‘I hate being a social worker but I’m not trained for anything else’: how social workers struggled with the ASYE

Community Care's survey of the ASYE has showcased negative experiences of social workers

Photo: Andrey Popov/Fotolia

Community Care’s survey of social workers who are on or have recently completed their assessed and supported year in employment has discovered problems with how the scheme is currently being used. Here are some quotes from social workers who responded to our survey.

  • [I] feel ASYE was treated like a tick-box exercise and was a real missed opportunity to provide relevant and good quality practice based training.
  • Got thrown in the deep end, already doing the job of a full social worker. The protected caseload was meant to be 15 at the end of the year. I had 15-20 within a week of starting.
  • ASYE did not help me feel prepared only added to an already stressful job and seemed to repeat assignment format from uni! Not sure what the point is!

  • [The] Treatment I got left me suffering from mental health. I had passion for social work but this one manager killed my passion. I was left scared.
  • I hate being a social worker but I’m not trained for anything else, I feel overwhelmed and depressed, I hate the politics of it all and the unsupportive atmosphere where you are just expected to get on with it

  • I felt unprepared to practice when I left uni and going into social work was a shock. I don’t feel the ASYE has prepared me to practice, more that I myself have made it my responsibility to seek out learning opportunities. The ASYE portfolio has not taught me anything what so ever and has been an extra burden on top of all the other paperwork we have to complete! In theory ASYE would be great but in practice it is just more stress.
  • I feel like there’s a tension between being treated like a qualified social worker, which is a confidence booster in one aspect. But, when I’m struggling, or I need to take a study day and there’s no leave available on the leave schedule, or when I say I need a paperwork day… It’s like asking for gold. It’s a tension between expectation and reality, and the reality is that employers don’t want ASYE’s as much as the practitioners don’t want to do the ASYE. No one has time, that time presents as tension and adds to feelings of stress.
  • The protected caseload did not come into effect until I had completed 6 months of the ASYE. This has impacted my ability to achieve what was required resulting in my ASYE needing to be extended.
  • I am already looking for other positions. Preferably ones that don’t require me to complete my ASYE as I don’t believe the scheme is enhancing my practice. My supervision is doing that. The ASYE is just extra paperwork and does not add anything of benefit.
  • The case load is too high to allow focus on ASYE.
  • Three changes in team managers and two changes in managers. Whole team burnout.

  • My manager is very supportive, but other pressures impact on her ability to protect ASYE’s, however 20 months after starting my ASYE I am still to submit my portfolio as caseloads mean I do not have time to finish the work.
  • I was clear that I needed time to learn however this was not accepted. I was given highly complex work with no mentor for most of my ASYE and when I raised this I was told it was about my own time management rather than my case load being unmanageable. I was expected to produce high level court paperwork with little guidance and the la continued to allocate more work when I advised I couldn’t cope. My mentor attempted to advocate for me, however this was not successful and the issues remained. I eventually passed my ASYE but the pressure of this on top of the demands of the job resulted in me suffering severe panic attacks. The ASYE in my opinion served only to add more pressure to a [Newly Qualified Social Worker] and did not offer me any case protection or support at all.
  • My ASYE made the role so awful I just wanted to leave as soon as I had the chance.
  • I can’t work for the local authority for much longer because I feel so undervalued and unsupported and unsafe in my practice.

  • I would like to leave the field of social work totally. I would like more time with children and young people.
  • I was bullied, sworn at during supervision and not supported during personal crises.
  • I was given a full caseload and expected to hit the ground running.

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17 Responses to ‘I hate being a social worker but I’m not trained for anything else’: how social workers struggled with the ASYE

  1. Karen June 14, 2018 at 12:36 pm #

    I am saddened to read these responses. Having been responsible in a previous role for the development of ASYE it’s a valuable time to nurture newly qualified staff to gain confidence and resilience.

  2. Michaela June 14, 2018 at 7:31 pm #

    I can only agree with these comments. I am in the last month of my ASYE. I genuinely cannot think of a single benefit. I am in a statutory placement with a supportive team and the ASYE potfolio is pointless task in an already stressful job. I feel that the portfolio is another example of how the profession feels that it needs to prove itself to the outside world. Good managers can shape the caseload of the people in their team based on their team members experience levels.

  3. Sam June 14, 2018 at 8:08 pm #

    Whilst these are some terrible examples of poor ASYE delivery, there are also some brilliant examples as well in many local authorities. Why isn’t this presented as a more balanced article, with good and bad, thus enabling us to have a more positive discussion, about what can be done to improve ASYE programmes. In addition to this, there are plenty of other professions (not just SW) where they are in similar positions, and their experiences are then used to improve development and programmes and SW needs to do the same!

  4. Eliza June 14, 2018 at 8:17 pm #

    I’m midway through my ASYE. Definitely another tick box exercise. I can’t imagine being a social worker for the rest of my working life. I sincerely regret choosing it as a career.

  5. verity June 14, 2018 at 8:27 pm #

    Having seen colleagues work through their ASYE not one single word written here shocks me in the slightest and that really saddens me. As a Practice Educator it’s hard supporting Students knowing that their enthusiasm and support will drop significantly upon qualification.

  6. Hannah June 14, 2018 at 8:31 pm #

    I started my ASYE four weeks ago and after reading this and a previous article a few days ago I’m terrified! Were there no positive comments. As much as I just want to start working I have no choice but to do an ASYE so I have to make the most of this year!

    • Kirsten June 28, 2018 at 8:15 pm #

      I’ve been qualified 7 years and now support 2 colleagues completing AYSE as their line manager, I really feel it needs to be seen as an opportunity by both employers and the social worker completing it. Hopefully you will get the support you deserve! This is a brilliant profession and I’m so glad I chose it, hopefully you will be too.
      Try to balance reading Community Care with other professional journals and publications, this is a ridiculous unbalanced article without any analysis or commentary, there are better ones out there.

