Social work diary: ‘I call IT to log problems with my computer. I try very hard not to swear’

A community mental health trust social worker reflects on emotional meetings, pushing for leaflets in different languages and IT troubles

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Photo: 3d_generator/Fotolia

Monday

I head straight to a care home to complete a recommendation for continuing health care funding. The patient is in his 90s and in poor health. I meet with his family, and together with the specialist nurse, complete the assessment. Having worked with his family for years, it is an emotional morning.

Afterwards I head back to the office where I start panel applications, update records, return calls and make appointments.

Tuesday

The morning is spent with a Pakistani family caring for an elderly relative with dementia. They request some information in Urdu. However, when I get back to the office, I’m shocked at the lack of any leaflets written in any other language than English. I’m based in a multicultural city, so this feels like a real omission. I ask the local council publications team for help.

I complete the panel application I started yesterday, check my spelling and submit it for approval.

The daughter of a client calls, anxious about finding a care home for her mother and how she will fund it. She’s under pressure from other family members, none of whom are supportive and she’s feeling overwhelmed.

Wednesday

After our team meeting, which goes on forever, I rush off to a hospital for a Care Programme Approach review. This patient is settled, and the care team there is dedicated and skilled, so it feels like a good start to the day. I provide feedback to the family (who couldn’t attend) and return to the office to write up the details while they’re still fresh in my mind. 

The local police public protection unit phone me and ask for details about a safeguarding referral. It’s a complicated case, with difficult family dynamics involved. They invite me to a multi-agency meeting next week and I hastily re-arrange other appointments to fit it in.

Then it’s time for yet more paperwork. As I start to write up some notes and tend to a tribunal report the computer crashes. There is loud and spectacular swearing from my side of the office.

Thursday

I call the Office of the Public Guardian for advice about lasting power of attorney. It’s a useful conversation and they are helpful and supportive. I speak to this patient’s care coordinator and we arrange to meet to discuss our next steps. We are concerned that the attorney is not acting in their relative’s best interests. We plan a meeting and I update my manager on the situation.

A new member of staff needs guidance about best interests meetings, and a student asks me about capacity assessments.  Just then, a nursing home calls to demand I move my client from their home as they say they can’t meet his needs. Next, a call comes through from the hospital team about a patient who’s a delayed discharge. The computer system crashes again. If I had a cushion to hand, I would press it to my face and scream into it. 

Friday

This week feels longer than usual. I call different homes to find vacancies for the two clients from yesterday. I ask for information about costs and vacancies. I finally find two which may be suitable and arrange for them to assess my clients. 

I speak to the local Admiral nurse about support for the daughter trying to find care for her mother and she agrees to see her later that day.

Funding has been approved for the care package I requested so I email the brokerage team to find a care agency as soon as possible. I update my notes and call the family.

Finally, I call IT and log the issues with my computer. I try very hard not to swear.

3 Responses to Social work diary: ‘I call IT to log problems with my computer. I try very hard not to swear’

  1. overseas November 21, 2018 at 3:41 pm #

    We need to start the change on an individual basis, to make it very clear that it is unacceptable that we do not have the right tools to do our jobs.

    The mentality of “it’s part of the job” has to be eliminated once and for all.

    A doctor is not expected to contact the IT department should one of the equipment used for a surgery fail, for example.

    I feel we somehow perpetuate these issues, by engaging and even succumbing to a culture of victimisation and “laissez faire”. It is not okay that the computer systems are not fit for purpose. It is not okay that we do not have clear systems and regulations that enable all of us to know our role within organisations and who and how to address when issues arise.

    We must be better for each other for the sake of our profession and ultimately for the benefit of our service users.

    That’s how I think anyway.

  2. Pete November 21, 2018 at 9:32 pm #

    The authority I work for had an IT upgrade in the course of the past year, both in terms of software and hardware. In my personal experience, it has hugely improved workflow. The reality is that we (Social Workers) spend increasingly more time at the moment sat behind the computer completing funding applications in one form or another, particularly as state funding becomes increasingly stretched, and as a result we have more bureaucratic systems to navigate which are becoming tighter – CHC assessments are becoming a joke! There is no clear definition for a ‘primary need’, and guidelines written down clearly at the beginning of the DST document are being completely ignored by broke CCG’s.. anyway! – I digress. On a positive note, I can certainly say that the investment in improving software and hardware has had a hugely positive impact I feel in terms of getting paperwork completed within the local authority I work for, and the resulting efficiency helping to increase client contacts which is particularly vital in my role as a mental health social worker. For the first time in 4 years my caseload is up to date, and I’m within the expected caseload capacity even while AMHPing one day a week and supervising. So… simply put, investing public money where it’s needed works! Unfortunately though, for Mr Hammond that translates into giving ‘nice little gestures’. So, be excited if you’re after a few more stationary pieces. IT upgrades etc are going to have to wait until the pen pushing accountants in power are ousted.

  3. Anon November 22, 2018 at 11:41 am #

    Social care is a job of low morale, no status in public, has a reputation of being do gooders, of being interfering and intrusive where the value base depending on the worker, and team culture determine the action.
    IT is a small factor within a mass of huge flaws and lapses and the whole system including the gatekeepers and regulators are part of the mess.

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