Diary: A lighter take on the working week.

Monday: I am on placement today with the assertive outreach team. They are a nice bunch. They take a whole team approach and they are all clued up on each other’s cases. After some initial scepticism, I can see the value of this. There is more continuity of care when staff are absent and a quicker response from whoever is on duty because they know the client. What is more of a problem is the Monday meeting where they go through the entire caseload. After lunch, when we are still talking about people I have little idea about, it becomes too much for me and I slip into nodding dog mode. Thankfully, nobody catches me unaware with a question to make me snort and snap my head back in that embarrassing fashion that happens when one is woken unexpectedly.

Tuesday: To complete my portfolio to become an approved social worker, I have to witness and lead on assessments under Mental Health Act 1983. This has proved frustrating because the assertive outreach team are too good at keeping people out of hospital. I hear a rumour that someone is going off the rails and find myself secretly hoping they stay off their medication so I can go out and assess. Not to admit them, because that would be awful. But wishing it well, yes, that is awful too.

Wednesday: I am at college today and tomorrow. It is good to go back and study again. But I am reminded of something Brian Clough once said of an opposition team: “We should beat them on paper, but football is not played on paper.” Well social work theories and values sound good in the classroom but social work isn’t done in the classroom. It is done in the real world where families and budget holders are breathing down your neck. It is a testament to our profession that we manage to tread gently along this path and improve the lives of our clients without losing sight of these values. We have vigorously pursued one of the most valued social work standards on this course: free lunch, tea and coffee plus a shortened lunch hour so we can bugger off 30 minutes early.

Thursday: Another good day at college. We play my favourite game: mental health social worker top trumps. Which basically involves swapping anecdotes on a similar theme, such as “my fella is barmier than your fella”.

Friday: I rush over to one of the CMHT’s because there is an assessment happening. On a long-term user of our services. He lives in sheltered accommodation and his antisocial and racist behaviour is making everyone’s lives a misery. The manager of the unit, the care co-ordinator and the other residents (all seemingly fair-minded people) are tearing their hair out at the situation. But it is uncertain whether this is due to a deterioration in his mental health or just his belligerent personality. We cannot use the Mental Health Act to deal with antisocial people: that is what the criminal justice system is for. In addition, what guarantee do we have that this man will be helped by hospital? On the other hand, leaving the residents to cope with him doesn’t sit comfortably either. I am just glad there is a social worker there to aid the decision-making with their skills and values.

We did section him in the end. The guy was barking.

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