This week’s writer is a policy officer


Having spent the weekend reading negative social services press,
I journey to work with a weary heart. When I arrive I am called by
a former colleague now working in a beacon council. However, the
only thing they really seem to excel at is public relations. She
tells me that her working life is pretty bizarre. Lauded in the
press, morale at “the coal face” has never been worse and she is
faced with the standard recruitment and retention problems. Many a
story is spoiled by the truth.


I’m attending a course today and the venue is a short walk from
the station, but I realise that something is not quite right when I
reach the address at the top of my invite. It’s a carpet shop. I
venture inside to ask the gent at the counter if he can assist, but
he holds up a card, which says, “I do not speak English. The owner
of the shop is out and will return soon.”. I check the invite
again, finding an alternative address with a different property
number. The correct venue is directly opposite. From the conference
hall first floor window I am treated to the amusing sight of my
fellow delegates having exactly the same experience as myself.


The weather we have had of late has resulted in virtually all my
cricket matches being cancelled. Consequent fixture congestion
means I have to play a mid-week match. As usual, any reasonable
behaviour is quickly discarded and I am warned by the umpire for
over-appealing for a catch behind. Mind you I’m much worse when I
play football. I say things to the referee that would result in
instant dismissal at work. But I’m not the only one to disgrace
themselves in my football team, whose members by day are teachers,
bankers and parents. So much for setting an example.


Meet a group of second year DipSW students to share with them my
thoughts about a career in social services. I wander in with little
preconceived thought and the first question stops me in my tracks.
“Why did you choose a career in social work?”. I freeze. Then I
remember. “Because to me it’s a career that has meaning”, I
triumphantly say. Then I treat the group to political principles
ranging from socialism to direct action. Some of the group even
scribble down some of the things I say! I’m deeply impressed by
them as group but even more so at my ability to recall why it is I
go to work each day.


There is one thing that has been a constant throughout my social
work career and that is training, especially the “splitting up into
small groups” and “feedback to the large group” technique. Boy,
can’t somebody think of another method!? After an hour of today’s
internal “Performance Management” course, the trainer utters the
words I’ve been dreading. “What we’d like you to do now is to split
up into small groups and….” I miss the rest of the sentence. We
shuffle our chairs into small groups and do our best to find some
points of interest. It’s going to be a tough day and it’s only
10:30 am.

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