Why I quit social work…after four months

An ex-social worker on why he felt he had to leave the profession after just a few months

Picture: photoprodra/fotolia

by Andy Faulkner

As someone who is over half a century old, I did not go into social work expecting it to be all sweetness and light, nor did I ever think I’d save the world (or even a fraction of it).

However, my experiences within the profession have left me wondering why I even bothered in the first place.

In 2012 I was one of the very lucky ones, one of the “high flyers”, that managed to get a place on the government’s prestigious ‘Step Up To Social Work’ scheme. Reserved for those that already had a 2:1 degree or above, I went through one of the most arduous interview processes I’ve ever been through, and my reward was a place with my local consortium.

Prior to this I’d had a (fairly) successful career working in schools, working my way up the I.T. ladder from humble computer technician to the exalted heights of Senior Network Manager and Developmental Officer.

Maybe it was midlife crisis, maybe it was something else, but in 2011 I felt I needed a career change.

Back in university

My wife (a successful and very talented social worker) suggested social work as I had a very good rapport with students and their families.

So in February 2012 I found myself back in university, studying for my Master’s degree in social work.

As “high flyers” we were expected to complete the two-year degree course in just eighteen months. This meant a lot of evenings and weekends studying hard and submitting work, including some over Christmas.

Obviously, we also had to work within two placements and complete two portfolios at the same time in order to gain our social work status.

We were meant to qualify as generic social workers at the end of the course and this required us to have both an adult and a children’s placement. This is where things started to go wrong.

Alarm bells

My children’s placement was amazing; it was within a referrals and assessments unit and I loved it. I met many wonderful and dedicated people there, my on-site mentor was a marvel and she taught me a great deal. Her tuition enabled me to create assessments that were so good they were given out to Newly Qualified Social Workers (NQSW) as examples of good practice.

However, my local authorities’ idea of an “adult” placement was within a children’s Sure Start nursery. Their rationale for this was that I would be interacting with the parents and carers of the children, therefore it could be construed as an adult placement.

Obviously, this meant that, despite being a ‘generic’ social worker, I had NO real experience of working within adult social care (and no likelihood of gaining a job within that sphere). This was where my alarm bells started to ring.

As we were coming to the end of our training and university places, myself (and the others in our authority’s consortium) were starting to get concerned that the other students from other consortiums were talking about the places their authorities had already arranged for them to go into as newly qualifieds; our authority was the only one that hadn’t made ANY arrangements for us after qualification.

I spent ages talking to their Human Resources department and emailing senior management asking for clarification on our position and was assured that “something” would be done about the situation.

It wasn’t.

After we qualified in September 2013 there were no newly qualified places for us to go into, so I was offered a temporary post as a social work assistant for six months within the Looked-After Children’s team. This gave me a good grounding in the processes and sheer scale of work and commitment that social workers were dealing with on a daily basis. But this didn’t deter me, I was still determined to become the best social worker I could be.

Delays

True to form, at the end of this temporary contract there was still no places available as a NQSW so I was offered another temporary contract as a Personal Advisor for their Leaving Care team. While this was enjoyable (and instructive in how young people progress from being Looked After to semi or full independence) it is not what I’d trained to be.

Thankfully, in May 2014, I was finally able to take up a position as an NQSW; back within the Looked After Children’s team I had been with before.

I had expected to be put on the ASYE (Assessed and Supported Year in Employment) right from the beginning but delays meant it was a month or so before this happened. In the meantime, I had been assigned a caseload of 9 families.

Unfortunately, the majority of these cases had had very little social worker involvement for some considerable time before I had them (some hadn’t been seen for over a year) so all of their reports and visits were already well out of timescales.

Dread

The day after I was inducted onto the ASYE my caseload went to the 12 it should have been; it was meant to rise by 2 cases every three months until I was on a full caseload by the end of my first year. But this didn’t happen.

Because my authority had been given an extremely poor report by Ofsted they were shedding agency workers at a great rate. Unfortunately, as they didn’t hire any qualified social workers to replace them their cases were then being given to anyone; regardless of experience or ability.

I started to dread going into work as it felt like every time I went in another case had been added to my caseload. By the time I left in August 2014, I had 18 cases and had just been told that I was to get two more before the end of the month.

This was a level I shouldn’t have reached for a year, but one I was going to hit in four months.

When I raised my concerns with my manager, the ASYE mentor and senior management their response was “you’ve been allocated the cases and they are staying with you” and “the ASYE is only guidelines, recommendations; we can ignore them!”

Shame

I believe that I was coping with my cases (despite the obstacles placed in front of me) but as it seemed like there would be no end to the additions to my caseload it would not be long before I couldn’t.

After long deliberation, I decided that I couldn’t honestly say that the children and young people in my care would get the service and attention they deserved from me, so I resigned.

It was such a shame that senior management couldn’t (or wouldn’t) listen to the concerns of one of their most vulnerable, inexperienced members of staff.

I feel like I had some very good experiences within social work. I met and worked with some wonderful, very dedicated social workers that genuinely cared about the people they dealt with.

