other unions are not much use because they are just generalized, and do not solely represent Social Workers (thus their time is limited and is often spent on fighting for other professions). The GSCC is defunct and it was only a registration body anyway. So who actually represents and fights for the Social Work profession? By comparison, organizations like the RCN (Royal College of Nursing) and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons are VERY politically active and do a HUGE amount of PR work. Just look at their websites to get an idea of what they do… http://www.rcn.org.uk and http://www.rcpsag.ac.uk. respectively. WHY is there no professional body that dos the same for Social Workers?

    7. Because we have a workplace culture where staff who become politicized in any way, or who dare to speak out about service deficiencies, failings, or the need to improve working conditions (i.e. “whistleblowers”) are treated like dirt. Also, staff who comment in any way regarding cuts, Government interference, bureaucracy, unnecessary rules and regulations… are also treated like dirt, with vicious attempts made to silence them. Rather than stand up for them, most of their colleagues either sit idly by, or actively vilify, bully and harass them. “Whistleblowers” and politicized staff risk being punished for speaking out – even if what they say leads eventually to improvements in working practices, services, or workplace environments. They may be shunned, harassed, subjected to sham disciplinary proceedings, subjected to false allegations of malpractice or misconduct, downgraded, bullied, transferred to other departments, suspended or even reported to regulatory bodies. Some, like myself, face being bullied so badly at work that they eventually leave. How can any profession improve its status, working conditions, and determine its own future if it effectively gags the people who seek to do this? How can any member of staff feel good about themselves, knowing that they are failing to make a stand for their own profession? If staff are made to fear for their jobs as a result of speaking out about working conditions, then it is little wonder that the Social Work profession has become terrified to stand up and be counted.

    8. Because lots of the other professions whom we might hope would support Social Workers actually do not seem to have much idea what Social Workers actually do. Some even have scant respect for Social Workers. Others seem to think that they ought to be able to take on roles that traditionally Social Workers did, or they think that there is no need for Social Workers, because they can do it better… Professions like Nursing are always seeking to increase their role, and take on more and more. As a result, they start butting in on what Social Workers do. Many of these professions – Nurses and Doctors being really good examples – really love to “big themselves up”, often at the expense of professions like Social Work. NHS staff increasingly intrude upon roles that once upon a time were solely Social Work roles. This may not be the choice of individual Nurses or Doctors themselves; rather, it may be directives from the RCN or RCPSAG; but it still serves to marginalize Social Work. An example of this is the conversion of the Approved Social Worker role in Mental Health to the Approved Mental Health Professional role. Where once the ASW role was important, because it was a non NHS role that gave a different perspective, and which meant that NHS staff could not “railroad” the decision-making process… now, the AMPH role is open to NHS staff as well. This means that in cases where a patient may be subject to “sectioning” under the Mental Health Act, there is no independent social care voice, and no independent patient advocate. Instead, NHS staff can now collude to force a decision that suits them.

    9. Because Social Workers (like other public sector workers) have been made to feel terrified of using the internet – blogs and social media – to speak out about working conditions. The clampdown on such computer usage is in direct contravention of freedom of speech, yet it serves effectively as yet another gag upon the workforce. Whilst I agree that it is not acceptable to speak openly online about ones work in respect of individual and identifiable cases (e.g. naming patient names, or giving an office address); nor is it acceptable to portray oneself behaving inappropriately at work or home(e.g. cases of Nurses who posted online pictures of themselves scantily clad, or a case of a Social Worker who named a client and then openly criticized this person online); I do not see why it should be wrong to discuss issues that are important to ones work in a more generic sense. At the end of the day, Social Work is about REFLECTIVE PRACTICE, and this can take place online as well. We should all be encouraged to embrace new technology in a positive way. So, what is wrong, for example, with debating online the benefits of work using Attachment Theory? Or blogging about the pros and cons of “hotdesking”? These are issues that may well be of importance and relevance to the whole Social Work workforce, so why not use the internet to reach as wide an audience as possible? Workforce unification is important, and social media or internet usage may help to achieve it, by making communication easier, and distant people more accessible. Why threaten Social Workers with sanctions, or disciplinary procedures, if they speak out online about working conditions in a way that raises important points in a manner that may benefit all Social Workers?

