I’m off. but first, a form to fill in

    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.

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