Social workers are quick to gripe but what we really need are solutions
Posted on 7/09/2016 by
Navel gazing will not get us anywhere; the profession needs trailblazers to move on from criticism to find new ways of working
There’s a cliched business saying that goes “don’t come to me with problems, come to me with solutions”. While I’ve unfortunately had to endure my fair share of the business jargon that is increasingly creeping into social work (“work smarter, not harder” being particularly fashionable in the age of efficiency savings), I’ve yet to hear this one in my practice.
But it does spring to mind quite often when I read articles, journals and commentary about our profession.
There is a great deal of noise about the problems we face in social work, the grievances we bear, the issues affecting those we work for and, perhaps most loudly of all, all that is wrong with our government’s approach to social care. Yet, for all of this negativity (and I hold my hands up and admit I am guilty of this too), it is rarer to see people coming up with solutions.
There are the age-old cries for more funds, better staff support and lower caseloads. There are also pleas for the profession to unite behind a common cause, like our teaching and health brethren have done, to enforce change. But sadly there is little action behind these words and, more often than not, small flames of hope often fizzle out then amount to little more than a professional echo chamber played out via online dialogue or in closed meetings.
Navel gazing will not get us anywhere. Twitter exchanges and sharing views in the comments section of news stories are not going to change the world. These actions, taken from the comfort of our homes or typed out on the commute home, can give us a shared identity but they cannot bring about meaningful change.
Small inter-professional meetings held among ourselves that lambast all that is wrong yet fail to come up with realistic ways to effect change are ineffective ways of trying to make a difference. They are a great way to spark interest, but how many times have we seen the initial buzz of conventions and seminars die down after attendees depart for home and settle back into their everyday routines?
So who is going to come up with an alternative to the ways of working that are being prescribed to us? Ones that the professional zeitgeist appears so set against.
We need pioneers and trailblazers who will move beyond lazy criticism of “nasty Tories” and propose an alternative to the government’s actions. We need a new direction for social work to show both professionals and service users that there is a better way of working.
Many years ago I went to my father with worries about people criticising me and he said: “Anyone can burn down a barn, but not everyone can build one.” This message has stuck with me as I’ve grown older and I’ve found greater depth in those words. I now see how criticism is a readily available substitute for creation; tearing down the work and ideology of others is far easier than taking the time to create something of your own.
As I dwell on my father’s words I can’t help shake the feeling that this cynicism, unmatched by dynamism, runs rife throughout our profession and risks us stagnating as change is forced upon us.
With a Labour party torn apart by internal wars and little sign of any specific social work policies this far, there appears to be little hope of a counter argument coming from the opposition benches. However, we can still find inspiration from Westminster.
The recent education select committee report into social work reform gives hope to the profession with criticism of accreditation and fast-track schemes, acceptance of that working conditions are toxic for many and a desire for a positive PR campaign to stand up for social workers. With these points chiming with the voices of the vast majority of frontline workers, we need professional leaders to pick up the baton and run with it.
With the innovation fund, booming membership of the British Association of Social Workers, a more receptive media and increased government focus all occurring at the same time as the select committee report, surely the planets have aligned for the avant garde of social work to come forth and push the boundaries.
Raising issues is vitally important, especially when backed by academic research, but at some point we need to propose solutions to these issues that go beyond asking for attention, money and resources.
New ways of working. Smarter ways of recording and documenting our interventions. Truly innovative ways of providing early intervention. More effective processes for safeguarding vulnerable people.
We know all too well what isn’t working, so where are the leaders who will take up the mantle of people like Eileen Munro and give us all hope for a brighter future? Who will give us solutions instead of more problems?
Source: The Guardian