    10. Because Social Work managers seem to see themselves as something other than Social Workers – something completely distinct. Indeed, some appear to fail to identify with Social Workers in any way, shape or form. Rather, Social Work managers seem to be trapped in a very uncomfortable position – one which tears them between having to be the ones to impose cuts, scaling down services, bringing in new accreditation, etc… and still backing up the Social Work workforce. It would seem that Social Work managers have become in many ways the “puppets” via whom the bureaucrats speak, and via whom the impose their rules and regulations upon Social Workers. Sadly, managers, like Social Workers themselves, are probably also caught in the uncomfortable position of fearing for their jobs if they dare speak out. They have become a true “piggy in the middle” – if they do not do what the bureaucrats demand, then they risk being fired, however when they do what the bureaucrats demand, they alienate the staff whom they are managers of. I suppose the main problem, here, is that Social Workers are Local Government employees, so it is so much easier for bureaucracy to creep in, especially as management are also Local Government and thus their chain of command is utterly bureaucrat and Government oriented.

    I can imagine that there will probably be a lot of “tutting” and “tsking” and I’ll likely get skinned alive for saying this… but I have tried so many times to speak out and stand up for Social Work. I do not think that anyone gets anywhere by burying their head in the proverbial sand! sadly, I have noted that the person who dares raise their head above the proverbial parapet is likely to have it shot off! As Max (above) says… “damned if you do and damned if you don’t”! Personally, I feel that I have done little other than pay – and pay heavily – for being passionate about my job.

  15. Anne Friend May 12, 2016 at 8:21 am #

    As an ex Probation Manager who initially trained as a Social Worker I would say…look what happened to the Probation Service! Both our professions are unpopular with the general public, don’t really know what we do, and only care when things go wrong, our clients are unpopular and most people would rather remain ignorant, I spent years educating my friends and acquaintances!
    That is why it is so difficult to influence the steam roller of government change, NHS and Education are mainly publicly supported ….we are not?..hence any outside support is not forthcoming.
    I wish you all luck, as I used to say to my team: do the bits you have to do as SMART as possible then spend time helping people make changes to their lives, it’s what you are good at and what you came into the job to do, it’s still possible, just a lot more difficult!

  16. Sarah Lund May 12, 2016 at 3:35 pm #

    I’m not trying to say that all social workers are the same. Just the one’s I’ve experienced. I’ve always found that my best interests weren’t taken into account. If I know what’s best for me, I don’t need alternatives. I live in Supported-living accommodation, yet I know deep down that I’d be better off in a care home. I know people are going to think “Why would you rather be in a care home?”. Well, let me list my reasons:

    1) There is always someone around, in the same house, to talk to.

    2) I hate living by myself.

    3) There’s no peer pressure put on you.

    4) You all have your meals together.

    5) You don’t feel you have to conform to society.

    6) You’re safe from outside influences.

    7) There’s a true family feel to living in a care home.

    8) It’s more fun than it looks. Don’t be fooled that they all just sit in chairs all day, staring at the telly.

    • Ellie May 14, 2016 at 9:11 pm #

      Sarah,

      It’s lovely to see a post from a service-user. Reading your words kind of made me realise that what you say is actually true, and that sadly, the voices of service-users don’t always get listened to and truly heard in the way that they ought. Maybe there is much to be said for the fact that some service-users DO most definitely know what is best for them, and that if they do, they should be provided with what they require. What you wrote set me to wondering about why it is that the Social Work profession does not always hear, and respond to, what service-users are saying in the way that service-users would like them to. Here are my thoughts on the matter (they may be wrong – they are only my thoughts)…

      1. Sometimes a Social Worker may genuinely NOT understand what a service-user is trying to communicate. It may be that the matter is not put across in an easy to understand or articulate manner. It may be that the service-user is unsure of how to say what they want to say, and therefore it comes across as confusing. It may be that the Social Worker hears everything perfectly well, but then totally gets the wrong end of the stick, so to speak (Social Workers are human, after all). It may be that the Social Worker hears, but simply cannot understand or see the service-user’s perspective; or maybe the service-user does not fully explain their perspective; the result being that the Social Worker finds it hard to believe what they have just heard.

