Dear colleagues: ‘It breaks my heart that I don’t have the strength to carry on’

I am leaving the profession because the pressure has pushed me to breaking point and my passion has turned to bitterness, a child protection social worker writes

In my latest opinion piece published by Community Care, I wrote of how difficult a career social work can be and that hiding this truth does a disservice to our fellow professionals and service users.

In response to this, I received the following letter from a colleague who has given permission for it to be shared. In my opinion, this encapsulates the issues that those of us on the frontline are facing.

Dear fellow social workers and whoever cares to read this,

I am not the kind of person to share personal things on the internet. However, I feel it is important for this to be shared because I know I haven’t been as present as I want to be for the people I love the most.

I also hope that someone, somewhere will read this post and realise that they are not alone with how they are feeling, because I know I am not alone.

I am a child protection social worker, one of the hardest professions you could choose to work in. Day in, day out I am dealing with people’s emotions, trying to help families find solutions, listening to children and the ones who love them, and supporting them to overcome their problems.

I do this while being accountable for their safety and wellbeing. I get shouted at, lied to, verbally abused and threatened on a regular basis, not because people are evil, but because this is the only way they know how to respond.

I love my job

On the flip side, I also get an opportunity to meet and work with some remarkable and brave people who are capable of such admirable strength at the most vulnerable of times.

I love my job. I do it for a reason and I think that I am good at it. But lately, I’ve not been so good.

I have not been good because I am allocated work that is unrealistic to complete in the time I have to do it. I am accountable for the safety of children and this comes with immense pressure. These pressures leave very little time and energy for anything beyond my long and stressful work hours.

I spend my days using my personality to help get through to people, therefore my personality in my life beyond work suffers. I spend my days using my empathy to work with people in an understanding, non-judgmental way, and so my emotional capacity beyond work suffers.

Often I am the only one people have to vent to, and that is what I’m there for, but I feel isolated with that information because no matter how much I write about it in reports and assessments, I can never portray the realities of people’s emotions, struggles and difficulties in writing.

Passion turned to bitterness

What they live is real, and I’m a filter for that information.

I worked until 2am last night and I missed my brother’s 40th birthday celebrations. This is not the first time I have missed out on my own life while out protecting the most vulnerable in society. I am not complaining about this because of course it is what I am there for, but I am left wondering about me.

I don’t even bother calculating the time owed to me because I will never get round to taking it back. I have often worked on annual leave to get reports done. What other profession allows their jobs to take over their lives in this way, without the financial recognition?

For these reasons, I am leaving social work. I started off as such a passionate social worker, passionate about social justice, passionate about advocating on behalf of the vulnerable, passionate about making a real difference.

But the more I have worked as a social worker, the more I realise that the only difference that has been made is the difference in me, as a person.

The passion has turned into bitterness. This is a real shame and it breaks my heart that I don’t have the strength to carry on.

The author is a child protection social worker (@socialworktutor)

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46 Responses to Dear colleagues: ‘It breaks my heart that I don’t have the strength to carry on’

  1. Speedo April 7, 2016 at 9:40 am #

    I am sorry if readers of these articles find my responses to be repetitive to the point of being boring.

    BUT the above only serves to illustrate the real life meaning of what I keep going on about. The added pressure of slavish adherence to DfE targets on assessment completion deadlines is having a global detrimental effect on every aspect of child protection intervention.

    When are we going to have a sensible and productive debate on this issue.

    Where is our Chief Social Work Civil Servant (sorry Chief Social Worker) during this crisis? Or is just re-tweeting happy clappy good news stories all we can expect from this high office.

    SWs are facing more SCRs following child deaths, more management bullying and further loss of good SW colleagues like the one above. Meanwhile our Chief Officers just play around on Twitter. Great.

