Frontline Champion: career highs and lows of social work practitioners
13 May 2010 Dee Kemp, practitioner manager, adults and community services, Lambeth Council, London
Why did you choose to become a social worker?
I grew up in a single-parent family in a multi-cultural, suburban neighbourhood in Australia. My mother worked as a nurse, yet battled with mental illness. I was instilled with the ability to advocate and to seek justice from a very young age.
Managing an innovative team called Topaz (team offering people advice, assistance and support) in my current role at the London Borough of Lambeth. .
The team works within a preventive framework and promotes independence and well-being. We support people who did not meet the eligibility criteria when first assessed and offer advice and signposting to voluntary sector and mainstream services.
The personalisation agenda provides opportunities for social workers to embrace community development work and to continue promoting social justice. It is an exciting yet slightly speculative time to be a social worker, requiring tenacity and creativity.
Most memorable service user?
A Jewish man who had escaped from Czechoslovakia during World War Two. Despite witnessing unimaginable atrocities and overwhelming losses he was able to overcome his past. My involvement was to ensure that he was provided with suitable accommodation and a package of care. When I met him he was living in private rental accommodation in which there was no electricity. The process of working with him was humbling and enlightening.
What would you change about your job?
The amount of paper that is used in my office. I am working on this as an individual by continually being mindful of the information that I send to the printer. But there is still a long way to go.
Most useful or unusual tool at your disposal?
The internet, which has revolutionised the way in which we work. It has provided an incredible amount of information on faith and community groups which has been invaluable with regard to the work that we do.
Best work night out?
I undertook a self-defence course with my team in a central London park, which was both useful and fun. In addition, the weather was perfect and although the subject was serious, we definitely had a good laugh.
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