Your views on roles and tasks

Last month the GSCC launched its consultation on the roles and tasks of social workers. We asked our readers to have their say on what social work looks like at its very best?  The entry judged to be the best by the editor of the magazine, Mike Broad, was from Liz Willetts who will receive an ipod.

Winning entry as judged by Community Care’s editor Mike Broad.

Social work, at its best, looks like the kind of care and support people say they need in order to be themselves, as they define themselves, connected to the communities that are meaningful to them. Social work, at its best, is social care, delivered by people who are good at their job. That means that they need the right mixture of professionalism – competent, confident, well informed  and well-managed – and humanity.

Social work, at its best, looks like unobtrusive practical and emotional help, delivered kindly, that any individual should be able to expect as a right in a civilised society in the 21st century.

Social work, at its best, does the best it can with what there is. This requires resourcefulness, innovation and creativity to underpin the values of the profession. If social workers are to do more with what they have got, they need courage to challenge and do away with poor practice. They need encouragement and support to find a variety of solutions to meet a variety of needs.

Social work at its best is a friendly animal, happy to work in partnership with other organisations where this means that resources and energies can be pooled, to the benefit of service users. There is no place for hierarchies or territorialism, but there is a strong argument for the social work that is evolving to meet 21st century needs to be true to its roots and core values – to keep the `social care` perspective that makes it different from clinical/medical care, or `charity`.    

Social work at its best is what I want for me and mine should we ever need it – where I have some say in what happens, where services are provided by organisations who know what they are doing and are realistically resourced, whose workers are supported and valued and able to do a good job. That, to me, is social work at its best, and we should all want it for everyone.  

Liz Willetts    

Other entries

At its best social work empowers people to find their own solutions, enables people to live more successfully and independently and brings together communities.  It helps to transform lives in innumerable ways and draws on people’s own strengths to do this.  Social workers work in a number of disciplines nowadays.  I work as a team manager in a charitable substance misuse agency in Birmingham and am able to raise the profile of social work by fostering good working links with social work offices and other organisations.  Roles and tasks that focus on the above are essential to the registered social worker as well as peer and line management support.  Administrative tasks detract from how social workers can best spend their time as can duty rotas at times.  The balance of power is rightly changing as users of services seek advice for themselves from a number of sources such as the internet.  Social workers by their very nature are not the experts but work alongside users of services to empower and enhance those people’s lives we sought to help when we first enrolled on that social work course and then registered with the GSCC.
Colette Turner

Social Work at its best would ensure that everybody is entitled to and receives a professional service. That their is good communication that improves protection and reduces duplication. To achieve this means getting the basics right and treating people with dignity and respect. Realistic and manageable caseloads that match the skills and expertise of all those involved. Dare I say clear investment in preventative work rather than knee jerk reactions and if we had a complete wish list then investment in community work to support the regeneration of communities and disaffected youth.
Roles and tasks for registered social workers should be assessment tasks and some direct service delivery / or direct support / over seeing service delivery .Direct service delivery for complex cases.- because very often it is a social workers practice experience and post qualifying training that gives skills and knowledge in managing these cases.
Social workers should not have to undertake lots of administrative tasks (they end up being high paid typists and photocopiers and not doing the job they are trained to do). They should not undertake routine transport tasks – again this wastes time and is not a good use of resources. Social workers should not have to hunt down managers to make simple decisions – this also wastes a lot of time.
Balance of power between the roles of social workers and people they serve – as a social worker qualified over 16 years I believe social workers are more distant and this is a contradiction of personal social service – which I believe the current government are trying rekindle eg personal social care. Their is a still a lack of balance, although user groups are getting more of a voice the reality of resources meeting / matching need is not there.
Affect on social work role by membership of / out posting to multi agency teams – in some ways this is good and should improve communication and understanding – however the risk is diluting the social worker role. Multi disciplinary cannot really be effectively done without multi disciplinary training – regularly – as well as attending to the function of the overall team. As a matter of course training of all disciplines should be addressed together as part of pre qualification. Not only to address roles but understanding of culture and values. All agencies probably have a long way to go on this. another impact on social worker’s and distancing them away from their own teams and service  – is business practices around productivity that do not work in services where you are dealing with human beings their should be caution in this approach as ultimately it will affect social work practice and practitioner in a negative way. Considering theories such as attachment when predictability and stability are key – a lot of arrangements for practitioners are the opposite i.e. hot desking, limited space for belongings, no office pod, limited parking provision, encouragement of solitary working and fragmentation of teams.
Definition of senior roles in social work defined – These should be practitioner / practice lead opposed to being management and distant from practice. Experience practitioners – as in years of experience and practice experience and post qualifying awards need to be encouraged to remain in the profession and rewarded for their practice and skills. their role is to ensure high standards of practice and support and mentor those entering the profession. They should be able to make relevant decisions instead of spending time hunting down managers. They should have space to further develop skills and the service they work in – in reality this rarely happens as teams are usually operating under staff.

