A social worker from Lanarkshire argues that her profession is integral to holding together society and challenging injustice but is treated with contempt – it’s time social workers began sticking up for themselves
SOCIAL workers are meant to be truly agents of social change, challenging injustice where we see it, and trying to make sure that individuals can reach their full potential in a society that is unfairly stacked against them.
Yet within our own profession, we are woefully inadequate at protecting and advocating for our own rights. A public sector pay rise that includes doctors, teachers, prison officers, but not social workers.
No of course not social workers - not the demonised big bad wolf of society, who will swoop down and steal kids (to a quota, dontcha know?) whilst simultaneously doing nothing and leaving kids to be murdered by their parents.
Not social workers who will delay hospital discharge deliberately just to have everyone hopping through a bureaucratic dance. Or send people home with inadequate care packages which end up in readmissions.
Not social workers who wear sandals, have hippy dippy hair, unrealistic expectations and live in never never land, tripping through schools, hospitals, care homes and saying ‘there there dear, everything will be alright’ Well meaning but utterly ineffective.
We are bureaucratic form tickers who have a penchant for stealing children. We are unrealistic do-gooders who shuffle paper, type reports and hold everything back. We are the easy target for society’s woes. We make ourselves the easy target.
We need to stand up for social work again. We need to show everyone that this is not who we are and this is not what we do. There is a lack of understanding about the role of social workers and we are at fault for that. We have not put it right.
When your gran is not well or your daughter needs a package of care, we are the people that are privileged to come into your life and get to know your family. We are the ones who will carry out an in depth assessment with you and your loved ones, balancing risk with autonomy, facing difficult conflicting challenges whilst we fight to put in the right care at the right time, respecting choices and putting your gran or your daughter or you right at the centre of what we do.
We are the ones that you will call when you’re worried for a neighbours child, or worried about a new mum struggling. We are the ones who will help with forms, call housing, look at money, promote independence, help with daily living skills, put in help when it's needed, make sure above all that the child is safe and secure. We are the ones who will work night and day to make sure children and adults and older people are safe and supported within our society.
Social workers are the ones that go home at night exhausted and drained, and cry and dream all night of all the things that they could have done better. Caseloads high and getting higher. Resources low and getting lower. Cares not right. Society’s not fair. Blame blame play the blame game, and blame the bloody social worker.
Not the government who is pushing this so called austerity. Not the people so far up the money tree that they can’t see their own backsides anymore.
No, let's blame the ridiculously underpaid rank and file social workers, who go out every day and put themselves in the firing line, because they believe in change. That people can change, that society can change, that lives can and do change for the better.
But somehow we’ve forgotten that we too need change for the better. No more social workers with stress signing off work because they’ve spent weeks, months, years, trying to battle a failing system, no more social workers leaving the profession after an average of 8 years with burn out, no more endless needless repetitive paperwork, no more drowning in a sea of bureaucracy. Let us do what we are good at, let us spend time with people, let us make a difference.
And let us make a difference to us. We need to advocate for our own social change, and it needs to happen soon.
Picture courtesy of Patrick Marione