Backchat: diary of a social worker

Diary A lighter take on the week. A social worker in an adults council team writes

Monday I return from a week’s leave to find 124 e-mails in my inbox. Two people have changed their names after becoming married, someone I don’t know is inviting me to their retirement celebration and the phone lines to one of our offices are not working. I listened to a report on the radio this morning about the need for billions of pounds of savings in the public sector, then look around the office at my overworked colleagues, our printer that is broken, and the fax that intermittently sends documents.

Tuesday I drop my daughter at school and arrive late for a 9am case conference. But it is cancelled because one of the other professionals has forgotten. We rearrange, agree that the risks to the service user are huge and panic we are not doing enough to reduce them – imagine the headlines. In the afternoon I’m shouted at by one of the service user’s relatives who says we’re being overprotective and denying him his freedom – imagine the headlines, she says.

Wednesday At our monthly team meeting we are joined by our new planning officer. She is passionate about traditional social work and is keen to reduce bureaucracy. She talks about us linking in with our communities in a community development sort of role. She even agrees with us that our current assessment form is hindrance to good practice. We like her enormously, even if we’re not sure when we’re going to have the time to link with our communities and practice “old fashioned” social work. But it’s so refreshing to be reminded of why we came into the job in the first place and she does give us hope for the future.

Thursday I’ve just received an e-mail asking people to consider employing a student on placement. It’s something I’d love to do because my placements were important. On the other hand, I’m still recovering after being unsupported and have the joy and responsibility of being a dad to two small children and a husband. So I put this off – for the moment. In the afternoon I go on a joint visit with a care agency manager who is starting a care package. The manager asks the service user the same questions I asked last week. It’s all on my assessment I say. Oh, I haven’t read it she replies. I remember the three hours spent typing it up.

Friday A home visit to one of my long-standing clients. He normally shouts at me for half an hour before we can have a meaningful conversation. Today he refuses to come out from under a blanket and tells me to “f-off.” I “f-off” quietly, thinking what a strange job social work can be at times.

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