Child care social workers in Liverpool are taking indefinite
strike action. But the strike is not about pay. So what is it that
drives a dedicated group of people, some of whom have worked for
the local authority for many years, to take such action?
Social workers do a difficult job in difficult circumstances and
most social workers go the extra mile to ensure that a service is
delivered. They often accumulate many hours of lieu time, not
overtime, working to ensure that the lack of experienced
workers, staff vacancies and few, if any, admin support does not
interfere with the quality of the service offered. Unfortunately,
senior managers fail to acknowledge these extra miles and the
strain this creates within the workforce.
In Liverpool, social workers are now saying that enough is
enough. Staff feel that senior managers just do not care, and talk
about improvements in services as though they alone were
responsible for them, appearing not to understand how to value
Social work values are such that showing people they are valued
is often one way to bring about change. This can often bring
positive outcomes, but only if all parties are included in
understanding the need for change.
Until senior managers (many of whom have been front-line
practitioners) remember this, they will not have the trust or
respect of their workforce. Experienced practitioners will continue
to leave the profession, unwilling to continue to pay a personal
price for trying to do the job without the resources or
consideration of senior management.
Surely all who are involved in delivering services to some of
the most vulnerable people in Liverpool share the vision that these
services should be the best possible and that the staff are an
essential part of the process.
Liverpool social workers have a history of delivering services
that are innovative and client-focused, and have ideas and opinions
on achieving good outcomes. They are not automatons and managers
should remember that the service would be the poorer without them.
Let’s hope for the sake of all of the vulnerable children in
Liverpool that this is recognised sooner rather than later.
Elizabeth McAteer is an independent social worker who
used to work in Liverpool’s children’s