Stress and burnout are perennial issues in social work; sometimes it seems as though they are inextricably linked to the demands of the profession. This is particularly the case in child protection social work, often regarded as the most difficult kind of social work. Distressing and highly publicised cases of child abuse and death, such as Baby P, and the media’s reaction, have no doubt contributed to this.
In 2015, as part of Community Care’s Stand up for Social Work campaign, academic Paula McFadden conducted research into burnout in all areas of social work. 1,359 Community Care readers responded, and now McFadden, Jill Manthrope and John Mallett have compared the indicators of burnout in child protection with learning disability social work.
McFadden and Manthorpe discuss their research in a new podcast episode for Community Care Inform, which we have made available to non-subscribers to Inform as well to recognise the contribution that our readers made to the research. In the podcast, McFadden explains the motivation for the research:
There was lots of literature about levels of stress and burnout in relation to child protection, and there seemed to be a complete gap in the knowledge in relation to workers working with those with learning disabilities. So we were looking to see, ‘Well what are the key differences? What can we unravel and unfold and what are the comparisons between those two areas of practice?
They found that levels of burnout risk are more similar than might be expected. Using the Maslach Burnout Inventory, social workers completed a survey that asked questions over three domains of burnout: emotional exhaustion, depersonalisation and personal accomplishment. They found that high levels of emotional exhaustion were reported by 69% of learning disability social workers, compared with 75% of child protection social workers.
In the 25-minute podcast episode, Manthorpe and McFadden discuss their research, why there has been little attention paid to stress and burnout in learning disability social work, and how issues such as supervision may have contributed. You can listen to and download the podcast on iTunes. Community Care Inform subscribers can access supporting information and a transcript of the podcast on Inform Adults and Inform Children.