My proudest achievement during my time with the young people in my care was that they all got visited regularly, even those I had that were well out of borough. I got ALL of their statutory visits and reports back up-to-date and their files were meticulously updated; I even got congratulatory emails from the management for my efforts.

Luckily for me I had another profession to fall back on; something that younger, less “worldly-wise” newly qualifieds wouldn’t have. I feel for these young professionals because, unlike me, they may feel trapped in their roles with no other avenue of escape.

As for myself? After months of trying to get back into social work I gave up and returned to working within education. I am now on track as a trainee teacher, where I hope to use my social work training and experiences to become a safeguarding officer.

So ultimately – after the decision to change career, 18 months of training and two temporary posts I was a social worker for just four months.

54 Responses to Why I quit social work…after four months

  1. Mike Jubb August 23, 2016 at 1:30 pm #

    I am not sure that this is a good example of what is all too common in Local Authority Social Work : overworked and undersupported new staff . This individual’s previous background in IT and his repeated indications of his need for affirmation from above , suggests that he lacked the required exposure to the hard knocks of customer-facing work experience necessary to succeed . But all is not lost ( that includes the time and money spent on getting him thus far): my advice is try again : the worst isn’t quite as bad as bad as a vivid imagination sometimes pictures and 4 months’ doesn’t give anyone an informed view of what is going on in front, behind, below and above them in social work.

    • LINDA HOBBS August 23, 2016 at 10:18 pm #

      It is so sad to read this story, but this rings so close to home for me as a NQSW. I too came into social work as i wanted to make a difference to people’s lives, I wanted to support and empower those individuals that have been dis-empowered due to systems, policies and personal life changes. Unfortunately my eyes have been opened to the lack of resources available, the pressures of filling in too much paperwork, lack of management support, high levels of staff turnover, constant case allocations, shifting of goal posts, integration with health not working as i thought it would, the list goes on. I do not like my job as I feel very strongly that I am not working to the best of my ability and to some degree I am failing those very people that I am suppose to support and assist. Things have to change within social work, whether you are a children’s social worker or adults. I am hearing the same issues being discussed amongst so many social workers and we all can’t be wrong. How long will I last in this current climate is anyone guess, all I know is that too many social workers are getting burnt out, by working long hours and taking their jobs, worries and concerns home to their partners / families. Is it really worth it, if the jobs leaves you in this state?? I would say no, because a work life balance is essential especially when you have a young family and others that need you. If i should collaspe tomorrow because of work related stress and go off work sick then the next worry I will have, is that my sickness will be monitored, my case load would be left until i return unless some reach crisis point and maybe they would be picked up by colleagues or duty who knows. I have been in this job for 12 months and already I am debating if I should leave and use my skills and knowledge elsewhere. Someone where I can work in an environment where I can make a difference and resources are available.

    • Ionie Bernard August 24, 2016 at 2:00 pm #

      I think it is sad to ‘belittle’ what is a very personal and real journey. I found this report insightful and informative particularly for those who are involved in the planning and integration of NQSW in their Departments. I would suggest that with its shortened/intensive training it is even more crucial that the management of the ‘step-up’ course (with the relevant authorities) get it right.

      Even prior to the AYSE framework, there was an on-going problem with identifying appropriate placements for social work students; the failure at this early stage of the education into the role of a social worker sets the scene for future difficulties.

      The AYSE framework is structured and when it works, it works well and meets the grade for preparing a worker for the challenges ahead. Unfortunately more often than not, due to overall demands/pressures on front line practitioners, managers (1st/2nd and 3rd tier); the reality is that adherence to framework is thwarted. It has to be acknowledged that This framework brings with it additional demands which may require additional resources for its application. Without an acknowledgement of this, then the aims of having an overall qualified, competent and confident practitioner able to support, service users through difficult times in their life journey will not be realised. Valuing practitioners invariably leads to them being able to value those with whom they are working.

    • Dean Fraser August 25, 2016 at 12:54 pm #

      It is sad to see Social Workers normalise being worked like a dog and expect it as a daily occurrence. The fact that you would prefer to attack the individual and not the system is extremely disappointing and is an indication of the kind of management you would lead or is leading. It is one that I would not want to be a part of.
      I wonder if you had to complete an ASYE alongside managing cases after qualifucation? By all accounts it is more difficult to qualify as a social worker nowadays than in the past and even then you are still not a social worker until you have completed an ASYE and you are not treated as such. You struggle to gain employment, the ones you get are as mere assistants where your colleagues never had to undergo three or two years of social work training. To top it all off you come onto Community Care only to read this fecal dribble. Social Workers wonder why things will never improve but they need to look squarely in the mirror to see the problem staring right back at them. You normalise unrealistic expectations and criticise and demean those who do not!

    • stewart August 26, 2016 at 9:03 am #

      However it highlights the considerable examples of poor management not following agreed guidelines placing caseloads on workers without consent or agreement. All very poor management techniques and examples of why staff are crashing and burning. Managers are suffering from catexia.

    • Philip Bannister August 29, 2016 at 6:52 am #

      Response to Mike and other Managers . Clearly you are in management , i as a retired senior adviser in social care QA, and best value with a extensive CP career history in the NSPCC, local authorites with years of experience in SW , HR and Business reengineering .

