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In defence of social workers.

Discussion in 'ARCHIVE FORUM: Support discussions' started by Natashalou, Apr 27, 2007.

  1. Natashalou

    Natashalou Registered User

    Mar 22, 2007
    426
    london
    I have noticed on this board a great deal of negativity about social workers, and whilst this is understandable, I would like to point out the situation from the "other side".
    I started my professional life as a social worker, although based in the children and families team rather than older persons.
    I was 22 years old with a qualification but very little knowledge of life, children, or problems!
    I was alloted a caseload approximatly twice the level it should have been due to staff shortages in the team. I was supposed to have twice weekly supervision sessions with the manager, but I was very lucky to have even one a fortnight as he was busy taking on caseloads himself instead of managing as otherwise our caseloads would have been even bigger.
    Needless to say, I became unhappy and demoralised very fast. Clients seemed to think I would automatically be able to wave a magic wand and solve all their problems!!
    I found myself working a 50 hour week instead of the 36 hours I was contracted to do, but still the barrel of criticism from all sides.
    I left the profession and changed to the probation service (things were pretty bad there too but no quite as awful!!)
    15 years on, I still have many friends and contacts who are social workers and things are even worse.
    the pressure on these poeple is immense, and most are very dedicated. It is not that they cant be bothered, or dont care, it is simply there is no money, not enough time or resources, and little guidance and advice from more senior staff!!
    It is very seldom the individual who is at fault, it is the system. Of course, there are bad social workers, it would be silly to suggest otherwise, but most are ordinary people just like us doing their best, and as well as all of the aforementioned, hands tied by red tape and regulations!!
    Its kind of damned if you do and damned if you dont!!
     
  2. Grannie G

    Grannie G Volunteer Moderator

    Apr 3, 2006
    68,721
    Kent
    Thanks Natasha,

    There are always two sides to every story.
     
  3. jenniferpa

    jenniferpa Volunteer Moderator

    Jun 27, 2006
    39,419
    Yes, I'm afraid we do tend to blame "social workers" when I think, in our heart of hearts, we know it's the system that's letting us down. The problem is, social workers (and doctors) have become the gate-keepers: they are the one that tell us whether we can or cannot have services, so inevitably, we're going to blame them when we're told we can't get this or that. Another contributory factor I think is this, i.e. the internet. 20 years ago, most of us wouldn't have had the first idea what we were entitled to: we would have to accept that what we were told by professionals was accurate. Now, we can wander around virtually, and quickly find out if what we have been told is correct, so anytime we're told something that isn't accurate, we pounce on it. I'm not sure that all social workers fully understand that: they can be a touch "paternalistic" in their delivery.

    Unfortunately, from the service users point of view, ALL the power is in the hands of the social worker, and I think it's human nature to think that if only we can put our case cogently, help will be forthcoming. Furthermore, it's clear that many social services departments are functioning in a fire-fighting mode due to scarce resources. The upshot is that in many cases the situation has to to deteriorate badly before apprpriate assistance is forthcoming, which leaves one feeling that only those that shout long and hard are the ones to get any help. From the outside looking in, it does appear that with a finite pool of resources, it is those who have a social worker who knows how to work the system who are the ones who get the help.

    Intellectually, I think we're aware that "the social worker" is at the sharp end, simply delivering services to the best of their abilities and budget contraints, poorly paid, with too large a case load, and with managers who may not be entirely aware of the "real world". Emotionally, however, we as service users have too much on our plates to concern ourselves with the well-being of our social worker.

    Jennifer
     
  4. Skye

    Skye Registered User

    Aug 29, 2006
    17,000
    SW Scotland
    I think this is the crux of the matter. I think many people, myself included, do not ask for help until we are on the point of breakdown. Social workers realise this, and I think in most cases they do their best to provide support.

    But if the funding is not there to provide respite, or there are no daycare places available at that time, then we are inclined to blow up. Not because the SW has done anything wrong, but because we were relying on them to help, and there was no help forthcoming.

    It's not an easy job, given that they are inevitably dealing with people who are severly stressed, and unfortunately they are at the receiving end of our frustration!

    Of course, there are bad ones!:(
     
  5. mocha

    mocha Registered User

    Feb 17, 2006
    176
    Lancs, England
    SW's

    I feel sorry for good Social Worker's because as with all walks of life there are poor ones too.
    I have nothing but praise for the one's Ron has as they have gone out of their way to help me.
    I didn't always have the same feelings when I worked in a Care Home as a lot were very arrogant and thought of themselves as something above us mere mortals. :rolleyes:
    Aileen
     
  6. Kay2

    Kay2 Registered User

    Mar 16, 2007
    12
    Lancashire
    In defence of social

    Hi

    Got to say, there are GOOD social workers :D MIL's first was an angel and helped enormously. :)

    However, the one who is now involved with MIL's care is arrogant and does not communicate at all !!!! Even though, at the moment, she is supposed to be liasing with the home we have chosen, and keeping us informed of progress???? :mad:

    We cannot reach her when we need to, and she insists on calling our home number, when she has been told on numerous occasions, to ring my husband on his mobile.:confused: where he can be reached at any time!!!