  2. David Whitworth April 7, 2016 at 10:38 am #

    A tremendously brave, heartfelt but sad article that demonstrates how many of us feel in social work today, and truth be told in nursing, police and other public sector areas as well. I hope the writer rediscovers himself (or herself) and for what it’s worth, my best wishes to you in the future. Colleagues and service users will miss you, but given time your post social work life will nurture the “you” that was lost, and family and close friends will again be able to share that with you. Good luck colleague. We’ve never met but we have a lot in common.

  3. Andrea April 7, 2016 at 10:45 am #

    Speedo – agree – Chief Social Worker – all bolitics – sorry politics!
    ps people become repetitive if they are not listened to……………..

  4. Phil Shivers April 7, 2016 at 10:53 am #

    Indeed, I echo every comment made. as a profession there appears to be no real will to change anything or maybe we are all to tired as I have found to find the energy to really challenge our employers. I have been in social work for 11 years and the only recognisable strategy is, ‘get on with it.’ I have seen no will from councils or management to make the job doable. There is a cynical culture of blaming individuals, with an undertone of it’s not been done because you are lazy or incompetent. Shocking when we are employed to represent the most vulnerable in society… happy days

  5. Nick Stokes April 7, 2016 at 11:05 am #

    What a great loss to the social work profession. You are the type of person we need in all of the caring professions. I am well aware that in your type of work you can never satisfy all, whether it be the client or a manager. I teach health and social care and fully appreciate that the sector is under huge pressure.

    I wish you well for the future and hope that find an employer who will fully appreciates your skills and talents and allows you to maintain a life outside of he the job.

  6. Nikki Seaden April 7, 2016 at 11:07 am #

    Reading this is like reading my life in the mirror although I am not yet at the stage of giving up…yet…I am at a loss to what can be done about this. Yes we will all agree that when you go into Front Line Socialwork there is an expectation of stress as we are people dealing with people working with people, in the lives of some less fortunate or some whose experiences dictate their future and the way they parent…BUT why is it so hard. I really feel for this person and they are right many of us will be able to see some of what was said in ourselves

  7. Tonia April 7, 2016 at 11:07 am #


    Your story is a sad reflection of the times, colleagues in teaching professions could totally identify – services, agencies and others working with children are penalised by unrealistic demands day in and day out – I know of many, within the voluntary and statutory sector who work additional hours to get the job done, many not taken back those hours or being given additional pay. Funding is being cut, targets are driven higher and so many of us are feeling that we are not doing enough. Actually we are probably doing more than we have ever done. Take heart you are not alone, its just so very sad that you are having to leave your role rather than your employers being able to support you to stay.

  8. Nick Stokes April 7, 2016 at 11:12 am #

    Apologies for the errors in my initial comment at 11.05, not a very good example of a college tutor.

  9. Maria joy April 7, 2016 at 11:30 am #

    The very reason I left three years ago , but missing terribly and tethering in returning despite all my fears which are so well put by the author . When I see doctors strike and publicise their protests so well (despite the pay potential in their profession , which does not
    Exist in social work) I wonder where our social work representative is does BASW still even exist?
    Best wishes to the author some time away may be what’s needed but so sad for the profession

    • Sugarhiccup April 9, 2016 at 10:01 pm #

      Absolutely echo your feelings. Left 6 months ago, much sooner into my career than I ever intended, but personal issues as well as a feeling of being overwhelmed by the responsibility placed on my shoulders and the news that social workers could face prison for ‘wilful neglect’ scared me away. I am now regretting that decision and want to return to the profession I love, but I’m scared that could be a mistake…

  10. sabine April 7, 2016 at 11:37 am #

    As long as people respond to emotional blackmail by LAs and councils nothing will change.
    I have been in a similar position, and I moved sideways. At the time I was overwhelmed by ever increasing caseload, little time, loss of health and no work life balance. But the most important issue for me was that I felt that I could not do my job with integrity and safely. That for me was the crunch point.
    Good luck to you with the best wishes for a bright future.

