I was in social work for 16 years before becoming a staff trainer.
A few months ago, after 17 years out of the profession, I took up a
short-term contract as a social worker dealing with young people. I
was shocked by how much social work has changed.
I spent my first day looking like a frightened rabbit. It was all
so different – the law, the other agencies, and the procedures. In
my first week I was introduced to a battery of new jargon. I met a
number of PAs (personal advisers), was sent to the YOT (youth
offending team), telephoned the DAT (drugs and alcohol team) and
was told to complete a LAC(looked-after children) review. There
were also significant changes to the legislation. But what I found
most frustrating was the plethora of new agencies involved in the
lives of young people and the dearth of appropriate
I felt sure my colleagues were growing tired of my asking “What’s
that?” but I’d forgotten how supportive everyone could be and the
real sense of camaraderie that exists despite the immense workload.
I had also forgotten about the noise that is generated in a
cramped, open-plan office.
Then there’s the new technology. Seventeen years earlier I had a
team of typists eager to complete my handwritten reports. Now I
type directly on to a computer file. As for the e-mails – without a
way of screening them I was quickly inundated with mountains of
information of little relevance to me or my job.
During my short time back at work I completed seven violence at
work incident forms, called the police to the office on four
separate occasions and have experienced a number of sleepless
nights worrying about decisions where a high level of risk was
involved. I wouldn’t have coped without supportive colleagues and
skilled managers, and I cannot overemphasise the value of quality
I have enjoyed my experience but feel pessimistic that the goal of
the National Task Force on Violence to reduce the number of
assaults on workers in social care settings will be achieved. I’ll
be pleased to return to freelance training knowing that the months
back on the floor have provided me with a wealth of
Ray Braithwaite is a freelance trainer in violence and
stress at work.