There is only one way to retain social work staff and that is to
allow us to be what we trained to be. I am sick of hearing
half-baked ideas intended to encourage us to stay, such as improved
salaries, professional registers or access to reasonable housing. I
find it incredible that people still miss the point.
I am a degree-qualified social worker and have been employed for
14 years by several councils. But I am actively seeking a way out
of the job.
This is mainly because of the idiotic bureaucracy that is
foisted upon us by local and central government. When I came into
the job I spent 80 per cent of my time in the community with my
clients. I now spend 80 per cent of my time inputting information
into computers and doing paperwork.
Although I would not compare my role as a social worker to that
of a consultant surgeon, I do think that people would be incensed
if they knew highly skilled surgeons spent 80 per cent of their
time completing paperwork and reports and just 10 per cent using
their skills in the operating theatre. As it is, the police force
is undergoing a shake-up as it has been recognised that officers
spend more of their time processing paperwork than being on the
street doing what they are trained to do.
I trained for four years to be in the community supporting
people. Had I wanted to be a typist, clerk, finance officer or
compiler of statistical information I would have trained for one of
those posts. Our clients criticise us for not having enough time to
see them – perhaps the politicians should spend some time working
with us to get a feel for our difficulties.
Several years ago I had a meeting with a social services
director who was planning to introduce retention bonuses. I advised
him to keep the money and instead employ clerks and computer
operators, allowing me the chance to do what I was trained for.
As I wrote this, guess what landed on my desk? A request to
provide monthly monitoring data on another aspect of the care we
provide. Yet again I have to cancel the appointment I had arranged
with a client.
Colin Smith is a duty social worker working with adults
with physical and sensory disabilities.