      I completely refute your claim. Social work as a profession has been reduced to an administration process, front line management rarely is able to support workers and many are running scared for their jobs becoming nothing less than performance monitors . Senior managers are often incompetent and have risen to the level of incompetence. The HCPC attempts to regulate an already broken profession , alarm bells ring as the numbers of social workers who are referred outstrips all other professions the HCPC represent , but few if hardly any are ever managers referred for malpractice , professional errors etc. The whole function of social work needs a major review and restructure . Some functions of safeguarding would sit better with the police in special teams. The older persons functions would sit better with Fire and Rescue and Health , Children’s services should be devolved to locality based services in schools . In another words I am saying take the social work function off local authorities and disband it to select units with social enterprise solutions , charities and dedicated service teams eg Special Needs, Disability , etc.

      The commissioning function should be dealt with in the same way as health through multi disciplinary commissioning groups. Social work management should include senior practitioner requirements right through to the very top ie a fitness to practice check and a minimum requirement to have practised of a least 50 hours a year for PO grade managers ie front line activity .

      You can tell that there is something really broken when the profession is being subject to imprisonment as a method to mange practise errors .

      It’s a big step change but without it nothing will change .

      Finally in my early career we reminded committed to actually enabling people to change before draconian intervention to remove children – forever. The choice I witnessed in the last three years of my career was that one strike your out baby up for adoption , no assessment to change. Just a simple risk assessment which every time said no we can’t let this turn into a Baby P. “REMOVE”.

    • Teresa Costello August 29, 2016 at 4:44 pm #

      Sadley this is not a new story. From the first day I started work as a social worker, in 1993 until the day I took early retirement on health grounds, in 2014, the stress, case loads, lack of constructive support from management was always a big issue for me, it just got worse & worse. I’m so relieved to have left. Unfortunately I still have many friends & gourmet colleagues going through this daily torment.

    • Paul Richards August 30, 2016 at 8:21 am #

      Yes like Mike Jubb I’m not wildly impressed with this social workers stamina! Gave up far too easily.

  2. Ellliot August 23, 2016 at 4:06 pm #

    I relate so much to this. I had a lovely job working at a charity when I enrolled into the social work degree. Interesting job with a lovely work life balance to it, pay could have been better but I could mange easily with what I was on. I wanted to be a social worker because I felt I could best support people this way, this turned out not to be even remotely the case as I just felt like a civil servant filling out forms all day.

    My placements where farcical and had no toga siting or plan to them, the coursework related to the degree was far to much for a person to manage in the type of environment that you are working in and I wasn’t even sure that I would have a job at the end of it(the authority I worked for put people on six month contracts that rolled onto another six months if you hit performance targets, and they wonder why agency workers are in large numbers within teams and services!?!).

    My practice assessor was hopeless and was never there. I left my final placement in May, have been working for another big charity since June and have gone for a promotion into a bigger role which I know I can use my skill set and support the individuals with our service. I have managed to transfer my degree onto another programs and will do my management training soon which has worked better than expected.

    I’m far happier as I have a work life balance again which is something I wouldn’t have had in social work. The final placement and the appalling way it was handled was so stressful it took a big impact on my health and social life. I don’t even though why I wanted to be a social worker in children’s services as prior to this I had no experience but I enjoyed most of it and in particular my first placement. I relate to the pressure, I don’t thinks it’s far to expect people to work and study as the job is just to stressful to manage on your own.

    I really am far happier now, I feel sorry for the poor buggers who are working flat out in LA departments with hardly any resources and in the knowledge that mistakes are not accepted.

  3. Stuart August 23, 2016 at 5:19 pm #

    Thank you very much for that clear and measured outline of much that is wrong.
    It should be compulsory reading for all potential ‘fast track’ social workers – and all others.
    The only thing missing is the name of your ex employer. Maybe it’s time for CC to do some FoI research into employers’ qualities…

  4. Andrea August 23, 2016 at 7:01 pm #

    I concur with Mike Js’ comments re 4 months not being long enough.
    Elliott – charity work is quite different from social work, and not the best place to assess a persons ability to do social work.
    I think article author and Elliott simply not cut out for social work. not everyone can do it, but not enough people want to do it therefore training, dubious placements offered and promised unrealistic levels of support promised to anyone by Govt.

  5. Francis August 23, 2016 at 7:21 pm #

    Psychological resilience and emotional intelligence …. All missing….

    • Janna August 24, 2016 at 11:20 am #

      But are they?? I can see plenty of both in this article…but what he shows is a refusal to accept the inadequacy and inefficiency of the systems. That is an entirely different thing…

    • Yas August 24, 2016 at 8:22 pm #

      I think all of the do-gooders who are trying to say Andy and Elliott are not cut out for social work should look in a mirror, and ask whether they like the long unsociable hours, the unmanageable caseloads, the lack of support and chaotic work environments. Hey, if you don’t have lives or families out of social work, I can see why social work is your life, however for the healthy balanced rest of us, this is not acceptable. As social worker’s we are not good at sticking up for ourselves or good at trying to change the system. I congratulate all of those social workers who got out of the ‘cult’ called social work.