      2. Sometimes a Social Worker would REALLY and TRULY like to be able to take a service-user’s best interests into account, and actually agrees that what the service-user suggests is a perfectly workable solution. However, it may be that it is not a common solution; or that it is a costly solution; or a somewhat more risky solution. Sadly, Social Workers are increasingly being forced by budget cuts and other problems into a position where options for service-users that present as more costly than usual, more risky than usual, or simply not commonly used may be options that Social Workers are prevented from providing service-users with. Budget cuts make it hard for Social Workers to argue a case for costly care, even if a service-user wants it, and would benefit from it. Risk is an issue that Social Workers often struggle with – especially because our society is increasingly going down the route of following the American model, in which litigation becomes a more frequent and more threatening issue. Social Workers, when made to fear litigation, naturally become more risk-averse. This is simple expediency; why do something that may place your career in jeopardy? As an example… Imagine that Mary is a service-user with severe learning disabilities, but who wants to go on a dinner date with a new boyfriend. Mary’s parents feel that even having a boyfriend could be a risk to Mary, because she is so naïve and acts so young for her age. Mary’s Social Worker thinks that allowing Mary to go on dates with her boyfriend could be good for Mary, as it is a natural and healthy experience which is part of everyone’s life, and growing up. Why should Mary miss out on it? Imagine that Mary is allowed to go on the date, but her boyfriend decides to dump her after deciding that going on a date with a girl who has learning disabilities attracts too much negative attention and teasing from his mates. Mary’s parents are furious at Social Services, because they believe that the Social Worker should not have encouraged Mary to have a boyfriend. As a result, they make a complaint about the Social Worker, saying that Mary’s feelings have really been hurt, and accusing the Social Worker of lax practice because they feel that Mary was too vulnerable to have had a boyfriend. See what I mean?! And as to unusual options… well, there is a big issue around “evidence based practice” in Social Work (and indeed in all caring professions). This implies that what a Social Worker does in respect of working with a service-user must have an evidence base (i.e. that the Social Worker can find written evidence that justifies any action). So, if what a service-user suggests is acting in his/her best interests is not something that a Social Worker can easily provide an evidence-base to back up, it is more likely that this option will not be backed by the Social Services department providing the care.

      3. The concept of “institutionalization” has been introduced into Social Work. What this means is as follows – “institutionalization” = the belief that somebody who lives a long time, or much of their life in an institution such as a care home becomes de-skilled (i.e. unable to care for him/herself). This “institutionalization” has become a bad word. However, what we fail to consider is that a person who has been assessed as struggling with daily living tasks whilst residing in the community does need to live somewhere. So, why should that choice NOT be the service-users? Before we start making arguments to the effect that “institutionalization” is always a risk for people in care homes, ought we not to consider just how the person was coping in the community BEFORE coming into the care home? If we can see that the person was already struggling with daily-living skills, then it is NOT the care home that de-skilled them! Still, fear of “institutionalization” can lead to what some service-users say being ignored.

      4. The “Mental Capacity Act” can cause an element of fear and concern, and can lead to service-users not being heard. This act comes across to me as somewhat self-contradictory. It suggests that we should work from an assumption that service-users do have capacity, but then goes on to say that levels of capacity can be variable. So, DO people have capacity, or NOT? If it varies, surely then we are being told that they may NOT have capacity all the time, or that sometimes they can have full capacity, other times less than? HOW does anyone make good sense of that? Let alone work with it! The fact that capacity is considered to be variable means that the same person can have full capacity in one situation, and none in another. But how do se know when they have lost their capacity, or when it has changed from full to less than? O.K. so we are supposed to assess it. But if we assess a person as having capacity when they actually do not, or vice-versa, is this not a significant problem? What are the standardized signs of capacity, or do they, too, vary from person to person? How are we meant to know all the different situations in which a particular person lacks, or has diminished, capacity? After all, we are not that person and nor are we mind-readers. What if a person lies to us in response to questions in the capacity assessment?

      These are just some of the things that came to mind, as explanations why Social Workers may not always seem to listen to service-users and take their best interests into account. I am sure there may be others. I hope they perhaps help put the Social Work perspective across.

      Thanks again Sarah for a post from a service-user’s perspective. It was really useful to see the other side of the coin.

  17. Sabine May 12, 2016 at 5:14 pm #

    Ellie, I salute you! Very well put forward argument. Thank you for expressing s o clearly what many of us have/ are experiencing.

  18. Sabine May 12, 2016 at 5:16 pm #

    Ellie, I salute you! Very well put forward argument. Thank you for expressing s o clearly what many of us have/ are experiencing.

