This very poignant article was written for community care and very articulately outlines a very destructive practice that exists in local authorities. This needs to change immediately. We are not only leaving Social Workers in unhealthy environments we are then exposing new qualified Social Workers to these highly uncertain, unsupportive and unstable environments which then replicate the same results – burn out, high turn over, lack of stability for clients. A complaint should not become and attack. A complaint is not an open door for a local authority to punish its workers. This is positively ludicrous.
Social Workers here are not given the appropriate level of support but this goes in two directions. Managers need to take responsibility not only for the case work but also for the well being of their workers because as effective managers they recognise that if their workers are healthy, content and supported, then their work product will be of a high level. But unfortunately it seems we work in a system that protects its managers not its workers. The most unfortunate part of this is that these decisions the disrupt the lives of clients because either they then get and agency worker who can go at any time or the work is filtered out to the rest of the team that is already overworked with their own caseloads. It is a never ending cycle.
However, Social Workers need to be looking out for themselves. They need to be advocates for themselves and not be afraid to speak out. Are there risks? Absolutely, but when it comes to your health and well being it is better to speak up than bottle it up. I firmly believe that monthly supervision should incorporate a conversation about a workers well being. Where it does not, I would say that Social Workers need to ask for it to be documented that they would like this to be part of their supervision. Supervision notes should be signed by both parties and signed copy provided to the worker. This way, even if a manager is tempted to alter documents, the worker has proof. We need to speak up for ourselves and let managers know what we need as workers. Yes we work for our local authorities, but they should also be working for us. In terms of ensuring we work in healthy conditions, have access to professional development, and are appropriately supported.
In the scenario posited by the author I would have encouraged the Social Worker to go back and ask for a resolution to the complaint. I would have taken it further and asked for an independent enquiry as to why the local authority felt the need to undertake an investigation at the point which they did. I would make sure that I have documented evidence of my requests for further support. If that didn’t work I would take it to a major publication and make it known that I was being targeted and bullied for daring to speak out for the support necessary to provide the best possible service to my clients. This cannot be allowed to continue. We cannot afford to sit back and allow ourselves to be bullied or intimidated into silence. It does more harm than good.
I urge all Social Workers to ensure they are being heard in supervision. I urge everyone to ensure that they keep signed copies of their supervision notes and where key issues have not been recorded that they ask for the notes to be altered or the add it in themselves before they sign it and return to their managers. Do not allow others to take advantage of you. We are trained to advocate for out clients but we also need to advocate for ourselves. It is imperative to positive well being, job security and on going professional development.