      • Albert Hall August 26, 2016 at 10:44 am #

        YAS. The very worst social workers are those with any kind of ”do-gooder”mentallity. Much llike an ex-pesident of the BVA [British Veterinary Association] who once told me ‘that his worse students were those who’s only motivation for veterinary practice was being an absolute ”animal lover”. Both cloud the required professionalism and practicalities of both professions. Surely the point of Social work, or at least a major part of it, is to ensure ”clients” are enabled to accept PERSONAL responsibility and not to create a system of dependency which, in my opinion, a majority of Social Workers seem to positively encourage possibly to ensure their own continued employment in what is becoming an unsustainable financial burden on the rest of us. I was left as a single and MALE parent way back when. The situation was at the time a rare one and single parent men were NOT entitled to any kind of financial support. Anyway Social Service became a real problem in that they could not stop themselves interfering until I had to take some failrly strong measures to keep them off my back. Maybe I should point out that ALL my kids achieved a high degree of academic success and moved on to University, Armed Service commisions, Degrees and other high level professional qualifications. All from the not-so-well-performing local Comp. All achieved by myself taking personal responsibility for me and mine and I can assure you that at no time did I have very well paid employment being a Local Authority Meat Inspector for most of the time and a farm labourer for the rest of it

    • Louise August 24, 2016 at 10:51 pm #

      No, very clearly evidenced in the article. YOU seem to have missed them.

    • Alfred August 25, 2016 at 8:42 am #

      Quite possibly the author didn’t have the level of psychological resilience & emotional intelligence required. The level required by the system though might be too high, causing a destructive cycle. Level required too high> staff leave> increased workload on remaining staff> level required increases> more staff leave…. and so on.

  6. Wanda August 23, 2016 at 10:47 pm #

    I am in the same situation right now, I love what I’m doing but my experience so far hasn’t been a great one either as a SW. Now I’m rethinking my future and get back into school system as teacher aid or substitute for now. Get back to what I love doing the most.

  7. Janna August 24, 2016 at 11:17 am #

    Thanks for writing this – I appreciate your ‘tell it as it is’ approach. Chimes with my experiences too. Good luck in applying your skills and knowledge in your next career move – ultimately its all about finding a niche to try and make things better for some of the people some of the time… and being realistic about the structures that allow for this and those which will only serve to burn us out.

  8. Sharon August 24, 2016 at 1:57 pm #

    I work for a local authority. I have worked for them for 10 years and only qualified last year on a work sponsored degree (my third degree). My experience couldn’t have been different, and my ASYE has been supported. This was also my second career. What worries me is the number of people coming through with no experience, or experience only gained in non statutory placements. It is very hard to accept that our job has changed so much through austerity but you have to accept it and do what you can to work from the inside to provide the help. My standard case load before asye was 25 cases. However I’ve built up to that through experience. I started as a support worker, which is relatively low paid but excellent grounding. I personally think that anyone contemplating social work needs to start at a lower level and get to know what the nitty gritty is. You can’t legitimately call yourself a social worker based only on a qualification. We work in a person centred way and to understand that you need to know what people are experiencing at the basest level. Good social workers are made.

    • Andrea August 24, 2016 at 2:20 pm #

      well said Sharon and Francis

  9. John August 24, 2016 at 2:56 pm #

    Mr Faulkner’s situation should never had occured.

  10. Tom Hughes August 24, 2016 at 3:47 pm #

    The ASYE and qualifying period of my social work degree was the worst part of it. It only got better three years post qualifying.

  11. Yvonne Bonifas August 24, 2016 at 6:59 pm #

    This demonstrates the utter stupidity offorcing a generic model onto a two year course. Courses should be either childrens or adults with a quick overview of the other side. Two years is just not long enough for both and lets face it how many generic jobs are there? Even places like the Channel Islands have seperate departments afaik. Seems to me social work academics are entirely divorced from reality, or following some preset agenda.

    Alarm bells should have rung very loud when this deadful authority tried to con him into a Surestart placement as adult care. Sadly he seems to jump from fire to fire if he is considering teaching which sounds like it is in an even worse state than social care..

  12. Julia V Abadi August 24, 2016 at 7:51 pm #

    I agree entirely with Sharon; a social worker who is ace at report writing and assessments is not necessarily going to be tuned into the people with whom we work, this ‘knowledge of the way in which families and individuals ‘work’, comes with experience on the job over a longer period of time than the 200 days of placement. Far better to do case work with maybe day release at college to learn the law and the theories than to make the subject so academic with little relevance to the work.I doubt any ‘service user’ is going to say: ‘she/he is marvellous at reports’, but they may feel good that their social worker understands the ways of the world and has empathy for their situation.

  13. Ryan T August 24, 2016 at 7:55 pm #

    This is typical, I work on a team where newly qualified and students are simply ‘left’ so I can appreciate your frustrations here.

    I can imagine the LA chased you for fee’s but hopefully you managed ok. Onwards and upwards.