    Just personal obs. but it make you angry.

    Kay
     
  7. Amy

    Amy Registered User

    Jan 4, 2006
    3,453
    When once complaining that on TV the news reports were always bad, a friend pointed out the day that they report only good news is the day to worry - because that is when good news has become noteworthy and the exception rather than the norm.
    And maybe it is the same with socialworkers - the day that the good social worker becomes the exception, is the day that we should worry.I'm a teacher in a city that frequently is at the bottom of the league tables - we cant do anything right either - no matter how hard we work!!
    Helen
     
  8. jennym

    jennym Registered User

    Apr 27, 2007
    4
    a bit of both

    my experience of social workers has been mixed, my first one was most unhelpfull and did not know the meaning of empathy, but i have moved house to be closer to my daughter for support and have a new social worker who is excellent and is helping us no end. We have got direct payments set up and feel as if we are moving forward and my husband is happy, so that is always a blessing, he now has a personal assistant to provide support and guidance (the p.a is my daughter so it is working well because my husband is reluctant to accpt help from strangers) if you get a bad social worker request another.
    Good luck
    Jenny m
     
  9. Natashalou

    Natashalou Registered User

    Mar 22, 2007
    426
    london
    Im pleased

    some of us at least have positive experiences of social workers!! Interestingly. one persons "good" social worker is another ones "terrible " one!!
    Unfortunatly with the pressures, it is impossible to be all things to all people, and the family that has a "bad "social worker possibly makes that judgement coz she wasnt available "on the day we wanted her"...probably because she was dealing with the family who thinks she is fantastic!!
    Clearly, if a relationship breaks down completly a change of social worker is the only option, but social workers are only human, and if a family is labelled as "difficult" nobody actually wants that family as part of their caseload, which is probably going to lead to a poorer service than trying to work through issues with the one you have and who probably already knows a bit about the case.
    A lot of the problem IMHO , are that social workers are, now, frankly terrified of imparting bad news. In children and families, abuse and insults,and even physical assaults etc were literally routine. I dont think there IS such a risk in the older peoples teams, but nevertheless, I know of social workers who would rather fluff the issue and fob people off, rather than giving an unpopular but honest "no" .
    Still, with the year on year cutbacks along with recruitment and retention problems, I can forsee a scenario where people simply wont have a social worker either good OR bad..or it will become privatised and we will all have to pay a private company for the service!
     
  10. jenniferpa

    jenniferpa Volunteer Moderator

    Jun 27, 2006
    39,419
    When I was last in the ER waiting with my mother for an x-ray (and waiting and waiting...) I got talking to a woman who was waiting as well. She was a social worker dealing with the elderly (well, in theory: she was actually on sick leave due to stress). She was telling me a story about one of her clients who had a neighbour who was always "there". This client managed to confide in her (when the neighbour was out of the room) that the neighbour was physically abusing her. Unsurprisingly, the SW immediatly called for assistance. When she got back to the office, she was reprimanded by her supervisor for using the client's phone! Sometimes one has no idea what people have to put up with. I suspect that the vast majority of people go into to social work because they want to make a difference (well I know it's not for the money). Unfortunately the system tends to lead to those with empathy bowing out, leaving those who because they're not getting respect, or payment, or other more laudible benefits stay because they're getting something else, and that something else is sometimes a sense of power. It's not attractive, but it is human.

    Jennifer
     
  11. noelphobic

    noelphobic Registered User

    Feb 24, 2006
    3,452
    Liverpool
    #11 noelphobic, Apr 27, 2007
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2007
    what a wonderful thread

    and I wish I had started it!

    I first thought about becoming a social worker a long time ago. For various reasons, that I can't actually remember now, I didn't actually do it. Last year I seriously considered leaving the firm I had worked for for about 15 years - there was a generous voluntary redundancy package on offer :D - and going to university to do the degree that would 'qualify' me to become a social worker. I agonised over it, bored many people rigid over it - including you patient souls on TP - and again didn't go for it! I took the 'easy' option and stayed in my little rut! Why?

    Many reasons including - my age (I'm thirty seventeen and would have been thirty twenty when I graduated! :eek: ), the fact that my son was starting his first year in uni, and I would therefore need to support him, finances - would I be able to manage, having had a reasonably good salary and then living on next to nothing for 3 years?, would I get a job after graduating or would I be considered too old?