    But it should actually make us want to stand up for our rights, safe working practices as well as the people we work with, both colleagues and members of the public.

  19. Ellie May 12, 2016 at 8:40 pm #

    I’m ever so sorry for the long previous post, but after some thought I realized that it still didn’t cover all that I needed to say. You see, I posted a response to the article about Munro and Bureaucracy, in which I made some points in respect of what seems to be harming the Social Work profession.

    In my response to Munro, I pointed out that Social Work, whilst one profession, is a divided profession on the ground. Social Workers do not work en masse – as simply Social Workers. Instead, there are completely separate services and departments; Children and Families, Mental Health, Adults, Hospital Discharge, Learning Disability, Forensic, Substance Misuse… All of these are distinct Social Work teams, which cover completely different remits. Or do they?

    My point is that, when we look at the bigger picture, Social Work is a profession which deals with peoples’ LIVES. Our lives cannot be compartmentalized as easily as some might like to suggest, so in my eyes, it does not really make much sense to have all these separate teams. Instead, we should be aware that ALL Social Workers work, to differing degrees, with human problems and dysfunction. Children and Families teams deal with family dysfunction, child abuse, bullying, etc… Mental health teams deal with, obviously, mental health. Adults teams work with adults, who may have disabilities or physical health problems that impact upon daily living… And so forth…

    However, if we put a little more thought into it, we may see that family dysfunction and child abuse, which Children & Families teams work on, may include other elements that other teams may work on. For instance, a child abuser may also be a Schizophrenic with an alcohol problem – so, this possibly then involves THREE separate Social Work teams. Or, a Hospital Discharge Team may work with a patient who has had a bilateral hip replacement, and also suffers from Korsakoff’s Syndrome, meaning that working with this person may require understanding of physical mobility problems and associated discharge planning, as well as mental health problems (Korsakoff’s) and alcoholism (which is the cause generally of Korsakoff’s). Again, should we have to involve THREE distinct and separate Social Work specialist teams?

    Might it make more sense – and also unify the workforce – if teams such as these were scrapped? Before you freak… hear me out! I am NOT saying do away with Social Work teams altogether. What I am suggesting is that we do away with the distinct labels, and the somewhat narrow minded approach associated with them. Instead, we could have Social Work teams that merge skills and expertise, and contain workers from different backgrounds. These teams could still FOCUS THEIR WORK in a particular area – so one team might still work with children and families, another with learning disabilities… and so forth… BUT, and here is the important part, EACH TEAM would comprise a mix of Social Workers from different skill and working backgrounds, according to the needs of the service-users that it works with. So, for example…

    1. A Children & Families team could still contain Social Workers who have specialized in work with children and families, and know best how to work with kids. However, it could also contain staff from a Mental Health Social Work background, to advise on, or co-work cases in which a child at risk comes from a family where a parent is mentally ill, or where maybe at risk children are being serially abused by a person who has mental health problems. Children & Families teams could also contain Social Workers who specialize in substance misuse, to work on cases where parents, caregivers, abusers, or indeed, kids have substance misuse problems (e.g. drug or alcohol). These teams might even include some Forensic Social Workers, who could specialize in collecting evidence of abuse for court cases or other case meetings, who could advise on cases that are likely to go to court, or which involve a known offender with a known offending history. Again these teams might want to have some Learning Disability Social Workers appended to them, to advise on or co-work cases where either a child, or a caregiver (e.g. parent) has learning disabilities.

    2. A Mental Health Team might want not only to include Mental Health Social Workers, who specialize in this type of work; it might also contain some Children & Families workers to advise on or co-work cases where children are involved (e.g. working with a parent who has mental health issues). They could also include Learning Disabilities Social Workers, in recognition of the fact that mental illness and learning disability can sometimes be co-morbid. Furthermore, they could include generic Adults Social Workers, for instance to advise on or co-work cases in which a mentally unwell service-user also has a physical disability. Some Substance Abuse specialists might also be useful, to work with cases where a person has mental health issues, and also misuses drugs or alcohol.