  7. Heather June 14, 2018 at 8:45 pm #

    So sad but true. There had to be a change of culture as the current practice across the country leans towards being dangerous, unethical and demoralizing.

    Individuals need to know it is not them, their poor time management or lack of skill. It is the widespread oppressive culture of social work.

  8. julia June 14, 2018 at 9:05 pm #

    The LA I work for provided a pretty good experience during the ASYE. I do feel it was a load of additional hoops to jump through though, in addition to assessments and reports for the actual job. I wasn’t sure what the real point of it is. If it is quality control, I wouldn’t have thought it would be beyond a good manager to sign this off for a NQSW at the end of their first year.
    It does rather raise questions about the value of the degree. Either the universities are turning out qualified social workers fit for the job, or they are failing in this respect, so that LA are then forced to provide another level of training to ensure we are all up to the task. We should have confidence in a vocational course that costs people £30,000 plus to obtain.

  9. Teddyt4 June 15, 2018 at 12:49 am #

    As someone currently on my ASYE in children’s services, I totally understand all these responses. I am also left wondering whether social work was the best career choice. The reality is sad. The culture at work is one of complaining as people are under pressure. If the local authorities get paid for every ASYE they employ then why not invest in external ASYE support who are not under those pressures and can focus on providing good supervision and support?

  10. Ellen June 15, 2018 at 6:55 am #

    This saddens me greatly. The purpose of the ASYE was one of protection, support & encouragement in order to make the transition from students working towards becoming a competent capable social worker. I accept the paperwork is lengthy, but this should be a time for reflection and growth. It’s clear the examples here represent the lack of understanding of the principles of the ASYE by the organisations represented and possibly a limited understanding of the NQSW’s learning styles. It takes time to imbed practice principles etc and a level of nurturing at the beginning of someone’s career pays off in the long run but this may be pushed out by a busy overstretched team where support may lack for them. I am pleased my organisation takes ASYE seriously.

  11. Carline Benoit June 15, 2018 at 9:05 am #

    It really grieves me to hear of such awful ASYE experiences. I must admit these are not uncommon however most LA’s provide a really supportive developmentally sound and effective ASYE programme. Having been involved from the beginning with CWDC and the NQSW pilots through to mentoring /coaching / running action learning sets and portfolio workshops. It is clear there are many of you who are not receiving the intended support and protected time/ case loads. Please try another authority we need good competent social workers who care.

  12. Sarah Khan June 15, 2018 at 12:27 pm #

    I whole heartedly agree with above experiences of being ASYE. My experience was just as bad. No recognition for working complex cases , no supervision expectation get on with it with no real support or guidance.

    Managers have no time and are unapproachable. I am 16 month into my role as child protection social worker. My manager has held no reviews with me in relation to my progress or portfolio. All she tells me is I’ve passed. I have no time to get my portfolio done. Not taken a day of study leave.

    Managers find it a pain , they invest no time in your professional development. Your just a number and that’s it.

  13. Denise June 16, 2018 at 9:54 pm #

    I am so disappointed with the ASYE programme and could not agree more that is seems to be a tick box exercise and an additional worry.
    I have been in my SW role in child protection since September as a NQSW 38 cases !!!!
    I have a very supportive manager but we are short staffed and the cases have to be allocated therefore impossible to have a protected case load.
    I have suffered stress and been in tears -but now I’m looking after me case load has been reduced to 24 following a meeting where I stated my practice could be considered unsafe due to high case load and being a NQSW-this has been recorded during a formal meeting.
    So be proactive -look after your well being -be professional call a meeting !!! Then get the ASYE done out of the way and feel empowered – oh and take a holiday in the sun -good luck all ASYE’s -we can do this x

  14. Disappointed June 18, 2018 at 5:20 am #

    If students were encouraged to read Community Care articles more closely, there would e a lot less social work students. Very sad that this profession seems so regularly to treat its own employees so poorly. Things never seem to change in some areas of social work (everybody knows the usual areas).

  15. Mark Tuvey June 19, 2018 at 3:43 pm #

    I have to agree with ‘disappointed’. I think you have to look at the article as a learning tool but it is also a hideous article to post when trying to encourage people into a massively valuable profession. The ASYE program is still in it’s infancy and itself a portal of learning that needs developing and maturing. The desire to integrate such a criteria is a good thing however have local authorities the funding, capacity or experience to deliver it flawlessly, no. There is no way that ASYE has not had a positive effect on many entering the profession however as most new implementations it will unfortunately have areas of failing. In the first instance, this a distribution that should be empowering the Social Work profession is failing it. There are enough pressures on social work as a whole via negative media attention for political play in a sector that is rarely permitted to celebrate it’s successes. I have first hand experienced the positive work that Social Workers and social services provides and know of so many more that are in a better place for the work of this sector, I understand massively with the demands and stresses are more than they should be and that often a Social Worker doesn’t have the time to achieve the ideal outcome, but at the same point, imagine the outcome without you, I promise it would be a lot worse. Props to Social Workers and social services as a whole, you are working with the hand the government gives you, do not think anyone in the service entered it for any other reason than to make a positive difference

  16. Felix Ogundeyin June 30, 2018 at 1:31 pm #

    The ASYE doesn’t have to be like this, and it sounds as if the troubles started with the training provided at University as well as the quality of the Practice placements. Senior managers alongside Universities and other stakeholders certainly need to offer better quality assurance…
    To trouble the waters a little, perhaps its also time that emotional resilience was taught as a part of Social Work training, as it has long been an under-resourced area of engagement and there is little evidence that this will change in the near future.