Social work diary: ‘The mother gives her social worker some flowers and a card to thank her’

A team manager reflects on managing case allocations and 48 tasks on her to-do list

thank you
Photo: Tierney/Fotolia

by Cheryl Grazette

Monday

I start by looking at my diary and to-do list despite knowing that my days and weeks never really go as planned. My Monday begins with a quick catch up with the team. All managers receive a performance overview on Monday’s, so my second task is to look at the team’s progress and performance.

This shows me that plans for children are being reviewed, children are being seen regularly and statutory visits are up-to-date. I am normally always pleased with my team’s stats but this week they were incredibly good. I send a quick email giving them an update and thanking them for their hard work.

My diary is full for the rest of the day. I have to chair a child in need meeting, catch up on emails, read three court statements, as well as respond to my electronic work tray, which is currently holding 48 tasks. I question where to start but am not really given the choice as I’m alerted to a worker having a crisis on her case. A placement has broken down for a young person and we need to identify another one. Finding a placement can always be a challenge, especially for older children.

Members of the team support the worker in keeping the child busy while she contacts the placement team. I discuss how the breakdown happened with the previous carer and go to see the young person, who presents as calm and resilient. Fully aware of his behaviour, he can understand the reason the carer was asking him to move. A placement is found and the worker calls to check on the child late in the evening.  I thank the worker for her commitment and, given the time (10:30pm), tell her to take some time back tomorrow.

Tuesday

My morning starts with a feeling of dread as I realise I still have outstanding tasks from yesterday. I’m already fully booked as I am meeting my Leadership Development Advisor (LDA) – my coach for the Firstline programme I am currently doing. As well as this, the director is visiting the team as a team member has been nominated and chosen for ‘you’re a star’.

I manage to respond to some emails before meeting with my LDA. I have found this Leadership Development programme so worthwhile and have already seen huge benefits from the changes I have made to my management style.

Following this meeting, my emails are still growing, so I try to tackle them before the director arrives. Some members of the team and myself are on hand to have a quick celebration with the children’s practitioner who received the ‘you’re a star’ award.  It is lovely that the director takes time out of her day to attend the office for such acknowledgments of staff – it means a lot to the workers.

I have time for a quick coffee before going into staff supervision. This particular worker has 13 children on her case load and, as almost all of the cases feature domestic abuse, we are joined by the Domestic Abuse and Drug and Alcohol workers who are working with the parents. Having these workers in the team offers a more rounded supervision and shared learning.

Wednesday

Team meeting this morning. The support worker always makes cakes, which are often accompanied by other goodies. Often, team meetings are used to update others on information, discuss performance, and talk about a practice issue. Today, we focus on obtaining the views of children and why direct work with children is important. This leads to a lengthy discussion, with workers all speaking about cases and sharing ideas.

My next meeting is with domestic abuse workers. As the domestic abuse lead for this area, I meet with workers to allocate cases and discuss risks to children. We consider what one-to-one work is needed with adults and explore who may be suitable for group work.

Given the rise in domestic abuse, trying to allocate a worker to all the cases can be difficult, so where possible a group is run to ensure we reach as many victims as possible.

I have a final child in need meeting to chair next and I ask if I can go with the worker as this allows me to read some reports in the car. This is the last meeting with this mother and she gives the social worker flowers and a card with some lovely words thanking her for her support and patience. It’s always nice chairing closure meetings that end like this as it reminds workers why their work is so important.

Thursday

A worker is finding it difficult to formulate her final evidence for a case, so we sit and go through this. I reassure her that she has the information, but she is feeling overwhelmed as the case has many elements. We use a risk matrix to help formulate worries and strengths. This supports her thinking in terms of recommendations.

The rest of my day is productive. Other than a few telephone calls from workers, I manage to read assessments and make a huge dent in my electronic work tray. I also have time to prepare for group supervision.

Friday

I have five cases to allocate today. Workers have already been identified for these cases but, since then, things have changed with their own caseloads. I spend time looking at the figures and no matter how I try to square this up I cannot see how I can continue with my original plan for case allocation. However, there’s no alternative as the cases need to be allocated.

I head over to the team desk and explain the situation, acknowledging that I know everyone is busy and sharing an overview of the waiting cases. The social workers on the team then start discussing which cases might close and how they may able to do this in order to fit things in. Eventually I have workers for all five remaining cases. I could not ask for a better, more supportive team of workers and I remind them again of this fact.

Cheryl Grazette is a team manager at Hertfordshire council

6 Responses to Social work diary: ‘The mother gives her social worker some flowers and a card to thank her’

  1. Jenny July 18, 2018 at 11:07 am #

    Social work is such a hard job and I think those that work in this profession look on their role as a vocation, not a job. Keep up the good work Cheryl. Within your writing I pick up clearly that you are a supportive manager who cares about her team.

  2. Georgina July 18, 2018 at 10:09 pm #

    As someone who is training to be a Social Worker I found this to be very insightful. Cheryl you sound like a supportive/caring Social Work manager which is needed in such a challenging role. This was a great read and thank you for taking the time out of what appears to be a very busy work life to share.

  3. Nancy July 18, 2018 at 10:46 pm #

    The process of all the workers working together is great, this was a good read and shows the positives. Nancy, Cambs

  4. Peter Ward July 19, 2018 at 6:06 am #

    Thus sadly is typical of most if not all sw caseloads.The problem is that politicians /senior managers want their service to look like a mitchelin star meal but only want to pay macdonalds prices.

  5. Louise July 19, 2018 at 6:02 pm #

    I have been a social worker for 2 years and found this a relatable and interesting read It clearly shows the differences in our day to say tasks and the importance of having a strong supportive team and managment.

  6. maria July 19, 2018 at 7:41 pm #

    I have been in this profession for 5 years and cannot recall a time where I felt valued. The fact Cheryl chose to write a piece and include her team speak volumes about her management and leadership. The sad thing is many managers do not give this kind of time to workers. It seems that this then impacts on the work. This was a nice read. Maria, Bedford