Last in the satisfaction league, why do social workers stay?

    The Rolling Stones could get no satisfaction. If the findings of
    a recent survey on job happiness are anything to go by, social
    workers feel the same.

    The City and Guilds survey found that out of 30 professional
    groups, social workers are the least satisfied. But is this a fair
    reflection of how social workers view their profession?

    None of the social workers of the 1,250 interviewed said they
    found the job unfulfilling, or that they lacked autonomy or respect
    from their seniors. But, stress, poor pay and feeling undervalued
    are the main factors for feeling unhappy.

    The professionals happiest in their jobs – hairdressers and care
    assistants – enjoy plenty of interaction with clients. According to
    Ian Johnston, director of the British Association of Social
    Workers, the amount of time social workers spend with clients is
    being squeezed.

    “They feel they are not empowered to work creatively with people
    and instead of championing rights are asked to be the gatekeepers
    and managers of services,” he said.

    Jo Moriarty, social work research fellow at King’s College
    London, said the perception social workers have of their job is one
    where there is increasing pressure from bureaucracy.

    “People perceive there is more paperwork than in the past and an
    increase in expectation on public servants,” she added. “People
    tend to go into social work for the interaction with others, not to
    just fill in forms. It is a waste of resources to just be doing
    that and employers should reduce it.” But she said social workers
    always scored high with job stress due to the nature of some of
    their tasks.

    She added that social workers’ basic training was not good
    enough to help people cope with the demands and pressures. “Saying
    it goes with the territory is OK if you’ve learned strategies to
    cope, but not if you haven’t been taught them.”

    It was also important for social work employers to identify
    whether the dissatisfaction was down to the fundamentals of the job
    or organisational issues, Moriarty concluded.

    Ian Wilson, director of social services at Tower Hamlets
    Council, said support from management was a key factor in staff job
    happiness, and believed there was a link between that and social
    services star ratings.
    “I’m sure there are many social workers who don’t get sufficient
    support from their organisation and it is not surprising they are

    “The extent of good peer support and supervision, training and
    promotion opportunities and restricted case loads will all have a
    bearing on it,” he added.

    Personal development specialist Stephanie Sparrow agreed it was
    important for employees to get feedback from managers and have
    regular appraisals. But she said it was important for the sector to
    try and tackle the issue of too much paperwork. “Those who are
    dissatisfied with their job have gone in with an idea of what the
    job would be only to find out it is something else – dealing with
    paper instead of people is the classic example.
    “People get job satisfaction when they can see they are progressing
    towards personal goals: if they are helping people they can see
    that but if they can’t see that in doing paperwork then they are
    not going to get it,” she said.

    How do staff feel?

    • 2% are very happy at work.
    • 7% have a good social life at work.
    • 14% say they are adequately financially rewarded.
    • 29% sometimes think about changing careers.
    • 31% believe they have fulfilled their ambition.
    • 31% say they learn new things.
    • 36% feel respected at work.
    • 64% do not want to change their careers.
    • 74% do not regret their choice of career.

    Source: City and Guilds

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