    R

  14. john pilcher August 24, 2016 at 8:44 pm #

    I returned to the LA in Jan 16 after 13 years with an IFA,. After 4 months I decided that the focus was in meeting OFSTED targets and although working 25 1/2 hours a week in soon appeared there was an expectation to do more hours for free. Social work is at risk of loosing sight of what we are meant to be doing and abusing staff by default. After 38 years in social work I came to the same conclusion as yourself and left at the end of July. I’ve had good times and many challanges but no more for me. So experienced social workers are leaving also as ye recording system just adds to the difficulties. So regardless of work hat others have said there is no way on earth you should have had appeared case laid of 18 and how come no visits done for a year previously is very, vert concerning. You made a wise choice. This authority needs serious help. Thanks for sharing and writing so clearly.

  15. Aurelia Lea August 24, 2016 at 10:17 pm #

    I am not going to belittle this person in any way, this was his experience and his feelings and he owns that, I’m pretty confident he left out a lot. Let’s be brutally honest, Social Work is the most rewarding profession but also the most exasperating and draining. What NQSWs need is good and planned induction however managers are not able to provide sufficient support because they are so over stretched and services are underfunded – it feels as if social work is all too often vilified by politicians and the media and instead of fighting each other we need to get stronger and stand up to those who cut budgets at the expense of supporting the people we came into the profession to make a difference with.

  16. Wowsie Baldwin August 25, 2016 at 12:12 am #

    Can I ask as question please.
    I’d like to ask the people in social care roles.
    “if you could change one thing in your role, what would it be”?

    • Weasel August 26, 2016 at 8:48 am #

      and why

    • Sharon Hughes September 3, 2016 at 2:13 am #

      Thought a lot about this question… the one thing I would remove from social work would be the political manipulation where the general population are conned into blaming the most disadvantaged and poverty stricken children for the national issues created by them to line their own pockets. 11 years child protection social worker

  17. Mike Jubb August 25, 2016 at 1:29 pm #

    Wowsie, my fecal (sic) reply would be “many of my social work colleagues” . My own social work “career” was preceeded by European long distance truck driving followed by dementia residential care work. Two hernia operations were required after the latter! The parochial nature of the some of the replies is a concern and reflects the rather narrow pool from which social workers are often drawn. Only 15 years ago you would have seen many more people with my type of pre-social work experience: then we trained with Probation Officers and the Diploma was just two years. Perhaps we might learn from Probation again and chuck the degree in favour of work based qualifications, where resilience can be fostered as much out of necessity as by right.

  18. wendy August 25, 2016 at 3:26 pm #

    Social work is not for everyone, sometimes people thinks its an easy job not everyone can do it. I qualified in1986 appointed as a generic social worker initially with a case load of 18 cases. it was not easy. you also spent a day three times a month on duty. the profession has changed in every area, especially the people who come into social work. It concerns me someone can become a child protection officer only after 4 months of social work even in education. this is where child protection is going very wrong, big titles for people who do not have an understanding of the assessment process. i suggest this person try and work in assessment team and get a better understanding of his role.it not easy, social work isn,t.

  19. David August 25, 2016 at 4:40 pm #

    After reading this I agree with the author. What he discribes appears to be normal behaviour throughout the profession.. For those who have knocked him stating that he wasn’t cut out for social work really need to look at the reality of how things are. Money is king and is put before the needs of the clients, which means to high case loads and to much time in front of the computer feeding the beast. Why are we there? Well when Social Workers take home work and complete another week in their own time for fear of not meeting time scales are contributing to the problem and not helping to resolve it. Until the profession stands up for its self and say enough is enough the status quo will remain. Management will always continue to ignore the truth and put on workers because it saves money. Workers need to work their hours that they are paid for and no more. If things go out of timescale due to not enough hours in the day then maybe they will have to employ more workers. What other job/profession would the workers work all those extra hours for free? The state of social work is due to Social Workers. Until Social Workers stand up for their profession things will remain the same. How can you stand up for your clients if you can’t even stand up for yourselves? In short stop complaining and do something about it.

    • Jay August 26, 2016 at 8:38 am #

      What other profession works extra hours for free…..? Nursing….. And I agree….until folk stand up together, we will continue to be dumped on…its hard tho…knowing that a vulnerable person will suffer at the end of your shift when no-one else takes over…..

  20. Graham August 25, 2016 at 4:52 pm #

    I can’t help thinking that the respondents above from the ‘macho’ school of social work (hard-headed and resilient) have never held a really large, high risk, caseload with little or no support or they wouldn’t be so insensitive (or is that part of being hard-headed?). Actually they would probably be burnt out, as happens to many colleagues who continue to accept work being dumped on them with no thought or planning, work more than their paid hours and take work home with them (all things I think should be banned).

    This article gives voice to many intelligent, capable people who join this profession with high ideals and are then treated like employees of Sports Direct.

    I have survived more than 30 years in social work by standing up for myself, refusing to accept more work than I think I can manage, refusing to take work home or work more than my paid hours and changing my specialism every so often so as to be refreshed and re-enthused Believe me it is worth the risk of being bullied or disciplined as bullies will rarely stand up to assertiveness when it is clearly right.

