A touch of old-fashioned informality

Providing people with continuity of care is what Pam Smith enjoys as a social worker. She explains how keeping in touch is key to her work

A bit of old-fashioned social work is often what is needed most: staying in touch with people, giving them continuity, being there to talk to and make suggestions and helping people make difficult decisions. I started with social services straight from school when I was 16 as a clerk on an older people’s team in Chorlton, Manchester. I progressed from there to become a social work assistant because I liked the person-to- person contact and the idea of making a difference.

Then I went to college and qualified as a social worker in 1991 with a Certificate in Social Services. The bulk of my work has been with older people. When I first started it was all generic teams. At the moment I work with people over 60, but now it’s coming full circle again as we’re about to be reorganised and I will be working in a generic adults team for over-18s.

I spent 10 years in Chorlton and have been in Wythenshawe for 15 years.

Keeping people well

About six years ago, I was seconded to a falls prevention project working with health colleagues and a local health improvement partnership. It was so enjoyable and opened my eyes to working with the “well elderly” and keeping them well. We worked as a multi-disciplinary team. It’s crucial to work this way, but unlike learning disability teams we don’t do this as much in older people’s services. But when you work with other disciplines you see that their specialisms are second to none.

This is why I enjoy working with other colleagues such as the community psychiatric nurses and our local admiral nurse Loraine Butterworth. Loraine and I worked with a woman whose husband had early onset dementia that progressed very quickly (see By recommendation). Loraine provided the expertise about the disease and I organised practical support like day care and respite.

Informal support

When the woman’s husband had to go into a nursing home we continued to support her and are both still involved even though her husband died a year ago. She will phone me when she’s having a bad day and grieving and regretting that she placed him in a nursing home. It’s informal support, it’s something you decide to do because you can’t turn someone away. It’s about relationships and I think they are crucial to helping people cope with situations.

This is what I love about the job, the people contact. Seeing people is the main thing and knowing that in perhaps some small way you have made a difference to them and their quality of life. That’s why I’ve stayed, it’s a job you either love or you get out of. I have never wanted to be a manager because that would lose me the people contact, I’d lose the best bit of the job.

Pam Smith is a care manager in an older people’s team at Manchester Council

Stories in the mainstream media give a skewed picture of socialwork because they focus on children’s services and relate mainly to crises and serious cases. Community Care’s Stand Up Now for Social Work campaign is seeking to redress the balance by giving a voice to social workers from across the profession to talk about their daily lives and the difference they make to service users. E-mail your positive social work stories to lauren.revans@rbi.co.uk and discuss your achievements at www.communitycare.co.uk/proud.

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