  11. Sadden April 7, 2016 at 12:31 pm #

    When I saw this article I had to read it as my daughter wishes to leave the profession also as a social worker because it is very stressful and you also take it home with you due to your workloads. The more you close cases the more is dumped on the front line staff which can make it difficult as your always playing catchup. It is like a horse trying to get to a goal post and when you reach they move the goal further…..
    Government must acknowledged the hardwork that these professional carries out to the communities. Further the deadlines that are set but then have to be moved constantly due to emergencies.

    Social workers are required so do treat them good.
    Thank you for your article as there are workers under so much pressure but unable to voice their feelings….
    Good luck

  12. Trudi V April 7, 2016 at 12:55 pm #

    I totally empathise and agree with this very honest and brave article. I left LA social work nearly a year ago (after 20 years) to work for a charity. I took a massive cut in pay, pension, sick and annual leave but I did it willingly because the profession and employers that I had given my all to didn’t support me when I became a parent. I was working long hours supporting families at the expense of my own. I could not live with that. I am proud to be a social worker but if I had known how unsupportive my employers would be once I became a parent I would never have worked as hard as I did before.
    Social workers used to be encouraged to advocate and look after themselves but since the change in people who are employed in management positions this is now seen as a weakness. It’s all about high caseloads, reports, paperwork, targets, policy, procedure and deadlines and meeting the needs of organisations rather than people.

  13. David Steare April 7, 2016 at 2:00 pm #

    Dear Writer and Commentators,

    Please let go of any sense of failure: you are being failed by government, employers, and by professional social work associations.

    Please let go of any sense of bitterness: your bitterness is a reflection of the embitterment toward a professional social work that exists within government, employer management and within social work association management.

    Please let go of any sense of a work ethic: your long hours working have been exploited by government and employers. This work ethic is supported by professional social work associations. Let go of them as well.

    Please embrace a sense of self-compassion: you have done the best you can, and probably more than the best you reasonably can.

    Please embrace a sense of freedom: you are rejecting a life of cultural and workplace exploitation and abuse.

    Please embrace a sense of charity: you have gained so much from your experiences please share voluntarily with others when you have recovered your own sense of well-being.

    Please like my Facebook pages: ‘Compassionate Social Work’ and ‘Social Workers with HCPC Proceedings’.

    Thank you all, David

  14. Marrian April 7, 2016 at 5:18 pm #

    I read this letter with complete empathy and understanding. I have been a practising social worker for 20 years now. It has been a long, hard and extremely painful career. It’s had its ups and downs and in between. I would be lying though if I did not acknowledge the Times of emotional trauma I have experienced as a direct result of my job. Apart from the job being all that was set out in this letter further burdens are added by local authorities developing cultures of blame. These experiences can leave you feeling totally annihilated, it never ceases to amaze me how we turn on each other when under pressure.
    We need as a profession to fight together to stand side by side and stop allowing ourselves to be constantly kicked by the government, the media, the public and upper management.
    I’m hanging on by a thread at present and whilst I’m in a different authority, different location and surrounded by different people the pain is still there and has effected my passion for my career. Each day, month and year it has been picked and kicked away at by numerous people, people I expected support from such as my manager, her manager an above. I know I am not alone in feeling like this but what changes ? I feel like I am on a merry go round, only it’s lasted 20 years. I won’t give up unless I dam well have too but boy has it been hard.

  15. Ruth Cartwright April 7, 2016 at 5:57 pm #

    I do understand how the writer feels. Many of us have been there (I am no longer in social work) and many others are right there now with an impossible workload and impossible levels of responsibility. The latest HCPC standards seem to imply that If we are being mistreated by our employers, it is up to us to sort it out, and if we cannot do so and something bad happens that is our fault. We have to band together. If we are asked to do something unrealistic we should record it and outline the risk factors to the families and individuals we are working with associated with high workloads. But it is difficult to do this if we feel alone and if we are tired and demoralised. I would advocate joining a Union (Unison or BASW’s Social Work Union or both) and joining BASW (full disclosure – I used to work for BASW). These organisations have carried out research (as has Com Care) into workloads and social work stress and are willing to talk to employers about this, especially if there is a group of workers coming forward. I hope the writer of this article recovers and maybe can find some field of work where they can use their skills and values in a less stressful situation.

