Dear Future Social Worker
I’m still as excited about the huge potential of social work today, as I was when I first entered the profession. We hear a lot of negative stories of social care, but we don’t hear the positive, transformational ones.
It’s these that, particularly in my role as Association of Directors of Adult Social Services president, I am so keen to shine a light on, sending out the message that social care changes lives and has a hugely positive impact on all of us.
A hugely rewarding job and a real privilege
So yes, there are lows, but social work is a hugely rewarding job and a real privilege. I hope you will be, rightly, very proud of the caring, sensitive and challenging work you go on to do.
People are at the heart of social work, but we need to keep putting the person back to the centre of the story and advocating for what is right for them as an individual.
The term ‘personalisation’ is a phrase we hear a lot of in social work, but don’t lose sight of this idea, even in stormy seas when systems don’t work as you wish. It’s an anchor which continues to get me out of bed in the morning in order to work on behalf of the people in my borough of Haringey and across England.
Beverley’s letter is part of Community Care’s Choose Social Work campaign, which will champion the brilliant work social workers do every day, inspire the next generation of practitioners, and counteract the negative media coverage of the profession.
Read about why we’re launching this campaign, and the five steps you can take to support it.
Would you like to write your own letter to the next generation of practitioners? We’d love to hear from you – email firstname.lastname@example.org.
My career in social work was influenced by my brother, who had profound disabilities. My mum was his carer, but when she became ill, we looked after him as a family.
I grew up understanding not only the love and joy caring brings us, but the hardships that come with it and how the work of carers is so often overlooked by our society.
As social workers, we need to keep advocating for carers, who are often working to the detriment of their own health and wellbeing. We need to keep them central to plans and strategies and ensure that they get the support needed to allow them to continue in their role if they choose to.
An exciting time to join the profession
We hear so much about what is wrong in social care, but we have made so much progress and development since my early days as a social worker, making this such an exciting time to be coming into the profession.
Technology and digitalisation offer us so many solutions to free up social workers to do the caring, sensitive work that humans still do best.
As new social workers, you will also benefit from the growing emphasis on co-produced outcomes, shifting from simply offering local authority services to people to making decisions with them.
The pandemic exposed the inequalities and inequity in society, particularly for those with care and support needs. So, for social workers, the role we play in promoting equity and inclusion and reducing health inequalities is of paramount importance.
There is a role for everyone
But I am also worried for you and others coming into the profession – one in four of those who left the social work register last year were in their first year on the register. Leaders like me face a challenge to change this.
Social work can take many different forms and you might not find the right role immediately. But I would say, seek out the support from your leadership team, work with them to identify what is not working for you and play to your strengths.
I truly believe that there is a role out there for everyone, but we need to do more to support people to find the right fit for them.
It’s good news the diversity of our social care workforce has improved since I joined the profession, but there still aren’t enough people from Black and other minoritised communities communities in leadership positions.
So I would encourage new people coming into the profession to aim high – if I can do it so can you!