‘Social Work at its Best’


Over the weekend I had a look at the GSCC document ‘Social Work at its Best’ which is a result of an 18 month consultation process throughout England to establish what Social Work is and should be in the future.

It makes fairly interesting reading for the most part and to some extent establishes a basis of the profession in some ways for the eyes of others where it might have and still does struggle for the recognition and status of equivalent professional status but in a world, certainly in the field I work in (exclusively adults and currently mental health) where the roles between some of the professions appears to have become a bit blurred.

In moving, over the past couple of years, from a social services social work team into a multi-disciplinary CMHT I’ve seen a lot of uncertainty and muddle ‘on the shop floor’ regarding the profession itself.  In the first team it was due to the somewhat mechanical nature of the care management procedure where there is little scope for any active ‘help’ and the focus is on efficiency and budget management to a multi-disciplinary team where it can seem that a CPN has the same role as an Occupational Therapist as a Social Worker and the relevance of a sociologically based background as opposed to a medical background can seem to be a disadvantage when the tasks requested relate to medication compliance and DLA/AA forms rather than active, therapeutic and creative care and support.

Some of the tasks documented included

– building relationships with people who need support

(Good as an initial point because you can’t really do anything without ‘a relationship’ of some kind).

– aiding people who wish to do so to assess their own needs, identify resources, make decisions and manage their own support

(Might be a bit more relevant in some areas but wherever I’ve worked the emphasis has been on producing assessments and yes, it’s through conversation and discussion but it is still MY assessment of YOU that funding is based on – of course, self-directed assessment would be wonderful, but I’m thinking realistically its not something I’ve seen – hopefully it is a part of the new push towards personalisation)

– arranging good quality care for adults who can no longer manage in their own home

(I’d love to be able to provide an exceptional level of care services consistently to everyone who needs – but if the supply isn’t there.. )

– helping people in poverty improve their financial position, informing them of their entitlements, supporting them to access training and work.

(Wow, I didn’t know this was expected to be honest. I have never attended, been asked to attend or been offered any kind of training or information apart from what I have gathered through primarily on-line research myself and telephone calls to the DWP that has been about benefits. In the local authorities this has been tendered out to teams that assess and visit people in their homes and they advise on benefits.)

– helping to ensure that public resources are allocated and any charges applied fairly, and informing commissioners of any evidence of needs not being met

(This is more like it… once charges are mentioned, it feels more like what I’m doing! We have endless tools and methods to provide ‘fair’ assessments but whenever you are applying models rather than using a degree of common sense, there will be issues of fairness – as for commissioners – I’ve had very mixed experiences – that will probably make a rather long discussion topic of itself).

– seeking to promote social justice by challenging neglect, discrimination and exclusion, and helping to build safe, strong social networks and communities

(I think for one of the first times, reading a discussion paper, I actually smiles when I read this (ok, it was a smile-in-the-inside… but still.. ). This is exactly what I want to be doing, I thought. Do I? Well, as much as I can within the constraints of work. But if there is one thing that speaks to me, as a social worker, it is this. This is why I wanted to do the job and what keeps and will keep me in it – although (and I know this is presented in other parts of the document) I’d add something about the personal as well to make it more complete!).

There were 15 points and I’ve only highlighted a few.

But I wonder how many of them speak distinctly to social workers as opposed to other health care or social care professionals? How many of the tasks indicated am I able to do as a result of my training as a social worker as distinct from the training, for example, a CPN might undertake, or a community OT?

Perhaps it is more obvious in Children’s services where there is (I understand – although I don’t know a great deal about the set up over there) a more structured kind of role for qualified social workers.

What I’d like to see is this document circulated in Care Management Teams and given to directors and managers who have created an almost regimented and in my opinion, a deskilling process of allocating resources.

I’d like to see competent Social Workers with professional responsibility being able to make decisions based on professional judgement.

I’d like to see a role for the profession which is, perhaps, more distinct. I know there has been some belly-button gazing regarding the professional respect and attitude to social workers as opposed to ‘similar’ professionals in other fields – usually with a negative response, but it is, I think, up to social workers themselves rather than government policy documents to change that.

Else, stop trying to make other people respect you so much ‘Social Workers’ and get on with respecting and giving value to yourselves!

2 thoughts on “‘Social Work at its Best’

  1. I am reading a class assignment about Postmodernism. A dangerous illusion for social work. the article was so boring , however, I was able to realize that the consumer has the power to decide the appriopate social services. Social work er new modern approach will be is to enlighten the consumer to advocate and to movitate,

  2. I suppose it depends a little bit on what you mean by power. Power to decide? The choices are rarely there to be made. Personally, I think that postmodernism is a trend rather than a choice. It isn’t one or the other.

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