The writer survives another week in an elders’ team


Came into work a bit flummoxed about last night. Went to a dinner as appendage
– wife to famous husband – and was greeted by several people with “Your lot
look a right mess” or “You must feel very ashamed”. Apparently some colleagues
were shown on TV protesting about something and were described as a scruffy
lot. I suggested wearing suits didn’t affect performance and many a solicitor
or surgeon had cocked up in Saville Row tailoring. Another appendage wife told
me she too had been a social worker until she had her children 40 years ago,
but she had been proud to call herself a Lady Almoner and always wore a suit.
Again this curious emphasis on clothes making the man or woman. And I don’t
like being asked “Are you still a social worker?”, also known as “Have you
still got that nasty skin disease?”


Check messages from yesterday. Three aren’t for me and I realise yet again that
with a common surname you get all the calls or post meant for fellow workers
with the same name. So I can’t really advise a coach company on taking 75
pensioners to Brighton, nor arrange an urgent delivery of incontinence pads,
nor have I ordered a smoked salmon tea for 20 disabled people going to a
matinee of Gone with the Wind.


Practice teachers in our office, realising their new students start next week,
swirl round like dervishes collecting chairs and phones and looking for spare
desks. I seize the opportunity to transfer three clients to the students on the
basis that working with them will make it possible to demonstrate all facets of
the social work task that can then be enlarged with reference to the six social
work values. No one has a clue what I’m talking about but it sounds good and
the files are taken on with thanks. The crunch will come when these student
social workers, children of a computer age, find we still write reports out by
hand, or the more sophisticated among us dictate them, and there isn’t a spare
PC to be found.


Oh look, there’s a new reorganisation plan – comments within one working week.
Sixteen pages of close typing – must have taken hours to prepare. Haven’t read
the last one yet, nor have I taken in information on the new nursing care
components, nor read the articles on direct payments. There’s also a new local
authority circular on out-of-London funding for residential care and a 10-page
report on a homeless persons’ drop-in centre. Last week’s Community Care
lies pristine on my desk, as do the preparation documents on training days
concerned with adult abuse and care of the dying. When am I going to read them


Two possible conmen have walked in with stories about stolen passports, asking
for money and, of course, the duty social worker has phoned in sick. In
desperate need to fill six vacancies we interviewed two social workers from
abroad, with EU-compatible qualifications but, alas, no grasp of English. Ten
social work agencies offer no one else.

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