  16. Trish April 7, 2016 at 7:30 pm #

    So many Social Workers can empathise with everything in this letter because so many of us are in exactly the same position.
    Government needs to sit up and take notice!
    Make changes. Listen to its workforce before more workers leave or go on long term sick which in turn increases the pressures on those left behind.

  17. Myy islam April 7, 2016 at 8:43 pm #

    I can totally empathise with the writer of the article. I left social work in January this year for exactly the same reasons. I spent 5 1/2 years in a job that I loved, and missed terribly in frontline child protection for a large local authority.
    I used to often joke with friends that I didn’t even get paid the minimum wage for hours I worked.
    I often have to work 14 to 16 hours a day, and then spent weekends writing up reports for court, or section 47 / single assessments or completed other urgent paperwork. I often planned holidays around the court work to ensure that my reports were to the high standards that I set myself.
     after 5 1/2 years I got to the point where I could not longer do the job that I loved because of the impat it was having on my health so felt I had no option but to leave social work.

    • jason April 9, 2016 at 11:31 am #

      With all due respect, if you enjoyed doing section 47 reports and court reports, that is quite odd.

  18. Adam April 7, 2016 at 9:14 pm #

    This is the proverbial tight rope that all workers face. I worked cps and delinquency for many years and transitioned into geriatrics due to pressure related to the milieu.
    So many good people leave the craft due to politics and an inability to cope w the rigors inherent to being a social worker. My first experience w this was in undergrad where a truly brilliant peer took a placement w hospice and it crushed his zest for people working.

    He sells shoes at pennies now.

    They don’t teach you about how to cope with all of the bullshit in school but they surely should. Maybe more of us would make it then

  19. Prussik April 7, 2016 at 10:26 pm #

    I could have written this – apart from the lraving bit – why arent standards for employers enforceabke and why dont we have a decent (and more militant) social work union amongst all if them. Not really a “profession” at all – more like a punch bag!

  20. Nell April 7, 2016 at 11:39 pm #

    So sad and so recognisable. I have recently stopped working after 33 years, 10 as a Head of Service. I won’t bore you with the trials of being a senior manager (!) but believe me when I say that my staff were my single biggest concern – I tried to take care of them but some of today’s issues are beyond even the most caring managers. I too have asked repeatedly where is the added value in Isabelle Trowler, senior Civil Servant? What is she doing? Where is the advocacy and support? To the writer, I am still haunted by the fact that when my daughter won a prize at school I wasn’t there because my then boss refused me the afternoon although I had TOIL up to my eyebrows. No, I was dealing with other families. Just one of many sacrifices we make every day. Now I am filled with grief at the thought that my career may be over, not because I can’t do the job but because it has taken too much of me and I feel quite broken. All my humour, energy and creativity went into the job and I feel like I don’t have any left. Hopefully, this will be short lived.

  21. Sheila Strunk April 8, 2016 at 12:04 am #

    I have watched this happen over and over again in my 40 years of social work. I was always proud that it was not me, that I still was committed to the children and their safety. They have finally worn me down. We no longer keep children safe in Michigan. It is all about numbers. They measure success by having fewer children in care, knowingly leaving vulnerable children in horrible situations. Not what I signed up for. It will soon be time for me to leave.

  22. Cheryl April 8, 2016 at 12:51 am #

    This is truly sad to read, but am I Suorised no and why is that because I am a Foster Carer.

    I see first hand the huge workloads of front line SW and I equally know and understand their passion as I feel that to, you can’t live with traumatised children and not have passion for what you do . I have also felt like given up as the system seems so broken in parts communication is a challenge as SW case loads are just to much to keep good effective communication , we generally all get there in the end but I have seen quite a marked decline in the last three years, there are new initiatives out there trying to make a difference and shift the load , let’s all hope the fostering Network keep highlighting and effecting change , we just can’t afford to stand still , our children matter the system has to wake up, effect change and work together .

