Social work diary: ‘I receive an unexpected call from someone who has been abstinent for nearly a month’

A recovery practitioner specialising in alcohol related brain damage gives insight into juggling unpredictable service user life changes and supervisory support for colleagues

Photo: fotolia/tiko


The week starts with a care programme approach (CPA) review. From my point of view, it’s a significant event as it’s the culmination of over a year of cross-organisational efforts to help a service user source and move into a new tenancy. They had relocated to sheltered accommodation with their family gaining financial guardianship to oversee the eventual sale of the family home.

Although they had moved into the flat weeks ago, I’m surprised to find that no one else – including the social worker and their children – has turned up. I update the consultant psychiatrist with recent progress and a new review date is agreed for six months, when they are expected to be discharged from the CPA caseload.

I eat some lunch in a nearby cafe and make phone calls in preparation for my next visit. It involves a support session with a relatively new referral. Even though they are still drinking, we’ve built good rapport and engagement which is encouraging and gives me hope. They have good insight into their addiction. Today’s session consists of writing up a recovery story we have worked on for a few weeks. Previous sessions have consisted of discussing their life journey so far and their hopes for the future.


The first event is a service development meeting with colleagues. We meet monthly to discuss how the service is doing and to ensure we are still working towards our aims and objectives. I’ve added a new topic to the agenda relating to how best to showcase the good work that we do but seldom promote.

I suggest we consider nominating service users and staff alike for several categories in our sectors awards early next year. This is well-received and we add a reminder to our calendars for January, when the nominations open.

I have two support sessions later in the day – the first is to a person who has been abstinent for nearly nine years. Their recovery journey has been amazing with their story featured on local radio and in local newspapers. Soon they will be contributing to a TV documentary. Their current goal is to experience a helicopter flight taking in the sights of the city. We do some online research and book a date.

In contrast, the second visit is to a service user who relapsed twelve months ago when he moved into his new tenancy. They are on a waiting list to receive an in-patient detox and is anxious about how long it’s taking to hear any word. I help call the hospital for an idea of where they are on the waiting list but sadly, discover their name isn’t on it at all. A call to the care manager reveals there has been an administrative error. They are told their name will be on the list very soon and fortunately they won’t have lost their place.


Wednesday starts with a visit to the home of a heavy smoker. Although our employer has a policy in place to protect employees from exposure to second hand smoke, adhering to this relies on the goodwill of the service user.

I deem it unsafe to spend two hours in this flat, so the service user agrees to continue support out of the home and we visit some local shops and a cafe.

This afternoon we are hosting an informal peer to peer support drop-in session in a city centre cafe. They used to be held in the office, but no one turned up. However today four people attend. Afterwards I pop into the office to update some support plans and print them for tomorrow.


I have two visits this morning which both involve practical support such as shopping and attending healthcare appointments. At lunchtime, I receive an unexpected call from someone who has been abstinent for nearly a month. I’m not due to see them today so I begin to wonder what could be wrong. Instantly it’s clear they have relapsed.

They can describe to me where they are by telling me the name of a restaurant they can see over the road. They confirm they have money so I order a taxi. It takes a few attempts before a taxi agrees to literally pick them up. Once home, they tell me they’re fine and will drink plenty of water, lock the door and go to bed. I’m due to visit at 9am the next day.


I arrive to find the service user up and dressed but with heavy swelling around their hand. I urge them to visit A&E and they agree, upon which it is discovered their wrist is broken. A cast is applied before they return home.

I visit a cafe to write up some notes and send some emails to keep care managers abreast of the latest events before making my final home visit of the week. The service user isn’t home which is unusual. A phone call to their mobile rings out so I call hospital admissions on the off chance they have been admitted. They have.

I make the necessary phone calls to get a clearer picture before sharing this information with colleagues. I’m informed that they suffered a major seizure yesterday and was taken to hospital by ambulance, and is now in an induced coma.

I go into the office to find a colleague – one of my supervisees – also has some unplanned extra time so we decide to have an impromptu supervision. I do try to deliver as much hands-on support as possible to service users, but I do have managerial and supervisory responsibilities.

I finish the rota for next week and send it to the team. I can never seem to complete it any earlier than the end of the week – the fluid nature of the lives of the people we support often leads to last minute changes to their schedules – and in turn, our rotas.

As a father to young twins, the weekend will no doubt involve trips to local parks and soft play centres which I find is a nice way to relax. I might even take the kids too!

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One Response to Social work diary: ‘I receive an unexpected call from someone who has been abstinent for nearly a month’

  1. Kathleen breheny November 9, 2018 at 12:18 pm #

    Ha ha hope you get to the park great article again Dan