Social workers play an integral role in supporting many of the most vulnerable people, but the annual day chosen to celebrate these professionals is far less well known than the likes of World Book Day.
Children’s social workers change lives. Yet the profession can be so misunderstood, and we rarely hear the positive stories of their work. So on World Social Work Day 2018, here are just some of the reasons why we should be celebrating their important contribution to society:
1 They help the half a million children who don’t have a safe home
More than 500,000 children in England are growing up in vulnerable or high risk environments. These are the children social workers have been given the responsibility to help and support, leading change for some of the most marginalised families.
When called upon, social workers build relationships with families. They ask the right questions to assess risk, bring different agencies together, offer help and interventions to change what’s happening in the family or community. They work with parents to bring greater safety and stability to family life or – if necessary – help find another home for the child. Their work often results in a brighter future for the children who rely upon them.
2 Most people don’t understand what social workers do
Unlike professions such as teaching, most people haven’t had a social worker involved in their life. Many people simply do not know what social workers do and there are many misconceptions. What’s the difference between social work and social care or care in the community? Do social workers do more than simply coordinate services?
The misunderstanding and misconceptions surrounding the role of a social worker affect those who might consider it as a career. According to the High Fliers2018 UK Graduate Careers Survey, 73% of final year university students haven’t ever considered being a social worker. With social work programmes such as Frontline rapidly climbing the rankings of desirable graduate careers, this is beginning to change. But more must be done – by organisations such as Frontline, social work employers and the Department for Education – to demonstrate to graduates that the profession is a fantastic career choice.
3 It’s one of this country’s most important professions
There are more than 28,000 children and family social workers in England, yet all too often their work goes unnoticed. They are advocates of social justice and enablers of familial change.
They tackle serious social issues on a daily basis to help find solutions for children and families most in need. Social workers are responsible for giving evidence in court, and have a vital influence over some of the most significant decisions in a family’s life. The importance of a social worker’s role is immeasurable. Ultimately, what could be more important than ensuring that every child has a safe and stable start to life?
It’s hard to share the positive stories because they are not ours to share
4 It’s one of the toughest but most rewarding jobs
Social work is one of the most rewarding jobs. There are few other roles where you can really change the lives of those most in need. No wonder then, that the Guardian Social Lives survey found that 84% are proud of what they do – and 77% enjoy their job.
5 It has the potential to heal society’s deep divisions
Empathy is the business of social work. We could all benefit from listening more and seeking to understand in our daily lives. It’s fitting then, that among the themes of this year’s World Social Work Day is “promoting community”, which reflects the important role social workers have to play in bringing people, families and communities together. Our public life would be better for more listening, and great leadership has empathy at its core. All of us have something to learn from social workers.
6 Social workers are responsible for countless unsung positive outcomes
Not enough is made of the positive relationships and outcomes social workers are part of every day. It’s hard to share the positive stories because they are not ours to share. They are often incredibly private and should remain so. Even so, we can and should do more to highlight those stories that can be told, and World Social Work Day is a great opportunity to do so.