Keeping Perspective, “Social Work – Losing the battle but winning the war?”

Andrew Cooper explores how to keep perspective of what individual social workers are seeking to achieve within the sometimes overwhelming tasks of child protection.  From the Centre For Social Work Practice

Social Work – Losing the battle but winning the war?

Most social workers feel their daily work is a battle, and often a losing one. Resources are desperately short, decent supervision rarely happens, the (electronic) paperwork is overwhelming, the work itself is complex, anxiety-provoking and sometimes frightening or dangerous. Children and adults are often left in risky situations with social workers carrying the worry and the responsibility. Yet public and media opinion is rarely on our side. Surprising on the face of it then that the Guardian’s recent social care surveyfound that 78% of social workers find the job rewarding, and 63% said they were ‘happy’, although in 2008 the latter figure was 82%. On the other hand, this year 52% say they would definitely or possibly consider leaving the sector and more than 80% report feeling ground down by excess bureaucracy, heavy workloads and the public image of the profession. Social workers want improvements in these conditions, more than they want higher salaries. How to make sense of all this?

Well, social workers are highly committed to their jobs and what they mean, are prepared to give more to our society than they want to take out, find the work fulfulling but exhausting, and are deeply frustrated by the conditions that prevent them spending more time with their clients and service users. One of the central battles we all feel we are losing is the right to be able to do the job we signed up for – working with people to ‘make a difference’. It all adds up to social workers feeling very conflicted about themselves and their profession.




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