  23. Raymond Lambert April 8, 2016 at 1:59 am #

    Dear Writer. I’m very sorry it has all come to this for you, even if I completely understand and believe you. Your story speaks volumes to me too, as I find myself subjected to the same system, for going on half a century now. I would like to throw my two-bits in here, in the hope that it will help you personally, as well as everyone else here. David is right – only partly right though – when he says “….you are being failed by government, employers, and by professional social work associations….” Partly, because the whole society is like this now, thanks to the bad leadership and examples we have from the above, plus we haven’t mentioned, the Law, the law enforcers (police) and the almighty Judges. A society that is brain-washed as we are, where women and children have no rights, where violence drowns everything wether it is in the home (DV Domestic Violence), on our screens, and in every-day occurence as we live our lives, daily and hourly. Two more things before I wrap this up : spare a thought for that part of society that has been caught and lingers in our jails or institutions. For them, we have created a special class of social-workers : they are our probation officers. Yes our cruel system has catered for the ones ‘out of the system’ and the professionals who work and care for them. Exact same story. Secondly: it is possible, just ‘possible’, that you have felt drawn to your unique profession, for reasons still unknown to you or at least not acknowleged by you. Just a the bully knows exactly who to target, we may still be very vulnerable and actually attract such difficult and unfair life circumstances. Time then to take stock and reflect of who we are, to have allowed ourselves to carry such a cross – despite the fact that nobody else seems to care, least of all the people above us – from immediate supervisors all to way to kings and presidents. The bottom line is : it is not damaged beyond repair, broken with no hope of healing. Both for them (society, and our clients in particular), and for ourselves. If you want this hard enough, just google my name raymond lambert and hopefully it will bring you to immediate help, hope and relief. Good luck dear Writer : lucky them who get you next, you have much to offer yet, and great rewards await you still 🙂

  24. Lori Thom April 8, 2016 at 4:46 am #

    It is the same way in the United States. I worked as a child protection social worker in Minnesota for 16 years. Same issues: long hours, high case loads & unrealistic expectations with very little support from the supervisor or director. I knew I couldn’t do cp long term so I spent essentially two years without being a present parent & 40k to earn my MSW to save myself & my family.

  25. Jo McH April 8, 2016 at 7:19 am #

    There is an article around at the moment via basw ,that the average life of a social work career is 7.7 years. I qualified in 1999 and have worked with adults’ social care since 1993. Am just in a phased return following a year receiving treatment and recovering.
    I was so happy to be back at work with a sense of new life and opportunity to retrieve my ambition to make a positive difference in peoples’ lives; my original motivatiion for embarking on this challenging profession in the first place.
    However, and there is a big however, I think the heart has gone out of social work. Like other professions , teaching, nursing, policing , we have been beaten by beaurocracy and cuts and have lost our way.
    Many of us are exhausted , drowning or leaving. Workloads, stress and sickness are on the increase and the answer is to be offered methods to develop some resilience.
    When I saw the new hcpc standards I nearly gave up completely.
    I don’t have an answer, but I do have a question: what are we going to do about this? individuals are making their response and many are leaving the profession. I would support them in what is a soul tearing decision. Compassionate social work and becoming passionate about it may be a solution.
    It’s hard when you are beaten and worn down from so many directions however ,and another big however,
    How about a campaign for real social work and reclaiming and re-inspiring our profession with what brought it to life in the first place.

  26. Hels April 8, 2016 at 7:21 am #

    I only hope like many social workers in this position , the author of the above letter, has not opted to ‘go agency’ like many social work colleagues tend to do !!!

