Susan is a qualified social worker, currently employed as head of adult safeguarding. She has seen a number of changes to the care sector throughout her tenure and is passionate about improving the provision of care for all ages. In this piece she describes the current state of social care.

Takeaways:

  • The caseload is heavy, but outweighed by passion
  • Competition for jobs was once fierce, but no longer
  • School of social work closed citing “institutional strategic reasons”
  • Should children and adults training be different?

“It was the best of times; it was the worst of times”

The opening lines of A Tale of Two Cities spring to mind when I reflect on the state of social work in the summer of 2015; only I’m not too sure about the first part.

I have been a social worker since 1988. I was inspired to enter the profession by a friend. She worked long hours, had a large caseload and was always behind with her case recording, but she cared passionately about the young people and families with whom she worked and her passion infected me to the point where I enrolled on a course.

Actually, it wasn’t quite that straightforward – to secure a place one had to have a good first degree, at least 12 months experience and beat off ninety-nine other applicants. Being a social worker required ambition and hard work. It’s hard to believe now that competition was once so fierce (apply for your next role today).

Last year, I heard with shock that the university where I trained has announced the closure of its School of Social Work citing “institutional strategic reasons”. Opened in 1966 the school, as the website proclaims, “has a long tradition of social work education and training”. Googling the closure, I find no news coverage. Clearly, it has passed with barely a whimper.

Proud to be a social worker

When I emerged from my course, ready to embark on my brilliant career, my first job was in a large city hospital and I was given a badge that said simply ‘Social Worker’ and which was sufficient to grant me access all areas. The feeling I had when I pinned on that badge each morning was akin to how I felt aged 11 when I got my first prefect badge at school. I wore it with pride. I still have the badge in the back of a drawer. Since then I’ve had many different badges, denoting various degrees of seniority but none have merited a place in the memento box.

Fast-forward 27 years; I’m still proud to be a social worker (although it isn’t reflected in my job title, I still consider myself a social worker, maintain my registration and adhere to my professional values). However, I’m very conscious that despite the avowed commitment of this current and the previous government, the social work profession has not maintained its social or professional standing.

Perceptions of the social worker

I sometimes detect a slight wrinkling of the nose when senior colleagues mention social work or social workers. They are spoken of as something of a nuisance, with their professional ethics and standards hampering transformation and improvement. It’s perfectly possible to be a senior manager of social care and not be a social worker, particularly in adult social care. Even the position of Director of Adult Services does not require a social work qualification. Whilst this doesn’t preclude good management, it does say something about the perceived importance of the social work profession.

Suggestions to training practices

The most recent threat to the integrity of the profession comes with the suggestion that children’s and adults social work training should be separate because they are essentially different. Medicine has many different disciplines, but I don’t see any one suggesting that gerontologists and gynaecologists should study separately from the start. A fresh blow is the recent closure of The College of Social Work after just 4 years.

And yet, there are green shoots. The fledgling Social Workers Assembly provides a platform for social workers to ‘communicate, debate and create’. Long live social work.

Do you have a similar story to Susan? Are you proud to be a social worker? Have your say in the comments below.

The views and opinions expressed on HCL Social Care Ltd blogs do not necessarily represent those of HCL Social Care Ltd. HCL Social Care Ltd cannot be held responsible for the accuracy or reliability of information posted by external parties.

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