Social Skirmishes: Rosie Warlock on locums

Long gone is the idea that the summer months are a time for relaxation, especially at work. Unless you book your time off months ahead, you won’t get away from your desk in August.

You sit in the office doing the work of two as the air conditioning fails, windows stay shut under council bylaws, clients fall out with their spouses as the heat affects emotions (“No Tash, don’t get your psychotic brother to beat him up”). Even the students have all flown their placement roosts, so instead of a would-be social worker who hangs on your every word, we have the locums.

The all-knowing, been-there, done-that social workers who fled frontline work for “variety” and personal growth. The mercenary breed who take the council’s money that should be spent on hiring permanent staff.

Sadly, HR being what it is these days, we can’t even play any tricks on them such as put salt in their tea or send them on pointless errands (“warm ice, anyone?”). But after working with a few lately and socialising with them after work – including one I have known for years – you realise that they are no less committed, just that they have made other sacrifices to balance work and life.

The real problem is the lack of job flexibility that makes people choose permanent or locum, and councils that run departments with large gaps in staff.

And then I develop a sneaking admiration for the locums and the way they are free to walk away at anytime. Dare I take the plunge?

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