    3. A Hospital Discharge Team could contain a mix of Social Workers from different backgrounds, including mental health specialists to help with patients who are affected by dementia or other mental dysfunction; learning disability workers, to assist in cases where a patient whose discharge is being planned shows evidence of learning disability; substance abuse workers, to work with patients who misuse alcohol, or drugs (including prescription drugs)…

    Now, I am well aware that teams do not work in this way at present. Instead, they are all distinct entities. Thus, where a case that, say, first comes to the attention of Mental Health services is also found to involve a child (of the mental health service user), this case then often has to have a separate referral made on behalf of said child to a Children & Families team, who then have to first of all decide if they are able to take the case (i.e. it meets their criteria), and also work out how to co-work the case with Mental Health services. This usually involves considerable time, planning, phonecalls, arranging dates for meetings, having meetings, loads of paperwork, sharing assessments (and agreeing how to share assessments), sharing case notes (and agreeing how to share casenotes), arranging joint assessments… In short, it necessitates a huge amount of bureaucracy, and basically unnecessary and inconvenient “faffing”.

    Now, imagine if all teams contained a blended mix of Social Workers from different backgrounds, but who were merged into one team, and all under the same roof. I cannot help but think that this might be a useful, and beneficial way of working. It would mean that the team had a strong and unified identity. It would mean that staff could easily and quickly share expertise and experience, from a wide range of backgrounds. It would mean that cases which required co-working could be co-worked quickly and effectively by 2 members or more of the same team – thus no need to make extra referrals, no need for long-distance phonecalls or travel, no need to mess about coordinating meetings… All of this could be done quickly and easily on one site.

    Imagine just how much better this mike make things for service-users, too. They would only have to see one team. They would not have to wait for referral after referral. They could get all the assistance they perhaps need under one roof. Thus less delay in assessments, less delay in reviews. Case conferences and similar would not be held up by things like one team trying to set a date, but not being sure as to when a worker from another team is free. Also, confidentiality of record keeping might actually be more easily safeguarded, as all the information collected regarding the case need only ever stay on one site, and be shared between Social Workers there – the only time the information would need to be shared with another site is when involvement of an outside agency such as the Police, Education Services or NHS was required. Then, obviously, case notes and associated information would have to be shared with the organization concerned.

    Now, all of this is just a thought – but it is a well-crystalized thought that I have given a LOT of consideration to. If anyone wanted to ask for more details, I can add that I have an evidence base for my suggestion, which I would be happy to refer people to. I was wondering what other Social Workers, and indeed Social Work managers, might think of my idea. I do believe personally that it might help unify and strengthen the workforce, providing a more uniform sense of identity, as well as permitting workers to more easily and quickly share experience, skills and expertise.

    So, what do others think? Maybe Community Care would like to hold a poll? Or, maybe I could be invited to write an article on this, in which I could better outline my reasoning behind it, and why I feel it might help Social Work as a profession find a way forward.

    • Ruth Cartwright May 14, 2016 at 11:25 am #

      Ellie’s idea of SW teams with a broader remit and broader expertise is an interesting one and was the model that we had when I first came into the profession. There are pros and cons, and as she says you need people within such a team who do have specialist knowledge – you can’t just have everyone doing everything. Part of the problem at the moment is that if you try to discuss a situation with another team to get their expertise, they can be afraid you are trying to pass the work over to them – we are very fragmented. Another problem is that multidisciplinary teams (SWs working with health, police, etc, colleagues) have different funding streams so that would all be difficult to sort out (but not impossible).

      In response to Ellie and other posters, there is a social work union – called The Social Work Union – set up by BASW (but a separate entity). However, a Union is only as strong as those who join it and, while growing rapidly, SWU does not yet have enough members to have a huge amount of clout. The same is true of BASW to some extent – you can’t say BASW doesn’t do enough if you haven’t tried actually joining to boost its influence and help steer it in the right direction. Unison has the clout but not the commitment to and knowledge of the issues for Social Workers specifically – personally I’d join both.