Julia Semmence

I want our role to be seen as helpers and enablers.  I have almost grown so used to being called a “Bloody Social Worker”! I think we need to work harder at “coming alongside” people.  Not just dictating to people how to live their lives. 

I worked in Children and Families Social work for over ten years.  I think that the PQ framework is good, and it is also good to be taught to reflect and think about our actions, and our words. 

I think that we really need to overhaul the Child Protection “system”.  We need to adhere to evidence based practice. I also happen to believe that Anti-Oppressive and Anti-Discriminatory Practice is central to our work.

I had an unpleasant experience with the GSCC last year.  I had been taken to a disciplinary hearing for having recorded something twice!  It then got to the GSCC and the managers had submitted a completely fictional account of the disciplinary proceedings.  It was quite the most bizarre experience I have ever had.
Those managers are still in post.  I am with CAFCASS.  I feel like saying:  “What is going on?”

I have heard it said that the GSCC is another stick to beat us with.  It should not be.  It should be a force for change.  When I joined the Social Care workforce, we did see ourselves as a force for change.  I think now we are not.

Fiona Simmons

At its best, social worker should portray itself, as it is, a unique profession.  An informative, approachable service with a community base that is easily accessible if needed, but unobtrusive if not.  Although this type of low profile focus on social work services is important, it is also essential that an apologetic attitude for being a social worker be somehow replaced with a pride in our practice.    

Roles and tasks reserved for social workers should include the initial assessment process.  After the initial assessment, the social worker should have enough autonomy to decide which is the most appropriate service to assist the service user, either through social work providing the service itself or a referral to another more appropriate agency, In addition, the elderly and children and family work including fostering and adoption services and child protection should be reserved for social workers.  These two stages of life are generally when people are most vulnerable and it makes sense that, if needed, they should be offered a service that protects and cares.      
The roles and tasks that social workers should not undertake are that of ‘social police’.  Enforcing government policy should never be a part of the social work role.   

The balance of power between social workers and service users is changing, with the balance now thankfully tipping more towards the service user.  In future, this will become more of a ‘right’ for service users who will be more informed of user participation.  This leads to multi agency teams, which are also a part of the future with social work and health care teams working collaboratively, and the service user always being at the centre of the process.

The senior social worker’s role should be one of responsibility and guidance.  Relevant and recent frontline experience working with service users is vital, as is the capacity to understand that supervision is a two-way learning process.

Anne McInnes

Social work is at its best when at practitioner, organisational and profession level it acts ethically to promote and support the personal and social well-being of individuals and communities; and in working towards this aspiration displays a commitment to actively confront, and seek to change, practice and policy contexts which hinder the development of social justice.

Ron Burn

Social work at its best recognises its own place as part of local communities. It should embrace rather than depersonalizes the shared life events between service users and professionals. Social work should be about the communality of experience rather than its consumerisation.  Meaningful social work is about empowering individuals to receognise that they are part of a community rather than an individual who has needs which set them apart form their communities.

While recognising differences, good social work also validates what people share with each other. For social work to be meaningful, it has to have anti-poverty values and not just anti-discrimination ones. Social work should not be scared to speak up against oppression based on exploitation and class. Social workers should embrace their core value of enabling service user self determination over the bureaucracy of their employing authorities, particularly as these organizations increasingly scramble to adopt a cost-benefit approach to services delivery.

