Podcast: risk of burnout in child protection and learning disability social work

New podcast episode discusses research into rates of burnout and the possible causes

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Photo: ImageBroker/REX/Shutterstock

Stress and burnout are perennial issues in social work; sometimes it seems as though they are inextricably linked to the demands of the profession. This is particularly the case in child protection social work, often regarded as the most difficult kind of social work. Distressing and highly publicised cases of child abuse and death, such as Baby P, and the media’s reaction, have no doubt contributed to this.

In 2015, as part of Community Care’s Stand up for Social Work campaign, academic Paula McFadden conducted research into burnout in all areas of social work. 1,359 Community Care readers responded, and now McFadden, Jill Manthrope and John Mallett have compared the indicators of burnout in child protection with learning disability social work.

McFadden and Manthorpe discuss their research in a new podcast episode for Community Care Inform, which we have made available to non-subscribers to Inform as well to recognise the contribution that our readers made to the research. In the podcast, McFadden explains the motivation for the research:

There was lots of literature about levels of stress and burnout in relation to child protection, and there seemed to be a complete gap in the knowledge in relation to workers working with those with learning disabilities. So we were looking to see, ‘Well what are the key differences? What can we unravel and unfold and what are the comparisons between those two areas of practice?

They found that levels of burnout risk are more similar than might be expected. Using the Maslach Burnout Inventory, social workers completed a survey that asked questions over three domains of burnout: emotional exhaustion, depersonalisation and personal accomplishment. They found that high levels of emotional exhaustion were reported by 69% of learning disability social workers, compared with 75% of child protection social workers.

In the 25-minute podcast episode, Manthorpe and McFadden discuss their research, why there has been little attention paid to stress and burnout in learning disability social work, and how issues such as supervision may have contributed. You can listen to and download the podcast on iTunes. Community Care Inform subscribers can access supporting information and a transcript of the podcast on Inform Adults and Inform Children.

One Response to Podcast: risk of burnout in child protection and learning disability social work

  1. londonboy November 7, 2017 at 12:55 pm #

    A recently posted job description for an Education, Health and Care Case Plan Worker for a local authority listed as an essential skill ‘Must be able to deal with difficult families’.

    Families with needs are indeed difficult for local authorities, particularly if they know their and their child’s rights. That makes us particularly difficult I’m guessing. More difficult than families with domestic violence, addiction or poor mental health I’m wondering?. Who knows or cares – best call us difficult and just ‘deal with us’ if we are so foolhardy as to ask for help and silly enough to expect respect.

    Maybe this is what is meant by ’emotional exhaustion and depersonalisation’? Must be awfully difficult for social workers?

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