    • Jayne Walker April 10, 2016 at 2:04 pm #

      Helen, I am not sure what your comment actually means, what is so wrong being an agency worker. I have been a locum social worker for 14 years. I am a dedicated practitioner who still experiences all the same pressures permanent staff have. If any thing I feel I have to give more to an employer to prove my worth to him/her and to gain the respect of my colleagues. I work late and cannot claim additional pay or flexi time like permanent staff and I have not had a day off sick in the past 5 years but I do take time off (without pay) between positions to maintain my emotional and physical health. If the author chose to ‘go agency’ the profession would not be losing such a dedicated and experienced practitioner.

    • Marrian April 11, 2016 at 5:08 pm #

      Not sure what you mean about going agency. Nothing wrong in doing this . I have earned my stripes and essentially it’s a life choice. At the very least you can choose to stay or go and you don’t get caught up in politics.

  27. Adele April 8, 2016 at 7:44 am #

    I read this and wept. This is not one persons perspective this resonates with most social workers. It is heartbreaking and isolating. The need of the children is what drives us but how can the government turn a blind eye? How can failures continue? What is the point of SCRs if the learning is not actually implimented on a national scale? I sit here with a huge amount of assessments and paperwork to get through and wonder why we are not supported and listened to. Teachers asked for extra training days added onto their additional holidays, I don’t disagree with this but why is SW never listened to and who the hell is there to listen to us? This is such an important sector this is the protection of our children and the future of this country. I leave this post feeling deflated, disillusioned and lacking solutions.

  28. Cristina April 8, 2016 at 8:43 am #

    I am sorry to hear that you are leaving social work. I was at the breaking point myself last year after seeing the ugliness of being crushed as I dared to challenge bad practice, refused to further continue to be bullied, and seeing my managers in Court looking in my eyes and lying under oath.

    I am also replying to the last comment ‘I hope the author has not opted to ‘go agency’. I am agency, in fact 75% of my team are. I see no less quality of work and commitment. My colleagues work as hard and they do not offer a lesser service. What it does give you is the freedom to vote with your feet when it comes to the breaking point. I have learned and become a more confident professional by working in variety of teams. All the knowledge and skills gathered benefit my service users.and yes it kept me in social work and restored my faith. Not only that those managers covered each others back, but I was forced to continue to be supervised by the same bullying manager for 2 months, my notice period.
    Hence before making judgements do look at the broad picture. Are your agency colleagues less of a social worker then you are?

  29. Mpho April 8, 2016 at 10:45 am #

    im still a student and don’t see logic to Carry on I feel like I’ve been persisting on a wrong career so sad

  30. Lyn April 8, 2016 at 3:47 pm #

    Completely understand
    I loved my job and fought for what was needed but sadly took decision to leave in Feb last year. Best decision and I’ve now got my life, self esteem and confidence back

  31. Mary Jay April 8, 2016 at 4:10 pm #

    You have to do what’s right for you but have you considered a sideways step into another aspect of the business?

    CP was really tough in the 70s and 80s in a DIFFERENT way. We didn’t have the downside of maintaining computer systems to answer to the vagaries of demands from central government but also didn’t have the ‘useful’ bits either e.g. ALL reports were handwritten to be typed by (hopefully) a ‘tuned in’ admin. Cutting and pasting of repeated stuff was done with a pair of scissors and sello tape! Caseloads were 40 FAMILLIES and you did what you could to the best of your abilities.

    What hasn’t changed is the emotional cost to the workers. Those with empathy feel the struggles of the famillies, the fears of the children and the frustration of other agencies who measure ‘change’ with a different ruler. Those without empathy seem to flourish in growing a CV suitable for the next step up. Those who flounder deemed “too emotionally involved….” The ‘winners’ (if any) are those who adopt a ‘management’ approach but without the personality traits that are most useful to support the changes needed to really PROTECT children. Those with the skills and knowledge run out of ‘petrol’ as time goes on…. Working with people in crisis due to emotional, physical or fiscal challenge wears down a person trying to offer support even with the BEST skills. You seem to fall into the latter group.

    Don’t jump, plan. Can you move into a less demanding role or become a member of a ‘project’ team or something that would give you breathing space whilst you look at long-term planning. The profession is radically different today than when I was in practice. But you sound like the sort of person who could influence practice for the better and it would be a sad day if your current situation led to a long-term loss.

