*The Road Not Taken

I was asked over the weekend by someone who is just about to finish her Social Work degree and  if I would recommend she goes  for statutory or voluntary Social  Work when she qualifies.

I had no hesitation in recommending voluntary sector work in an unashamedly contradictory manner – having worked, myself, almost exclusively in the public sector. One of those classic ‘do as I say and don’t do as I do’ models!

I have very little experience in the voluntary sector – I worked in a voluntary organisation for a few years before I qualified – but that was in residential care so in quite a different capacity to what I imagine the role of a qualified social worker would be – and my second placement all those years ago when I was training was in a voluntary sector organisation but other than that, all my post-qualification experience has been in the statutory sector.

We were generally advised to ‘get some experience in the statutory sector’ before deciding. The difficulty is though is moving on from that ‘experience’.

Statutory work is for the most part going to be paid better than voluntary sector work. And once you take the penny from the paws of the State, its very very difficult to take a salary drop to go back to voluntary work. That’s what I found anyway..

My intention was, all those years ago, to go voluntary and stay voluntary – I think in some ways, some of the social justice and advocacy/support roles that I sought to implement as an idealistic student would  have been better served in the third sector.

But I’ve found it now, too difficult to go back.

Perhaps I justify it but saying that in this role, I can work from within on the change-process but I’m likely kidding myself. I barely have a voice in the organisation I work in, let alone in the wider sector.

Maybe one day..


I’d be interested in other peoples’ opinions though – what would your advice be to someone starting out on their first job post-qualification?

(and if the person who asked is still around – I’d also recommend checking out the Carespace Forum from Community Care…you can never have too much advice!).

*(Apologies to Robert Frost)

IT and me!

I like to think of myself as somewhat knowledgeable about technology . Not on an advanced level or at the level that would merit any kind of expertise – but basic stuff like checking my email regularly, being able to use database programs and getting photos from my mobile phone to my computer – the essentials!

I do though, feel sometimes like the bane of the IT department at work. I am sure I’m not alone in phoning them up regularly to ask them to reset one or two of my passwords at least every month – in my defence, I currently have to have five different log-ins for different accounts (two NHS and three local authority ones) and they all have to be reset every month at different points in the month and none of them can have repeated passwords so it does get confusing at times.

The last time I called and had my password reset to ‘password’ and was told by a po-faced technician that I had to change my password immediately to ‘something secure’, I asked if I could just keep it as ‘password’ to make it easier to remember. I was only half-joking but the reaction from the IT guy the other end of the phone was quite comical as I thought he was having some kind of apoplexy when he explained to me (in slightly patronising tones, of course!) the importance of secure passwords – I did, of course, change it. But at least I don’t, like some people in my office, have a little post-it on my computer with a list of passwords!

dirk gently dirk gently – flickr

Recently though, well, three times in the last five months, to be honest, I have had to call for replacement keyboards. The last time I had to actually get a colleague to call on my behalf because I was too embarrassed. Coffee and keyboards don’t make a happy mix. To those UK taxpayers, I am taking extreme care now (and if it’s any consolation, I’m sure I’ve paid much more than three keyboards in unpaid overtime.. probably just this week alone come to think of it!)

The most embarrassing phone call I made though was when I really did have one of those ‘Have you checked it’s on?’ remarks – and it wasn’t (in my defence, it was the printer and the little LCD lights come on at the back.. and.. and.. ok, not really a good defence!).

Oh well. at least I keep them on their toes!

‘New Media’ and Social Work

One of the main reasons I starting writing this is because I wanted to be reading a blog by a social worker in the UK who was currently practising as a social worker. Doing the kind of things that I was doing.

I’m pretty sure I’d have been more than happy to chime in and comment. But I couldn’t find any. So I started writing the kind of things I’d want to read about. It’s very selfish really – but very good for reflecting on some of the work as it happens. I think it’s actually something that helps me manage some of the frustrations as well as I have an outlet.