    Do you want to know what the most worrying aspect was - assuming that you have stayed awake this long? [B :eek: ]Would I be able to do the job properly and would I be able to sleep at night?[/B]
     
  12. jenniferpa

    jenniferpa Volunteer Moderator

    Jun 27, 2006
    39,419
    I think you're right about that, Brenda. Mental "toughness", for what of a better description seems to be required, and I know my own limitations: I, personally, would not be able to "let go". I realise training can help develop those characteristics, but I also think that if it was always the case that that worked, you wouldn't see the level of burn-out that you do see.

    Jennifer
     
  13. noelphobic

    noelphobic Registered User

    Feb 24, 2006
    3,452
    Liverpool
    ironically, I am now just coming to the end of my first 0U course, which is the same course that I would study if I was taking the Social Work degree.

    The other reservation I had about doing the course was that I would be bored by it. However, I really find it interesting! Hate writing essays though - even though I seem to do it effortlessly on TP! :D

    As far as being mentally 'tough' is concerned, I have always found that something of a paradox. If you were really tough then why would you want to be a Social Worker? Call me naive - I've been called worse! - but why would you want to be a Social Worker if you didn't care about people? It's not especially well paid and you would do much better going into 'commerce'. On the other hand, you can't always give people what they want, so you need to develop a thick skin to a certain extent!
     
  14. Margarita

    Margarita Registered User

    Feb 17, 2006
    10,824
    london
    #14 Margarita, Apr 27, 2007
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2007
    Yes we all know they is bad social worker and I know 90 peecent of they time go on Paper work, because of law change since your day as a SW , you can see it as A negative that we complain on TP , my social worker did not tell me that they was another day centre. I have all the compassion understand in the world and do not generalise all social worker the same, sadly social worker are not trained in dementia , so of cause people will pick up on this and share on TP , what we need is social worker that are trained in dementia , but the that can only happen when you get one that work for the mental heath team .

    So what we need is change , more understand what the client needs are , by law they can not stop one getting services just because of lack of funding , they have to fight for us , my social worker will only fight for me when I am at my wits end , not before , it has to happen before I can arrange change the care plan , I can see it happening or what going to happen in the future with my mother care , because I read up on it on TP , dose the social worker do that ? I don’t think so (Oh how I undertand her hands are tied) so its ok to say ask for service before it gets all on top of you , but until that happen they don’t listen, if a social worker does not fight for us , what the point of one, if she so bog down with work . its all just that they is to many not so good social worker then they is good one , I just hope that changes in the future . With my daughter generation, as my daughter is 23 very idealistic maybe as you was when you was 22 studying to be a social worker , like my daughter is now doing her master degree to became a social worker, see also see a need for change When it come to social worker and dementia training
     
  15. DickG

    DickG Registered User

    Feb 26, 2006
    558
    Stow-on-the-Wold
    Had a meeting with the SW yesterday to update Mary's care plan. She said "You will need an extra respite week between your June and October ones booked, would you like me to try and arrange a week in between?" Am I not the lucky one? As many have observed, service is very patchy.

    Dick
     
  16. Margarita

    Margarita Registered User

    Feb 17, 2006
    10,824
    london
    #16 Margarita, Apr 28, 2007
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2007
    You sure are Dick , what that saying post code area .

    I know if I ring my SW ask for respite she organize it at a drop of a hat , so I suppose I could not complain , for any morsel of help I get from them , but ask for 24 hour care at home if I went away , I better shut , tax payer money and all that , never mind mum pay her for the last 50 years :rolleyes: oh and my dad , his dead now can't mum use his contraption , oh for got it does not work like that
     
  17. Grannie G

    Grannie G Volunteer Moderator

    Apr 3, 2006
    68,721
    Kent
    Maggie, you are priceless.
     
  18. Sunlight

    Sunlight Registered User

    Feb 12, 2007
    55
    There are probably some very good Social Workers out there - mine just isn't one of them. I rang her in floods of tears - could hardly get the words out to tell her what had happened (felt like a right fool after). She said she would ring me back later that day to see if things had settled - that was 6 weeks ago and she hasn't rung yet.
     
  19. Lila13

    Lila13 Registered User

    Feb 24, 2006
    1,342
    My mother saw 2 social workers, I thought the first one was OK but the second one ...
     
  20. DickG

    DickG Registered User

    Feb 26, 2006
    558
    Stow-on-the-Wold
    I know that I am lucky to have such good SWs. I always treat them with respect and value their professionalism, I also understand the difficulties they work under. If they do not respond with the best service at their disposal then thay have betrayed our trust and understanding. What ever profession you choose to look at there are the good, bad, incompetent and indifferent. I wish with all my heart that everyone had the understanding and service that I have but sadly, as you say Margarita, it's the post code lottery.

    Dick
     

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