One of the things that makes Social Work slightly unbearable is all the paperwork and bureaucracy. Unfortunately, as the title suggests it isn’t going to go away. As Social Workers it is necessary for us to document our interactions and interventions with clients for a variety of reasons. It is there as an account to funding sources that we are doing what we are being funded to do. It facilitates the work we do by being various living documents to which we can refer when compiling information into reports and assessments. It is a guide for clients, should they want to see their files, as to all the work and communication we shared with them. It is a way to keep track of everything we have done and will be doing with our clients so we can document progress and not duplicating work. It is a guide for those who come after us as to a clients story and or journey through our service so they do not have to retell this story repeatedly. It gives us a basis for which to challenge discrepancies when they arise in our work.
The paperwork we do has a variety of uses, thought I acknowledge that it can be tedious and at times repetitive. There is work being done to reduce the repetitiveness of our work thereby giving us more time to do direct work with our clients. It is important that we learn to manage the paperwork and your time, by doing so you develop a strong foundation for your practice.
There will always be emergencies in Social Work that will interrupt the day you’ve planned, however, if you have planned your tasks to a certain degree you will have time to make it up. Here are some tips:
1 – Schedule your visits in advance – if you schedule your visits about a week or 2 before they are due, should there be any unexpected eventualities you will have time to make sure they are still within timescales
2 – Respect time (both yours and your clients) – we all hate waiting around for an appointment that turns out to be late, whether it’s an hour or ten minutes, and we all hate having to rush to do things, which is why it is best to set an example. If you are on time for visits and meetings, start your own meetings on time and set aside time for paperwork you can be reasonably sure that things will get done. You can’t plan for every eventuality but you can give yourself a little leeway that helps reduce the impact on everything else you are doing.
3 – Maintain contact – if you keep in regular contact with your clients – checking in to see how they are, following up to see how an appointment went, going with them to appointments, popping by just because – you won’t have to make special trips to do visits or update plans. This helps to make sure that your visits and care plans are on time. If you are staying in touch you will have a lot of information at your fingertips to do your plans when they come due. In essence, don’t wait for a task needing completion in order to get in touch.
4 – Be creative with your working – you don’t have to do every visit the same exact way every time. You don’t have to meet in the same place every single time. If you are working with a family it might be nice to meet the family in their local park and have a catch up with mom or dad while the children are playing, or you can play with the children for a bit while mom or dad sit by.
5 – Know your job – if you know what needs to get done, when you can make time for it, it will all get done. Most places have systems that remind you when things are coming due but there is nothing preventing you from scheduling time to complete tasks once they are done, so scheduling next months visit before you leave the current one or booking in time to complete your care plan after you finish the most recent one.
6 – Be thorough but not repetitive – there is no use in saying the same thing constantly just to fill out your form. It is not helpful to you or the client. It serves no purpose unless you’re doing a chronology or a court report and need to outline a pattern of behaviour or evidence work over time. If you are doing care plans, keep information current and focused. Your care plans are meant to your plan for the coming 6 months so shouldn’t have to repeat information that is elsewhere on the file.
These are not exhaustive but they are things that work to help get through all the work and not fall too far behind. There may be things you do to help you get through your paperwork. Feel free to share. I am always looking to share good practice.