In re-thinking children’s social care, much is being made of reducing bureaucracy and stopping hot desking to give practitioners a more secure working space in offices. My perspective on this is a little bit different.
Practitioners need good 4G technology so they can work flexibly and remotely from home, and in and around the visits they need to make, as well as in their office base. The most important source of support for social workers is not a fixed desk but genuinely flexible working so they can balance work and life pressures in the most manageable way. Their employing organisation can facilitate higher productivity and performance by providing a tailored and customised package of support to the individual social worker.
It’s not only technology that needs to be tailored to social workers. We know that social workers learn in different ways so an individual learning account model can establish the right balance of input within a 70:20:10 model – 70% of learning coming on the job: 20% from peers: 10% through formal programmes.
Of course, in the office base, all social workers need access to a quiet space for making sensitive phone calls and writing reports. However most of us, myself included, can hot desk happily enough. It also has the advantage of letting you sit with different colleagues on different days to get to know a wider group and network.
It is of course also important to reduce bureaucracy to the safe minimum compatible with professional standards but we have to create a realistic expectation that bureaucracy is a safeguard for vulnerable service users. For instance, recording that is evidence based and kept up to date is a protection for services users, as are formal reports if they are kept brief and analytical whilst being written in plain English and being shared with service users in an empowering way.
I think we need to spend less time criticising the present and bigging up what is largely an unachievable or heavily-spun future, and concentrate on making the present as good as we can, with clever adjustments to the status quo and marginal gains.
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