    • ian kemp May 18, 2016 at 6:15 pm #

      Keep up the good work Ellie…… I agree with your observations ..From my own very long and varied experience I have seen social work slowly lose what respect and status it had in the 70 s / 80 s ..
      When I started we had generic teams . We worked together carried mixed case loads , ran groups and so on we loved our work . The union was strong we had support from colleague’s. Moral was high. We were able to challenge the local authority. Our meetings and training were about difficult client’s , new ways of trying to help. and so on . Not about the latest bureaucracy or system or the latest budget or the new computer program…
      The generic team could still exist in a social work department. But social work departments do not exist anymore.
      For example, Generic social work would be like the first response of the G/P service. Attached to each area in the same building would be specialist teams for mental health child protection adult services. ect
      The managers would be a relevant social workers who had to keep his or her accreditation by practising as a social worker at least every 6 months. Training would be run by the social work department.. The job would be more professional. would be able to gain extra qualifications.
      But and it is a very big BUT… It could only happen if social work departments were recreated, and I think would have to be separate from the suffocation of the local authority bureaucracy. The problem is that no politician at present would consider it .. It is very much a ideal so in reality not very practical at this time. But it is the only hope for social work to be more professional and to develop expertise and respect from the public and other professions.
      It was happening when I started all those years ago. Unfortunately the advent of Thatcher and neoliberalism pushed social work to the margins. Thatcher’s idea that there was no such thing as society and her views that social workers were socialists and were not needed in her individualised view of humanity. Every body must stand on their own two feet and so on . She found that she could not get rid of social work and did not consider that social work training was important. This was the beginning of the bureaucratisation of social work. With very little training for social workers she encouraged or her government did, the need for more managers to watch over what social workers with marginal training did. This was emphasized with some high profile chid abuse cases . The media with little understanding of what social work was about fanned the flames. Huge expensive inquires were set up chaired by not by a social worker. but by usually a lawyer.. Social work had no voice. This played into the perception that social workers were a rather useless lot who need watching over by even more managers . So social work with no real apologists was sucked into the bureaucracy that is local authority. Over the years it has become more deskilled and fragmented unable to speak with one voice or protest re the latest bureaucratic wheeze that it was subject to.
      I am pessimistic re the future of social work in local authority. I cannot at the moment see way out. The deskilling and treating people who have education and training as operatives/ employees not professionals is likely to continue as the costs increase and the cuts to the services increase. The decline in any sort of professional ethos or voice. There is no Royal college of social work for what it is worth.
      But, there is no doubt, with a will and imagination ., that does not exist at present, a proper social work department could exist. You know to include as it used to do everything to do with care, home help , children’s homes, old peoples homes fostering departments . All properly funded with high professional training and standards……
      The costs you say….. well the cost of the present fragmented services with a range very expensive provider’s is very expensive. Think of all those managers of this and that, who have never been at the coal face for years, costing thousands of pounds in every local authority. The effect of a coordinated highly trained service would I am sure in the long run be much more cost effective and offer a much more satisfying effective service to those who need social work help that is professional and caring .
      It could have been a great job .. It was once believe me and it could have been developed further, but for the lack of understanding and the ideological interference of certain politicians.

      Good Luck Ellie. Although no longer in social work I would support whatever you try to do

  20. bron May 13, 2016 at 10:19 am #

    Unfortunately this is a profession we now need to escape from unless we wish to work as volunteers or for minimum wage – unless in children’s services – however committed we may feel. I have no particular strong political views but a government that introduces the care act with no financial means of backing up the promises it has made should be brought to account. Even the local authority council tax percentage promised appears to be not making any impact whatsoever. I work somewhere where the team manager is no longer able to authorise anything and a senior manager has to authorise even a minimal spend. Several emails are exchanged on every occasion along the lines of “how many showers do they need” – “get the family to do more” and such like. Perhaps they should do a “fast-track” scheme into older person’s services and within a couple of years all those young “bright sparks” will have smelled the coffee and left for a profession which values their skills, ability and compassion.

  21. Ellie May 19, 2016 at 3:30 pm #

    Blimey! I’m a little blown away, here! I certainly hadn’t expected any sort of positive response to anything I had to say… I was simply putting it out there, because I felt it was stuff that really NEEDED saying, and few others dared say it. Instead, I now feel that there may well be hope for Social Work, because the impression I am getting from the wealth of responses to the article, here, shows me that at least some Social Workers DO have voices – and the capability to put forwards views, and opinions, and strongly-reasoned arguments. So, Social Workers CAN stand up for themselves; the ability to demonstrate that one has opinions – ones OWN opinions – and can think for oneself is always a good start!

