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Realities of Social Work

Dealing with distress, expressing hope, showing solidarity and valuing the power of relationships – these things are all core to good social work and are central to how we assess, support and assist children and families every day. The families often express hopelessness, distress and anger, it is what we do.

As I watched the Dispatches documentary last night, I observed social workers who were dealing with a similar set of feelings (should it surprise us that social workers sometimes mirror the issues they deal with every day?).

This was a programme high on opinions and pontification and low on analysis and empathy. The ethics of ‘undercover’ have properly received much attention in the hours that followed and in a recent article ‘Vicky’ (the undercover SW) appears to be distancing herself from the programme and expressing a view that she thought she was supporting social workers and shining a light on the resource issues.

Certainly the Twitter-sphere took a different view to ‘Vicky’s’ and the outpouring of support for social workers that ensued was heartwarming and a clear expression of solidarity with Birmingham’s social workers, who I am sure must be bruised by this attack on their work.

What social work service is not struggling with recruitment? We have been in and will continue to remain in a deficit position nationally about social work posts and available social workers. Like many DCS’s I was shocked to hear the revelation that agency and interim social workers are more expensive than permanent staff!

The social work task will always bring distress and pressure, it is the reason why many people decide it is the job for them (it was for me), and of course it can also be the reason that people leave the profession. As with the children and families we seek to support, showing solidarity, valuing relationships and showing empathy and understanding are the counterbalances to the distress and pressure that comes with the job.

I plan to show solidarity by visiting social workers in Birmingham next week as ADCS President, children’s services there are still recovering but there is forward momentum and real progress on the journey forward. Social workers are a resilient bunch and Birmingham social workers will continue day in and day out to bring their resilience and strength of character to bear on the social work task.

Dispatches did not help and let’s not forget that this is not the first time we have seen undercover reporting of this kind – children in Medway Secure Training Centre were left at risk of further harm between recording taking place and the programme being aired.

After a late night of reactions and social media watching (and a few interventions from me), I floated into slumber, ‘tickled’ by the Twitter contribution that questioned whether the social workers on Dispatches were real, after all there was “not enough swearing, crying or chocolate!’ Keep at it folks - you will get there.


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