Rhys Bradley: The best and worst decisions I’ve made

Rhys Bradley found that his highs and lows came in the same case

The worst

Although Louis Armstrong had all the time in the world, we as social workers have no such ­luxury. Perhaps my worst ­decision is to have spent an ­inordinate amount of time on a service user who has proven very difficult to help.

The service user in question is Raymond, a 40-year-old man disabled as much by his alcohol difficulties and formative experiences as by his mild learning disability. As a result, Raymond leads a lifestyle that could at best be described as “chaotic”, lurching from one crisis to the next.

Having consistently answered the call to assist, I now speculate whether a policy of non-intervention might have been more beneficial, especially in regard to the long-term outcome for Raymond.

Instead of encouraging him to take control of his life and face up to the necessary changes that can only come from within, it may well be that my involvement has sent out the wrong message: that there will always be someone to pick up the pieces and deal with issues Raymond is essentially capable of handling himself.

I therefore wonder whether my involvement has fostered a culture of dependency which has served to paper over the cracks of Raymond’s chaotic lifestyle.

The best

However, given the social in­equalities that exist within society, perhaps papering the cracks is sometimes the best we can realistically hope to achieve in the many cases where economic, social and material deprivation represent the true source of the problems.

Indeed, that we lack the power to remedy these root causes merely serves to define our role, that of tackling the fallout which such inequalities create. As a result, despite being unable to affect much tangible, positive change in Raymond’s behaviour and lifestyle choices, I feel the decision to persevere and provide ongoing support has been the right decision, perhaps my best one.

Although non-intervention sounds good, it sits uncomfortably with my motives for entering social care. As a result, I feel justified in continuing to support Raymond when required, even if nothing seems to change and his life continues to be a series of crises.

I remain hopeful that the good advice, positive reinforcement and long hours I impart will eventually pay off and help improve Raymond’s situation.

Rhys Bradley is a social worker in Vale of Glamorgan Council’s adult learning disability team

This article is published in the 3 June issue of Community Care magazine under the heading Sometimes papering over the cracks is all we can do

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