Positive Influences


I came across a tribute written by Clare Allen in the Guardian, to her own Social Worker, Bernadette, who is retiring this week. Allen writes about the positive influence that her social worker and the relationship between them has resulted in.

I could quote whole swathes of the article but honestly, it is better to go there and read it in its entireity as says a great deal about the way in which a good social worker practises and how it is perceived and interpreted from the view of the recipient of the service.

Just a couple of points though, first is that Allen had the same social worker allocated for 11 years and, she writes, as far as she remembers, Bernadette has never had a sick day.

I honestly can’t imagine many people being able to write that about support staff. I wonder if it is about conditions, working environments and management structures.

It is a great tribute but it is also an indication, in more general terms, of the work that can be done in Community Mental Health teams by social workers and why it is important to retain their skill-base in teams that seem to be ebbing ever more to a Health-based paradigm and away from Social care.

Yesterday I was at a meeting where one of the discussions revolved about the apparent marginalisation of social workers in CMHTs as we move towards multi-disciplinary working and the need for social workers specifically has been loosened with the changing of the ASW (Approved Social Worker) role to the AMHP (Approved Mental Health Professional) which can be taken up by other professionals. Of course, it won’t happen for a while, but it is clearly a worry. There is though, a substantial role for social work to carve a niche and to have a positive effect.

Back to Bernadette though, who does sound like a great practitioner. I have learnt myself from Allen’s piece about things that are important that I think will have an effect on the way I practise.

I trust she will have a well-deserved, restful retirement!

According to the testimony of Bernadette Soubi...

Image via Wikipedia

5 thoughts on “Positive Influences

  1. What an inspiring story, I was really touched by the bond that they share, and the delicate balance they seem to have found between support and dependance.
    I think a lot of people could learn from this article SW or otherwise. My favourite quote:

    “Crucially, Bernadette recognised that the time someone begins to walk unaided is not the time to throw away the crutches”

    That is brilliant. Thanks for sharing.

    Lola x

  2. There was a lot there which is why I just wanted to point to the entire article rather than quoting it. Each bit I read was a bit I wanted to ‘chop out’. I think it’s a great piece all in all which can be very useful for professionals and use (or lack of) the self in the therapeutic relationship. One of the things that struck me was importance of boundaries too and how they can be a crucial support without detracting from the therapeutic relationship.

  3. Lets hope that someone sends a copy to Ed Balls. I agree that CMHTs are now almost the only place in statutory adult services that long term relationships with clients can be created and ‘old fashioned’ social work take place. There are exceptions like Assertive Outreach.

    Although the AMHP role has been broadened I think there are real areas of expertise developing for social workers especially Safeguarding, Mental Capacity and DOLS. This can include all the work around Court of Protection, legal planning, Achieving Best Evidence Interviewing etc. I hope the profession claims these for their own.

  4. Wow! What an amazing story.

    “Strength, warmth and competence. These seem to me to be crucial qualities for anyone working in the field of mental health”

    She’s dead on with that one. This causes me pause….do I really offer these to my clients? Hmmmm…

  5. TT – very good points and actually, I was just last week (when I visited my old team) how much more flexibility we are given in the ways we work in Mental Health settings.
    I completely agree about developing and promoting the social work role within teams and we just need to publicise a bit more as often these aspects are forgotten.

    Reas – Yes, actually if I had quoted any line, it would have been that one. Definitely food for thought.

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