Social work diary: “My enthusiasm expires when I get to my desk”

Phone calls from angry or anxious relatives and an unpaid residential care home, add up to a stressful week for this adults' social worker

Photo: Fotolia/Gajus


I pop in briefly to a social worker forum. It’s an opportunity to meet colleagues from different teams and it’s good to share experiences in a safe and supportive environment. I have to leave early to visit a man who has advanced dementia. His wife says she is at breaking point and we discuss a carer’s assessment, but I leave feeling desperately sorry for her, trying to think what other support I can offer. I rush back to complete the paperwork to submit to the funding panel and catch up on never-ending notes.


I’m on duty. I try to make it a positive experience, promising myself it’ll give me a chance to catch up on notes. The reality is different and the calls come through thick and fast. I receive a call from a manager chasing up delayed hospital discharges. Unfortunately, our computers are running slow and I can feel his frustration as I try to get an update. The day is spent chasing information about new referrals, talking to clients, typing up telephone conversations and trying to get hold of the IT department.


I’m on a course about self-neglect. The trainer is experienced, knowledgeable and funny. More importantly, she’s also a practising social worker. Luckily there’s no role play (my pet hate) but we have some animated discussions about what constitutes self-neglect. The trainer gets us thinking when she asks about us self-neglecting when we’re working. As she talks about missed breaks, unpaid overtime and the stressful situations we often find ourselves in, there is a ripple of acknowledgement among the group. I leave the course feeling enthusiastic about my job.


The enthusiasm I felt yesterday expires as soon as I arrive at my desk. I have several increasingly urgent messages from an anxious family whose father I am working with. After speaking with one of the daughters for over an hour, I receive another message to call the son. I repeat almost the same conversation with him. I understand their anxiety but it is draining. They want their father to go into residential care, but he is refusing. I have a long and difficult conversation about capacity with them but it feels an uphill struggle. I start to type up a complicated needs assessment I should have finished last week.

I take a call from a daughter whose father has just moved into residential care. She’s unhappy about many aspects of the care and she’s angry. I think much of it is actually about grief she’s experiencing following her father’s move into care and I try to discuss this with her. It works and she agrees to meet to try to address some of the issues.

The finance officer of a residential home calls, cross because they haven’t been paid. I reassure them and then receive a call from the wife of a man in the same care home. She’s also angry because the home has contacted her to demand money. It’s frustrating and time-consuming. I contact the placements team to try to find out why the home hasn’t been paid. This takes up most of my morning in between queries about home care, a hospital discharge and an urgent Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards assessment.

In the afternoon I have supervision. I realise I have more allocated cases than I’d originally thought. We talk about the assessments I need to complete and I get some advice about three particularly difficult cases. I’m feeling overwhelmed.


I spend all day looking for emergency respite care. It’s a stressful process, both for me and for the family who call me regularly for updates. I eventually find a home with a vacancy and arrange for them to assess my client over the weekend. I update my diary for next week and go home.


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3 Responses to Social work diary: “My enthusiasm expires when I get to my desk”

  1. Jo R December 5, 2017 at 8:44 pm #

    I’m an unqualified social worker in effect. In the authority I work in, my job title is Assistant Practitioner ive been working in Adult care for the past seventeen years. My title is misleading, I assist no one, I have a full caseload that is my responsibility to manage. Sure I can get support and guidance from my qualified colleagues but ultimately I make decisions based on a skill set I have developed over the past 17 years. Decisions that have sometimes life changing consequences for those seeking support from the system. I’m paid less than a qualified worker, that’s ok I get it. I and all my colleagues both unqualified and qualified echo the above sentiments and feelings on a daily basis. We all work our socks off often staying late and risking our own health working through lunch breaks rationalizing spending of public funds from pots of money shrinking year on year as central government fails to recognise the consequences and our population lives longer and longer lives with greater support needs. Social care gas never felt so broken to me..

  2. ann December 7, 2017 at 1:08 am #

    Really enjoyed reading your diary. It is very a very typical week! I have been qualified for two years and still struggle with the competing demands of the role. You never get to do what you set out/planned to do. One phone call after another and you are supposed to keep on top of notes! I love it still as there are lots of positive moments aswell!

    • Eboni December 7, 2017 at 9:49 am #

      Amazing work however I don’t think of notes as notes they are so much more hence the requirement to complete them and the responsibility to do them. They are reports for sure and it’s also a big ask on top of everything else. The reports hold us to task, share and records information and evidences the work completed and outstanding regarding the adult.