There are a few US based sites though which, the more I read and discover, make me realise that actually, though some of the details, issues and practices change, the underlying structures and reasons why, don’t really.

tomswift46 tomswift46

The first one I found was Blue Jean Social Work written by a US social worker who reflects on issues and work she (mm.. I’m assuming she is a she.. I’m not sure it is explicitly stated!) manages to draw very eloquently on the difficulties, challenges and sometimes, the joys that the work throws up.

Then, of course, Prin’s Links for Social Work Students which is well-established compendium of resources! I honestly don’t know how she has the time! But it’s much more than a list of sites – it is a personal journey and log where the character very much comes shining through – and intermingled with the social work links are links to music and my personal favourites which are the Mississippi facts and figures – for me, anyway, it’s a door into a different world – some familiar due to the work-based link but some completely different!

Amy’s Life in Brief relates Amy’s tales of a return to Social Work after a career break – it’s a log of some of the issues and dilemmas she faces in the work that she is undertaking. There is a more personal ring to her writing – certainly than mine anyway, and for that there is a lot of heart there.

Diary of a Burned Out Social Worker is a blog I found more recently. I have been enjoying reading and getting an insight into the life and times of the author. She (again, are we noting a pattern here!) brings a lot of her family into it and some of the work-based scenarios are intermingled. It’s funny sometimes to see how similar a lot of the work is, at the core, regardless of legal and cultural differences.

I only discovered Trench Warfare from Reas Kriocowl, the other day, or rather, I should say, she discovered me! But her observations have made me chuckle – no, actually laugh – more than a few times already. I recognise a lot of the conversations and interactions in the work I do possibly because of the setting she works in.

I’ve also come across Awake and Dreaming which has an interesting perspective from a newly qualified social worker who has just started the path towards..er.. enlightenment! Well, however it comes across she strikes me as having a good handle on reflection and thoughtfulness in any case which serve her extremely well in her career (I hope that doesn’t sound patronising – it isn’t meant to!).

And LA Lady, writing Real Life in Alabama who is a social work student, currently studying for her MA. Who reminds me that possibly my life revolves too much around work – some of those pictures can make me feel insanely jealous (beach, cake… )

edit (sorry.. I mixed up genders. I hope no offence was caused because it was most definitely not intended – not that being male is offensive.. I’d better stop before I get myself into more trouble)

Everyone needs Therapy. Initially I wasn’t sure if the name was ironic or not! But the quality of writing is very high. I have found the content too – dealing with both the personal and the professional.

Those are just a few of the blogs I’ve found written and compiled by social workers that I have enjoyed reading.

Then there are the blogs at Community Care.

This is a slightly different perspective as the are about social work related issues more than personal experiences.

The Social Work Blog does what it says on the tin really! Usually an issue is picked which relates to social work (in the UK!) and considered – and it can trawl up some of the more interesting or unusual pieces that might be more easily missed in the print edition.

Mad World has a similar role, but specifically concentrating on Mental Health policy and news and usually picks up on a few snippets to highlight.

Actually, my inspiration for this post came as I was listening to the Community Care Podcast which I’ve found to be useful and would definitely recommend. I know I have the The Social Work Podcast listed on the sidebar but it’s a bit drier to be honest, and having a focus that is so far removed from my own experiences, doesn’t seem to ‘speak to me’ personally. There is a more academic, therapy-based outlook.

Whereas with the blogs, I find reading about different systems interesting and thought-provoking – with podcasts in some way, I prefer to be able to relate me. Possibly the influence of having radio as a background pretty much throughout my life.

Personally I’ve found the process of writing and reading what others have written to be immensely valuable in terms of personal as well as, possibly, professional development (that waits to be seen really as sometimes I wonder if it makes me more likely to rant.. um.. I mean express my views forcefully).

Possibly because I’ve tended to be one of the younger members of the teams I’ve worked in – although that becomes more likely to change with each passing year (!) I haven’t seen much willingness to embrace technology in general in my workplace, let alone ‘new’ media.

Anyway, I just wanted to give a snapsnot of some of the links (and blogs I hadn’t got round to linking but had intended to) that relate specifically to social work and social workers – and if anyone becomes aware of any others, I’d be glad to know!