    • Weasel August 26, 2016 at 8:48 am #

      seems there should be more like you that ‘stand your ground’ well done – hope others in your field can take a leaf out of your book and send senior management ‘homeward to think again’!

  21. Marjo August 25, 2016 at 8:00 pm #

    I couldn’t study social work longer than two years after I saw how poorly state and the municipality treats people. It was a trauma. I can’t understand how social workers accept the social reality created by state. I just felt so very sick like seeing what happened in nazi-Germany is still alive in s form of social work.

  22. Weasel August 26, 2016 at 8:44 am #

    It seems a problem with senior management – ‘It was such a shame that senior management couldn’t (or wouldn’t) listen to the concerns’ – but it would probably be almost impossible for these people to be removed from their positions – as it seems they contribute to the problem and not to the solution. I makes me wonder why authorities are at time resistant to such issues of appointing the proper qualified staff where they are needed – too many chiefs and not enough indians is my guess .

  23. Merrily August 26, 2016 at 10:34 am #

    I think this guy is using a variety of excuses for his unsuitability for social work. Quitting anything after four months is scarcely giving it a decent chance in the first place. You can hardly even describe yourself as a ‘social worker’ at such an early stage.

    Nothing wrong with the saying ‘if you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen’, but if that’s what applies to you, own it. Don’t blame everyone around you for your unhappiness. Many of us have made bad career choices and changed horses, but have done so without troubling to blame all those around us.

    • Colin August 26, 2016 at 3:24 pm #

      But if so many people are getting out of the kitchen, surely time to worry about the heat !Sad to see nothing has changed. In the late 60s, I s in a very good Childrens department with a university Social Administration qualification, which included an extended placement with a Founder of Family Service Units, ( Pacifist Service at the start) training in the nuts and bolts.
      A good 4 years, with lots of in-service training in the nuts and bolts. No yet generic in those days, and recovering from the demise of the LCC . The endless paperwork wore me down, and a final irritation drove me to resign. A tear or so o/ f mini cabbing, and running a genuine Joe Benjamin style adventure playground, where we cooked on real fires and built real dens and towers (shock horror) led me to be trawled into anotherlocal Social Services Dept
      Now generic, which various, ex specialists struggling with generic caseloads. A n older worker, the previous blind support worker, sat weeping at her desk,, unable to cope with teenage delinquent boys. She left within weeks, no one to cope with incoming brail letters from clients, or work her specialist machine.
      It soon became clear that the gradual intake of proudly qualified workers had lots of psychological understanding, but no training in the everyday tasks, like juvenile court work, guardian ad litem reports, mental health sections, or just face to face relationships with clients.
      The overriding ethos seemed seemed to be total loyalty to the Department’s reputation. The endless numbers of elderly clients in need of residential care could not be fitted into our dire number of residential beds, but telling tearful and sometimes threatening families the truth drew down furious memos from on high if they complained to Councillors.
      Senior supervisors had no knowledge of the wider work, my first was an ex mental health worker who offered some guidance in the complex logistics of dealing with emergencies and our legal responsibilities. Soon after I left, a totally inexperienced senior in this field sent a totally untrained young worker to deal with a very difficult situation, from which she fled, leaving them to die in mysterious circumstances. The Director assured Councillors that all workers now had special training, but in fact supplied by the same senior.
      I was clearly a worm in the bud, another 4 years was clearly enough . hints like a refused car loan, an area manager who refused to support my claim for damage to my car by a disturbed teenage, for whom I should have been given an escort, saying “I think you are justified, but I’m chasing up new jobs, and I don’t want to rock the boat”.

      It seems the same problems still exist. A previous Director wrote in a trade journal his puzzlement at the use of the word Client in relationship to the public. SWs were employed by the Borough, the Borough was their client. A “professional” training course had on its staff no one with any experience of field work, the head of another course told me “We are not a vocational course, we teach the theory”.
      No social worker skewered by the press for not visiting a problem family every day, is ever supported in saying ” I have 37 families like this on my case load, 24 hours were not enough”
      Later, running a community organisation, and taking many trainee social workers for their final placement, I was appalled at the holes in their training which should have been recognised and dealt with, li.ke a fear of being alone with a client, she was just told that would never happen !
      Yes,, the bulk of social workers should revolt, not pursue dreams of being psychiatrists,
      but in my day the campaign was to be recognised as a profession. My letter in “Social Work Today” which suggested we were a trade, not a profession, and time we learned how to do it, never got printed.
      A trade I took pride in leaning, and serving as well as I could. Walking down the market, and being greeted after many years, by stallholders I helped keep out of jail perhaps, and seeing in the news someone I placed for adoption many years ago in sad circumstances with my favourite adopters, now with her own family.