A good social worker should always make colleagues and organisations keep the service user in mind over the fear of procedurally doing something wrong. Self criticism should not end with looking at whether policy and protocol was satisfied; rather whether the service user and the community were. A social work of the future should be more concerned with its relevance to communities rather than obsessed with being seen as “professional” by them.

Social work should reconnect with its vocational roots and turn away form becoming just another ossified academic subject.

Nihat Erol

It has been a privilege to be in social work since 1978 and I have therefore seen nearly 30 years of history in the making.   What was done in the name of social work then, bears absolutely no resemblance to what we see happening now.  Social work then made a real difference to people’s lives and a lot of preventative work was done.  It involved seeing service users, advising, befriending, listening, supporting and improving the quality of their lives.

The casework relationship has gone and social workers appear to be masters of the computer and managing restricted resources from a virtual office.  Where has the all important human contact gone ?

Social workers are trained to think on their feet, to make evidence based assessments, to provide solution focused interventions and to communicate with the most disadvantaged and sometimes the most dysfunctional individuals around.  They need to be able to continue applying these expert skills, if they are to truly make a difference to the quality of people’s lives today.  Administration, paperwork and endless recording, is for those with degrees in bureaucracy.  Leave social workers to do what they are best at – communicating at the coal face.

Social workers are powerful professionals and our job is to use that power wisely.  There are some aspects of the job such as mental health and child protection, whereby the power differential will always be greater.  However in other areas, service users need to feel more in control over their lives.  Choices about services, brought about by direct payments is far less demeaning.  Social work will have an ever increasing importance with the technological revolution – it needs to stay in touch with societal changes but retaining those good old fashioned skills and values avoiding throwing the baby out with the bath water.

Sally Romain

Social work re-discovers a self confidence in setting out a clear and defined role based around promoting self determination and social justice and enabling people to promote their interests within organisations and bureaucratic systems and pushing this agenda against a prevailing culture of managerialism that is reductive in nature and is opposed to many of these views and aims.

This is done through the means of BASW and a specific SW trade union joining forces to create a national voice in the media, research and policy making to make the case for social care values and to assertively set the agenda and support social workers rather than just punishing them for mistakes.

Social work also reclaims its radical heritage and local groups of social workers begin to identify and challenge local organisational procedures that are against sw values and the interests of the people that we work with.

A nationwide social work website is launched providing research papers and web resources covering all aspects of the sw role promoting knowledge, skills and awareness.

Employers and the GSCC recognise social worker’s particular skills in dealing with the reality of life as lived by people and this unique contribution to multi-disciplinary settings.

The mounting and clearly defined voice of the social care lobby is recognised by the DoH who decide to recognise this role at the strategic and governmental level and increase the prominence and funding of social care groups.

And they all lived happily ever after.

Daniel Crooks


Social work is about ensuring the safety and well-being of the most vulnerable groups in society, as well as enabling and empowering people to maximise their potential. It involves working cross culturally in diverse communities and supporting individuals empathically and within a therapeutic framework to tell their story. The social work role is a fluid and robust one. It involves co-ordinating professionals and agencies to work with individuals and families, advocating, supporting and managing risk. It is fundamentally about affecting critical social change.

Emma Pattison

Helping and supporting people in a way which will enable them to take responsibility of themselves and their families, without them feeling they have had all power and control taken away from them, empower not dissempower.

Eileen Classon


Helping and supporting people in a way which will enable them to take responsibility  of themselves and their families, without them feeling they have had all power and control taken away from them, empower not dissempower”

Apply and be committed to the basics.  To visit when you say you are, if you are unable then explain why.  Always return phone calls, without delay.   To explain in plain and simple terms what your concerns are.  Explain what you mean by assessment. Stop using Jargon.  Do what you say you are going to do and explain if you are unable to. Treat people in a manner in which you would like if you or your family were to require a service.  Remember how you feel when you are treated disrespectfully and how this left you feeling. Be professional, you are and cannot be their friend.  Listen, with your eyes and ears. Have a heart, people are human too.   Above all when you start to dislike the people you work with and amongst realise it’s time to find a new vocation.

