Why do so few ever acknowledge, or even accept that social work
is a hard profession?. Our administration staff on a Monday can
speak to 300 to 400 callers, many of whom transfer to their own
social workers, but the rest, new to us, phoning in anger, in
desperation, with stories of pain, degradation and illness. I spoke
to a man today whose son is in the terminal stage of cancer.
Another’s wife has MS. Young stroke victims abound. I suppose now
we no longer die of scarlet fever and diphtheria, Nature rubbed her
hands with glee, and allowed us to live to get cancer, strokes and
You can see why so few people go into social work. Not only is
the actual task difficult, whether the clients are children or
elderly or in between, but we are lambasted all the time. I can’t
be the only person who has escaped being on the front page of the
papers by the skin of my teeth. It was Napoleon, I believe, who,
when asked what he wanted from his generals. said they had to be
lucky. We ought to ask DipSW applicants that.
I can confirm that the men who phone still need a much greater
time on the phone, or demand more time when interviewed, to tell
the whole story. Is this because women are better at being
succinct, or have more experience in talking about circumstances?
Is it that these men, fathers of schizophrenics, husbands of ill
wives, sons of demented parents, are still expected to cope because
they are men? And so no one sits them down and gives them time to
talk it out. Mention carers’ services, support groups and so on and
many shy away.
Day in today, duty, intake, call it what you will. We are
responding within 36 hours to non-crisis referrals and the clients
are split fifty -fifty between those who say “So soon?” and those
who growl “What took you so long?”. One guy phoned our emergency
team yesterday at midnight, not with a crisis, but to ask advice
about a long-standing problem. They got annoyed with him, and he
with them, and now with me. What a mess. But he had a point. He’s
the very elderly carer for a disabled partner, woke up in the night
feeling ill, and thought, What if I die? Who will know? Who will
look after her? So he picked up the phone. Anyway I gave some
information but offered a home visit to work out plans and to leave
telephone numbers written in large letters in case of
“difficulties” as he put it.
However this offer worried him. He worried that my husband let
me visit other men unescorted, and he worried what people would say
seeing me walk into the house. Is he kidding?
The new rota started this week and I check anxiously to see if I
am in charge today. No, relieved sigh, some other person must deal.
Somehow the inclusion of my name on this rota leaves me feeling
very anxious. No not duty – that’s nothing. This is the fridge
cleaning rota, writ large and pasted on the fridge door. One of our
more efficient social work staff has taken charge of the need to
prevent the team room looking and smelling like a dustbin. The
interior of my fridge at home, alas, bears no resemblance to this
now hygienic one in the team room and I wonder if I have the skills
to do it right. Only time will tell.