      • Philip Bannister August 29, 2016 at 7:05 am #

        Colin your social work is my social work, experience including the FSU element. dare I say it but today it’s not social work just social engineering on a conveyor belt of administration tick boxes designed to ensure that every child is protected and no child is protected, that children are denied often the right to growing up with birth parents. A senior civil servant said once to me that if we take enough children off the incompetent , feckless, drug and alcohol abusing parents and give them to adopters we might be able to create a social order that removes low lifers and create a better society. You could not make this up but that is exactly the policy that is being pursued like a holy grail from top to bottom in the government .

  24. Socrates August 26, 2016 at 11:39 am #

    Well I am glad the guy got another career to fall back on when times get tough. Unlike those in need of care who will now be passed on to some other bureaucrat who doesn’t care one bit about them. To carers, it is a job/career, to the people they care for it is their lives and they can’t just stop the carousel and get off when things do not go their way.

    But I guess seeing a problem in the system and quitting is easier than seeing the problem and trying to fix it.

  25. Sally August 26, 2016 at 12:04 pm #

    After 25 years as a social worker then team Manager I was medically retired from a profession that has seen many changes over the years. The role changed from generic, with social workers allocated cases that covered all areas, to it becoming split into assessment, review, rehab, teams. I think this change is deskilling people and takes away from building a working relationship with clients. Over the years the social workers coming onto teams who had newly qualified had a idealised view of being able to make a difference (we all felt that at), only to have the enthusiasm, drive and love for the job be eroded by cuts and endless changes to what the role actually was.

    Lack of funding to provide the support assessed, closure of many services, the endless form filling and the numerous changes to those form all added to the pressures of the job. The high profile cases and the way in which the social workers were thrown to the wolves helped to create a, watch your back working environment. I have yet to read a Chief Exec of a LA hold their hand up and admit the social workers had unrealistic workloads or teams had sufficient staff. I also feel the role has been de-professionalised with the SW having to take on more and more admin tasks with little time for proactive work. Too often newly qualified workers are expected to hit the ground running on day one, most have little experience of process and procedures and many are given cases they just don’t have the experience to manage. I think a probation time should be the norm for all newly qualified workers, irrespective of their experience working within social care. Shadowing a mentor until both are happy to move onto working under their own steam.

    I noticed the job change so much in the last 10 years, community based work, counselling, knowledge of legislation, funding and the time to work proactively had diminished, with crisis work being the order of the day. Damned shame, being a social worker always gave me enormous satisfaction, even when carrying high caseloads or working after hours, I always felt it came with the job, rightly or wrongly, it worked for me, until it no longer did. The heavy reliance on agency staff doesn’t help and IMHO, the focus should be on staff retention, valuing staff and a revisit of just what the role of a social worker is evolving to.

  26. Mike Jubb August 26, 2016 at 12:14 pm #

    We are fortunate to live in a society where you still can say no to poor conditions of employment ( perceived or actual). If you are a Filipino seeking work in Saudi Arabia right now and reading some of the replies , may I aplogise for the little England mentality on display. Hard working and skilled overseas workers have already filled many of the UK jobs to which the British worker can no longer apply the required skill-set. Perhaps social work is the next dirty job to be taken over by someone , who won’t see home,family or much of their take-home pay often for years.

  27. cw August 26, 2016 at 2:19 pm #

    Well I read the tale and frankly……………………..not much application and determination there then. No sympathy from me.

    So it was difficult, so you felt you weren’t prepared ? Being a social worker is surely about helping others not whinging about how burdened you feel you are and how sorry you feel for yourself.

    You go through all that training and hop off the bus at the first indication of things getting a little difficult.
    Show some backbone for goodness sake. There are millions of people all over the world who just HAVE to turn up for work everyday despite being under far more pressure than you seem to feel you were under. The difference is they will go hungry if they chuck the towel in.

    I’m self employed and it took me years, literally, to get to any kind of situation where I was not under pressure all the time. Even now after 3 decades it is a constant never ending battle.

    4 months is all you gave it, 16 weeks, 80 working days. What a poor example. It’s just as well kids entering the work place today have a damn sight more staying power than you do.

  28. Stuart Paul Banks August 26, 2016 at 4:03 pm #

    Writing assessment and attendance reports to notarize what you have conducted to delight your superiors, qualify as a professional and achieve career progression is secondary to the permanent improvement you make in your clients life. When I worked as a mobile security supervisor contracted to the council of a rundown, apartment complex with drug, vandalism and theft problems. A young, distraught female approached me inside clutching a baseball bat and shouting threats of violence against a group of teenage males outside who she thought had kidnapped her 5 year old son. After convincing her that threats of violence against the boys would not return her son to the safety of her care and to return the baseball bat to her secured apartment . I identified myself as security personnel with the authority to secure the council property and maintain the health, safety & welfare of tenants residing in the apartment. Requesting her to accompany me in the security marked vehicle to indicate and travel to addresses within walking distance of her apartment building of friends and family known to her and her son in the nearby area. We found her son playing happily in the rear garden with the nieces and nephews of his mothers sisters house who had collected him with her brood, without the knowledge of his mother or permission from the school.

  29. sophia August 26, 2016 at 5:14 pm #

    I remember when “social work” was being carried out by neighbors and friends who cared.