    Perhaps what we need to do as a profession is commence the crystallization of opinions. It’s all well and good having views, ideas, thoughts… BUT WHERE DO WE TAKE THEM? Clearly, there is no absence of good ideas (as the responses to the article show). What Social Work perhaps lacks is a point at which these ideas come together to form a unified consensus, which can then be taken forwards and turned into action. Or, should I say, Social Work lacks a PLACE where this can be done – a physical entity which will be responsible for doing this. We have all these wonderful ideas as to how Social Work COULD be in the future – suggested improvements, changes, new ways of working, new ideologies, interesting snippets of research… But WHERE do we take them all? WHO will take them forwards for us? WHO will get the Government to listen to them? BASW? The new Social Work Union? Unison? Who are we ultimately reporting to?

    Or, maybe that is all somewhat irrelevant? Maybe, just maybe, I can hope that somebody from the GOVERNMENT is actually reading all THIS! Maybe THIS is Social Work’s way – vehicle – of getting the message across? Maybe, too, practitioners from other public sector professions will be reading this? Well, if they are, consider THIS…

    Just WHY are the public sector professions SO divided? Why do they not unify as one huge public sector professionals body? Imagine the lobbying power that would afford? Imagine how much harder it would make it to push through cuts, or other unwanted bureaucracy? So WHY remain as “cliques” – each individual profession, with each individual job title remaining distinct from others? (For more on this, read my reply posted in response to the article entitled “Cuts making It Harder To Achieve Health And Social Care Integration, Warns Research”).

    Before you reject my suggestion out of hand, please take time to think on this…

    Personally, I cannot help but think that the foundation of the NHS was somewhat of a disaster. Now, I’m not saying the NHS is a disaster, per-se, but rather that its inception and establishment between the years 1946 and the present day has been ill-thought out and rather confused. The NHS is basically grounded in an amalgamation of various pieces of legislation, which lead to its having a sort of “three tier” system, each tier of which was founded upon a different piece of existing legislation. So, for example, tier one was HOSPITAL SERVICES, tier two GP SERVICES, and tier three COMMUNIY SERVICES. The latter, tier three, we might hope to see include Social Work – but it did NOT! It did include services that the Government saw as an extension of existing “poor law”, and which could be delivered via Local Authorities – these were services such as Health Visitors, Midwives and Ambulance Services. However, in a move that I can only describe as “shortsighted”, NO services seem to have been included that were focussed upon a person’s REHABILITATION IN THE COMMUNITY FOLLOWING HOSPITAL ADMISSION, or COMMUNITY-BASED SUPPORT (i.e. what Social Workers do)! Instead, the focus appears to have rested solely upon what might obviously be termed as MEDICAL HEALTH CARE, and not SOCIAL CARE.

    And this is where it gets interesting! Remember in your training, when you learned about MEDICAL and SOCIAL models of care? Well, in a nutshell, the NHS was set up to follow a MEDICAL MODEL OF CARE. So, Social Care realistically had NO place in it! Instead, Social Care arose separately, out of the work of people who in the earliest times were called “almoners”. Social Care was more of a philanthropic urge, than it was a necessity, like health care! As a result, health care and Social Care arose separately, and developed in a non-integrated fashion. Although the work done in one field often parallels the other, and despite the fact that the NHS cannot function without support from Social Care, and vice-versa, only very recently has the need for integration been openly acknowledged. Again, this reeks to me of “shortsightedness”!

    Different models of care do NOT need to juxtapose against each-other; they CAN complement each-other. Indeed, the work of ALL public sector professionals can be complementary. It should be noted that EACH and EVERY public sector profession relies upon other public sector professions in order to ensure that it can keep doing its own job. In this way, Policing is linked to health care, Social Care, Youth Work and Education. Education necessarily relies upon health care, Social Care, Youth Work, and so forth… NOT ONE PUBLIC SECTOR JOB IS SEPARABLE FROM ANOTHER. There are aspects of work in each and every profession which cross professional boundaries into another profession. This is perfectly natural – for public sector professions deal with HUMAN lives. And human lives CANNOT BE COMPARTMENTALIZED. Think HOLISTICALLY!

    So, WHY is there this problem of integration? Well, in my eyes it is because divisions have been falsely created, and then emphasized. Different job titles naturally exist. However, all public sector workers have different payscales, too. A lack of payscale similarity, and transparency, means that workers from different professions are constantly wondering if their peers in other professions are better, or worse, off. Training and staff development is also done separately, meaning that the different professions often end up with scant understanding of each-others’ roles. Resources are rarely shared – workplaces are separate – so staff of different public sector professions rarely spend time alongside each-other (unless the absolutely have to, because they are co-working). As a consequence, knowledge, research, insights, experience and expertise are not freely shared, either, because there is no real incentive or encouragement to do so. Put more simply, because the different public sector professions are all kept separate, they remain separate.