Karen Green

Social work at its best is when a social worker is able to engage with their client and obtain the best outcome to improve the quality of that client’s life. It may be accessing resources, it may be removing a child, and it could be sectioning someone. The outcome will not always be positive for the client.

There also needs to be an honesty between social worker and client as from the on set a social worker should be aware of the legal framework within which they have to work and they can not deviate from this. A clear explanation of why you are working with the client sounds obvious but I have worked within children’s services for years and the amount of times I have had a child who was removed and placed in foster care and is going to be permanently removed from their family ask why cant they return to their parents or why were they removed in the first place. Clients no matter how old or how young deserve to be respected.

At its best social work looks like more hours spent having face to face contact with clients and less hours spent writing reports, case notes answering phones etc. This is such a waste of social work skills. It is also about supporting fellow workers and feeling personally supported especially when there is a crisis on one of your cases.

Social work at its best is about equality and enabling all clients to receive a service rather than those that shout loudest, have access to politicians, solicitors etc receiving a quicker or better service and those in greater need who do not complain or request support being left to struggle.

Sharon Hall


Families and children need social work interventions at various times and levels.  The Civil Courts depend on Social Workers to report on Mental Health, Custody and Adoption matters regularly.  The Criminal Courts also require Social Workers to prepare background reports to assist the Bench in the sentencing duty and thereafter to supervise community based sentences etc.  I could go on and on.  The remedial and libertarian nature of social work places it right at the centre of all human community endeavours.

Social Work at best must therefore seek to create more choices for the service receivers and users by freeing the spirit of enterprise and the pursuit of professional excellence among its practitioners.  There is a need for the GSCC to encourage Private and General Practice as a means of ensuring healthy competition and the field of practice and also allow social work to claim its rightful place amongst respected professionals by freeing the spirit of outstanding performances.  From this scene would emerge a clear structure to sort out the corn from the chaff and kill off the persistent anecdotal image of the social worker as a social project?  Any attempts or encouragement of shelter Social Workers from the challenges of the open market can only encourage the current image of mediocre and sheltered professionals.

The current predominant idea that statutory work experience represents the highest form of social work is nonsense and must be discarded.  Not only is this idea an obstacle to the encouragement of private practice, increasingly the statutory domain is turning into a depository for pompous and arrogant comfort zone dwellers who have long lost track of their professional mission.  The result is there for all to see.  The prisons are busting at the seams, children are shooting and knifing each other, we have only recently learnt a bitter lesion, Sally Clark’s death.  Would a social worker not have prepared reports to the Court?  Remember the Cleveland child abuse scandal 20 years earlier.  So, why should social work practice not embrace private set-up participation to create choice and competition leading to efficiency?  This is the GSCC’s challenge, our overwhelming responsibility for now.

Sylvester Mensah-king

My vision of social work encompasses a myriad of roles, which are undertaken. The social work task will be one of enabling, teaching, advising, monitoring, brokering, listening, assisting, protecting, representing, inspiring, changing, leading, managing, supporting, planning, reflection, assessing, reviewing, delivering and advocating. Counselling is retained and reclaimed. Social workers will be enabled in decision making and have responsibility for their own allocated own budgets. Experienced social workers will be respected as autonomous consultants. They will have inspirational leadership and supervision, and mentor each other. They will be aware of national and international social work variations and undertake exchange programmes. They will be encouraged to question, challenge and update their own practice within a supportive environment.

Service users have sufficient advocates in difficult situations; provide ongoing welcome constructive feedback in a reflective dialogue with their social workers. The relationship between social worker and service user will be one of respect so that they too will wish to enter the profession of social work. Men will be better represented within social work roles. There will be a work life balance enabling part time, flexible work and encouragement for returners with family commitments. The workforce and educational provisions will represent the communities they serve in terms of gender, disability, race and work life balance.

When working with other groups and professions, social workers’ status will; be recognised and respected. They will work in true creative partnership, and the social model will be valued for what it is. Governments will celebrate and defend the role of social workers. Their achievements, roles and issues will be represented in the media. Social workers will play in a wider role in their nationally and locally contributing to community activities, groups and politics. Ultimately their role in society will be significant, acknowledged and appreciated.

Carolyn Holmes


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