    Most of all though, do what is right for you…..

  32. Lucy lou April 8, 2016 at 5:14 pm #

    Structural changes need to take place in social work. Everyone seems to be denying the impact that the cuts are having on staff. As a manager in child protection i would say only certain personality types are resilient enough to cope with the extreme pressures of the job. This government need to be challenged and god knows what isabella trowler is doing to support us. It seems that the words of munroe have been forgotten. The use of agency staff is draining resources and earning double to colleagues is unethical. If councils paid permanent stafff better and employed what is needed rather than squeezing the life out of everyone then you would have happier staff and safer practice.

  33. Donna April 8, 2016 at 6:02 pm #

    I’m in my second year of working as a qualified social worker in Child Protection and have already be come the victim of the stress of the job and the unrealistic expectations.I’m still passionate and want to do good for the families I work with,but often feel that I’ve let them down because there aren’t enough hours in the day. Then end up beating myself up more because I care. I’m lucky I work in a supportive and caring team but even then I see well seasoned social workers giving up or driving themselves too hard. Their families suffer as result as they can’t keep the work/life balance. I saw one of my appreciative families last night who know I’m trying to help,one member said ‘I wouldn’t do do your job for all the money in the world!! ‘I replied that’s a good job because we don’t get paid that much,but I we get rewards in other ways!! On reflection I wonder how long I’ll feel that way and is it really true?? I could say I have my health but I don’t, or family but am single and the idea of trying to find someone special to share my life with who has the time in this job!!!
    We’re are expected to come up with answers on how to retain social workers in Child Protection.The answer is simple pay the amount of money we deserve and reduce the work load. But until the government shop cutting funding and recoginize the crisis we’re in and take positive action to support those in the job not siding with public opinion and hanging us out to dry when things go wrong nothing is going to change. They need to start seeing that things can get missed because so and so had 25+ cases and this is not managable!!

  34. Bonnie April 8, 2016 at 7:32 pm #

    I wrote the same kind of letter, in my head, two years ago. As a former Child Protection Worker I am in agreement with everything you wrote. I had to leave. It was too much. After nearly 12 years, I HAD TO LEAVE. It took a long time for me to get back to the ‘me’ that started off in Social Work. I’m working again as a Social Worker, but not in Child Protection. There is Social Work life outside of that box, and it is good.

  35. Christine April 8, 2016 at 10:02 pm #

    I am truly understanding of a colleague but these pressures are not just experienced in front line social work high case loads and high demand with not enough time to spend with families are the common themes running through most chilfrens service departments I work in la fostering and have done for 13 years but am becoming very disillusioned with how much real social work other than ticking boxes we can achieve . We just keep on keepin on often at the expense of our own which us tough #spareathought

  36. jason April 9, 2016 at 11:38 am #

    On one level I have extreme compassion for this person, who like many of us is working hard to make ends meet, and who has been forced out of their livelihood by ever-increasing pressures. But I cannot help noticing that at no stage does the letter address the injustices perpetrated by the people within the system itself. The social worker raises how they had clients who lied; the social worker does not raise the problem of social workers who lie about clients. Parents, too, have been victims of social services, and this does not even register as a factor for this person.

    I sincerely hope this person finds the employment he or she deserves; personally I’ve never met a social worker who was any good though.

  37. Jenny Panesh April 10, 2016 at 2:22 pm #

    I know exactly how the writer felt and also made the decision that my own sanity had to come first and could no longer carry on being a SW – decided to take early retirement and now am able to have a life!

