Social work diary: ‘It is one of the saddest sights I have ever seen’

A visit from a hard-to-engage client and sticking to New Year resolutions are just some of the challenges faced by this anonymous social worker

Picture credit: danielmoyle (Flickr)


I visit a family where the parents seem to be permanently ill and mum has an injury that’s flared up. One of their young children has already taken on the role of a carer. I talk to the children about Christmas. The youngest son says he is angry at Santa for not bringing something to make mummy better.


Up early today to help a mother get her daughter off to school without arguments. Usually they have several rows before school starts. The child cannot concentrate in class and gets difficult to control, then hits out at everyone. She’s already close to being permanently excluded.

As soon as I see them together it is clear that mother has no skill in persuasion, she just shouts and argues, comparing the child unfavourably to her sister. The child just sets her will against that of her mother, who in turn gets more irate.

I try to get mum to calm down without success, and return later to talk to her about other ways of managing. She finds it hard to think in any other way; this will be a long job. Time is short and there is much to do.


Today the team take down the Christmas decorations. The long winter days till Spring loom interminably. Our New Year’s resolutions include keeping up to date with work and going to the gym.


I am visited today by a boy who has defied all attempts to help him and his family for more than a decade.

Usually we cannot get in the house to see him and phone calls go unanswered. He commits driving offences, is permanently exuded from mainstream school and won’t attend the schooling offered.

Most worrying is his health. He is overweight and can barely walk, and looks very uncomfortable. He has come to ask for help as his parents have run out of money for food. While talking, he rides on the back legs of the chair and breaks it, much to the amusement of the friend with him. It is one of the saddest sights I have ever seen.


When I get to the office people are already talking about getting behind with work and working at weekends. No one went to the gym. So much for New Year resolutions.

The author is an anonymous social worker

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One Response to Social work diary: ‘It is one of the saddest sights I have ever seen’

  1. Terry Conway January 13, 2014 at 1:25 pm #

    Any work culture that accepts people working beyond their paid hours, such as the one above referring to working weekends, is clearly wrong and counter-productive.
    Any manager that is aware of excessive working hours by Social Workers should stop the practice immediately. While it is acceptable to work extended hours on the odd occasions, to do so on a regular, routine basis is just papering over the cracks of an organisation that has insufficient staff to manage the work load.
    The damage excessive working hours can do to a Social Workers private life, health and well-being ultimately impairs there ability to be productive, well-rounded people and practitioners.