Summer’s over, the kids are back at school, and work is in full flow again for social workers. In truth, August was no different. It used to be quiet but not anymore. Weekends too, but not anymore. Social work has always been a 24/7 service. I’ve always thought of it as one of the emergency services, just as many family members and carers are part of the emergency services because they equally preserve and protect life and help those close to them to avoid death or serious injury.
This week we’ve had a delegation of social workers from Sweden, dong similar work to us but with more time to see children and to see parents – not unlimited, but they are not facing the same pressures social workers in the UK are. Busy people live and survive in the margins, and the Swede’s margins were just that little bit greater. They were interested and impressed by the work social workers in Cafcass and other agencies they had visited were doing. In particular, they were impressed by how quickly our social workers were understanding and assessing family situations and thought this speed of working under pressure was evidence of expertise. For us, we drew from this:
- A welcome affirmation of skills and the contribution of social workers to society
- Help with the restoration of trust and confidence in social workers, which will take time
I have been a social worker at different levels, including as Chief Executive, for 38 years. For all the ups and downs, I cannot imagine having a more rewarding career. I know I have done a lot of good – social work needs to be much more about the impact it has on vulnerable adults and children, and less on how organisations operate. It is not just an emergency service but a very personal emergency service. A close colleague of mine and a leading High Court judge, Ernest Ryder, said recently in relation to social work expertise, “this is the age of the social worker”. I hope that despite the difficulties with budgets and with pressure, that it will in time become a golden age. Like most of my colleagues, I will be working to try to bring that about.