    Now it has merely become part of a corrupt greedy system with control freaks who have no business running a “business” for government and NGOs, in order to pigeon-hole people who are the least fortunate, and the most vulnerable.

    Kudos to workers who have TRUE CONCERN and aren’t in this for the money! University “degrees” have become a TOTAL CON, and corrupt systems and greedy managers too often abet these cons! FAR too much money has been poured into “management,” and people’s freedoms have been taken away by those “helping” them.

    Same thing is happening in Hawaii and California. If you are part of a corrupt system in any manner, you end up being corrupt too, and unable to help others on any REAL level!

  30. fouad August 26, 2016 at 6:18 pm #

    whilst i have some sympathy with the author, i don’t feel any sense of ‘rolling up his sleeves and getting stuck in’, in anything he has written, and of course you have to do just that in all walks of working life…and four months isn’t anywhere near long enough to get a feel for the job, let alone to make any sort of meaningful contribution.

    my overriding impression of this piece, is that he left it a little too late to enter a profession that requires strength and stamina-the type that you have in your thirties / forties.

    and also to add that to see people in lebanon and other middle eastern countries working in the baking heat all day long, selling fruit and veg etc, by the side of the road, for very little reward with which to feed their families….it seems to me that the author appears to have a very churlish perception of reality, to say the least.

  31. John Lowrie August 27, 2016 at 3:19 am #

    Andy

    People with your skills and dedication are much needed in Cambodia, where unfortunately social work is in the hands of amateurs!

    http://anorthumbrianabroad.blogspot.com/2015/03/careless-in-community.html

  32. Anita Singh August 28, 2016 at 10:22 pm #

    Well done for having the sense to recognise that the situation would continue and matters would not improve. This is not about staying power, but preventing the start of a pattern of abuse of your goodwill, working long unpaid overtime, never being able to take TOIL (if you could you would not be accruing it in the first place), carrying the stress and worry from being overloaded and then being blamed with accusations of poor time management when you can’t keep up – you had a lucky escape and are fortunate enough to have a different profession to fall back on – best of luck to you.

  33. Crystal August 29, 2016 at 1:08 am #

    After reading the vast majority of the replies, I have to say I agree with them. About case loads, bullying, agency staff, deskilling of the social work role. management set unrealistic. Social work is the caring profession but no one cares as long as Senior managers get the targets at any cost and their fat pay cheques.

    So much for the caring profession

  34. Philip Bannister August 29, 2016 at 7:16 am #

    Since retiring I have avoided social work things, but I could not resist commenting on some aspects of replies incuding the frequency of statements by some fellow professionals that Andy did not (my summary). Try hard enough, stick with it , give it commitment. In my experience (extensive) people who say this are just defending their own dilemma of having to stay In a broken profession, because simply that it what it is ,

    My broader perspective will set the pages burning but at least I have the freedom to say:

    Response to the issues raised . , i as a retired senior adviser in social care QA, and best value with a extensive CP career history in the NSPCC, local authorites with years of experience in SW , HR and Business reengineering .

    I completely refute the claim that Andy is wrong in fact he is as they say ‘ bang on the money ” Social work as a profession has been reduced to an administration process, front line management rarely is able to support workers and many are running scared for their jobs becoming nothing less than performance monitors . Senior managers are often incompetent and have risen to the level of incompetence. The HCPC attempts to regulate an already broken profession , alarm bells ring as the numbers of social workers who are referred outstrips all other professions the HCPC represent , but few if hardly any are ever managers referred for malpractice , professional errors etc.

    The whole function of social work needs a major review and restructure . Some functions of safeguarding would sit better with the police in special teams. The older persons functions would sit better with Fire and Rescue and Health , Children’s services should be devolved to locality based services in schools . In another words I am saying take the social work function off local authorities and disband it to select units with social enterprise solutions , charities and dedicated service teams eg Special Needs, Disability , etc.

    The commissioning function should be dealt with in the same way as health through multi disciplinary commissioning groups. Social work management should include senior practitioner requirements right through to the very top ie a fitness to practice check and a minimum requirement to have practised of a least 50 hours a year for PO grade managers ie front line activity .

    You can tell that there is something really broken when the profession is being subject to imprisonment as a method to mange practise errors .

    It’s a big step change but without it nothing will change .

    Finally in my early career we reminded committed to actually enabling people to change before draconian intervention to remove children – forever. The choice I witnessed in the last three years of my career was that one strike your out , baby up for adoption , no assessment to change. Just a simple risk assessment which every time said no we can’t let this turn into a Baby P. “REMOVE”.

  35. Mike Jubb August 30, 2016 at 2:38 pm #

    Phillip Andy and myself are all from the old school it would seem : if you spot us reminiscing together in a real ale pub anywhere in your neighbourhood, my advice would be to give us a wide berth. Overtaken by “Modern Times” , like Charlie Chaplin, we attempt to screw the nut , just before being crushed by the next movement in the Time Machine. I do have sympathy for them both seeming to be nice guys but anyone who knows that Brian Wilson wrote , ” I guess I just wasnt made for these times” ( Pet Sounds The Beach Boys) ought to be closer to receiving social care than doling it out.