  38. Brett April 10, 2016 at 3:20 pm #

    Having been a social worker, public school teacher and back again, let me say this, working with people as a ‘product’ does not fit with productivity models, artificial timelines and remote decision making. Unfortunately, government run entities waste money on number crunching micro mangers who don’t work with the front line staff and shoulder the untenable load. An earlier comment here spoke to ‘certain personality types being resilient enough to do the work’; this is a type of manipulation, and is management code for “if you really care, you’ll give that much more.”
    Social work needs to accept its humanness; exist in the latitude of the process of change, know that people only change when it is safe to do so and more importantly is organic. Courts, management and those in over sight positions want immediate proof of intervention’s success, when the very notion is ridiculous when discussing generational and life-long issues.
    Non for Profits and smaller government entities have a better handle on the ‘doing’ of social work than do their larger counterparts.

  39. Tom J April 11, 2016 at 9:33 am #

    Thank you to everyone who has commented above esp Mary Jay. As I have commented before, I often find the comments as insightful as the article its self.

  40. Han April 11, 2016 at 11:26 am #

    Wow! Look at all the responses to this article. The content obviously ringing so true to many including myself. I ranted to a close friend last week and told her that I have recently been thinking about emigrating to not be so accessible to my family and friends and their needs as they are currently regularly coming to me for support and guidance for a range of issues (this is actually something people in my life have done for many years something that is completley normal and what happens in relationships and I love that they do). I’ve reflected on this and after coming to terms with the fact that I actually said this out loud, reading this article I have come to a place of enlightenment – it’s not that my family and friends have become ‘needy’ or ‘overbearing’ and demanding on my time………’s that I am too worn out to be a full and active participant in my own life because I spend my whole day immeresed in other peoples. By the time I get home I am too tired for any more. All of my resources for strength, hope and positivity are used up. But my family and my friends are the reason I get up everyday…………so I ask myself, why would I and they come second to my work? 11 years into my SW career in Adult Social Care I have nearly left the profession on 3 occassions, firstly at 3 years in, secondly at 5 years in and latterly at 10 years in. A recent job change away from frontline practice and out of the LA into the PVI sector has kept me going a little longer but for how long? I love my profession, I am deeply passionate about it and feel hugely privaledged to be part of it. I feel saddend though that I too wonder for how much longer I can keep going. It feels like the only way to cope in social work these days is to become a robot – people who aren’t social workers tell me, ‘just go to work, do what you have to do and come home’. For me, it just doesn’t work like that and when I see SW’s that do approach their work with that attitude it worries me. For a profession grounded in empathy, human rights and advocacy, how can we close ourselves down and ‘go through the motions’?? Social Work has started to feel like a never ending battle, if we’re not for peoples rights, for funding, for time to do our jobs, for time off, for a lunch break………we are battling to be heard, to be understood and to be supported by our senior staff, our organisations and our government. I feel lucky that my current employer gets how SW can be at the moment and is coming up with innovative ways to support, motivate and care for our staff but this doesn’t lessen my concerns about the ‘bigger picture’. So I am left thinking, what can we do about it?? There must be a way forward somewhere – we’re social workers, we always find one right?!

  41. Pearlene Webb April 14, 2016 at 9:56 am #

    Dear writer
    your story speaks volume and touched a raw nerve with me. Like you I am contemplating leaving the profession after 25 years in frontline child protection. Like you I went into the service to help but have now become demoralised and disillusioned. My journey in social work has been soul destroying and I feel that I need to get out in order to claim my life back. I hate injustice in all its forms and I want to carry on fighting for the vulnerable in our society but I don’t know if I can continue doing child protection. It’s not he clents who abuses us I blame its the current management style that seems to permeate in all the public services.
    Compassion empathy and genuineness has gone and has been replaced by harshness. I am compassionate but I find that this quality is not valued anymore and I don’t want to lose my compassion and integrity, I know that if I were to lose it I would become a mindless robot so in order to save my soul I am contemplating a different direction. I feel sad that it has come to this after 25 years but I cannot see how I can carry on being micromanaged, over worked and being managed by managers who I can only describe as sociopaths.

  42. Moe April 15, 2016 at 5:42 am #

    Clearly you’re burnt out and it’s a wise decision for you to leave the profession. The people who need your services require, and deserve, someone who can give 100%!