    What does this mean in practice? Well, to my eyes, it means a heck of a lot of avoidable and unnecessary problems. It means that staff are not inclined to easily co-work. It means that there is a lack of clarity about roles, and a lack of understanding of each-others’ jobs and expertise. It means that staff from different professions feel pitted against one-another – fighting for funding, for recognition, for pay, for time, resources and training. It means that staff watch their own backs, fearing for their professional safety. They also watch each-other. I mean, just WHAT are the main reasons for industrial action? Well, usually pay, or working conditions. In a public sector workforce that is divided by job title, payscale, role, training, facilities, office site… Then it is clear that no one workforce will have the same as another. This lack of parity, of equity, crates a situation in which the proverbial grass could well always be greener! Staff always end up comparing each-others salaries, terms and conditions, to look to see if theirs remain favourable, and to look out for unfair privileges being bestowed upon others. This both creates, and maintains, a lasting divide, based upon constant staff dissatisfaction. Allow me to give an example…

    Imagine the Police payscale is between £25 and £35 k per annum. By contrast, the Teaching payscale only starts at £21 k per annum. Now, Teachers think this is unfair, because they argue that all newly-qualified Teachers must have at least a Degree, and often a PGCE. By contrast, Police have no such qualifications and no requirement to get them. The Teachers do not believe that their payscale fairly or accurately rewards their level of qualification or expertise, and cite the fact that unqualified Police officers earn more, as an example of this unfairness. To bring the message home, they intend strike action.

    Or, another example…

    Imagine Nurses have had their annual pay rise fixed for the last three years at only 1%, whereas Probation Workers have been getting 3%. The Nurses think this is unfair, because it means that their salaries have not matched the rate of inflation, whilst Probation Workers get a better deal. Indeed, Nurses are quite envious of Probation Workers’ salaries, which have grown over the last three years to a range between £23 and £35 k per annum. A basic level Nurse, by comparison (band 5 agenda for chance) may only earn up to a maximum of £28 k per annum. So, the Nurses contemplate industrial action.

    See how STUPID this all is? By encouraging a lack of salary transparency, and different salary levels, amongst the public sector professions the Government have actually CREATED problems – problems which lead directly to industrial action. Might more clarity, and uniformity, of salaries be the way forwards? Ditto terms and condition of work contracts – you cannot attempt to force some staff into 24 hour working and not others. Human beings are NOT guinea-pigs, in any sense of the term! You cannot have some staff with strike clauses and not others. You cannot allow some staff groups and/or professions to have more parliamentary lobbying power than others – as is the case for Nurses (via the RCN) and Doctors (via the Royal College of Physicians). ALL public sector staff need professional bodies to look out for them and to undertake PR and Government relations.

    So, what is the answer? Well, who says it’s for me to provide it? I’m not hired or paid to do so – maybe I should be! Still, here are a few suggestions…

    1. Unity and clarification of all public sector payscales, and increments.
    2. Joint training for public sector staff – maybe in the form of common foundation years, or as joint post-qualifying courses.
    3. Unification of workplace settings – why can’s public sector staff be housed in the same building? To bring them literally closer together.
    4. Clear explanation and definition of job titles, roles, expertise, qualifications and expectations.
    5. Stop playing one public sector profession off against another when it comes to media image, funding cuts, changes to terms and conditions of work…
    6. Look at improving and clarifying the professional image of ALL public sector workers, and provide ALL of them with effective professional bodies who will fight their corner, undertake PR work, and safeguard professional integrity.
    7. Look at the role of the Unions, and identify clearly those which best represent the interests of the public sector professions, and those that do not.
    8. Ask STAFF, themselves, what the think might help create unity and integration. Ask service-users too.

  22. Alison June 8, 2016 at 9:26 am #

    I think the support shown from other professions and the general public towards doctors and teachers, and the deafening silence of support for social work speaks volumes about our professional relationships. I have supported my NHS colleagues in their petitions and rallies for better contracts and conditions. I have never heard a word of support from them for social work funding. The heirarchy of the medical model is alive and kicking!