Does Social Work Care?
The College of Social Work was established on the recommendation of the government’s Social Work Task Force. In September 2010 it commissioned User Voice to conduct part of its wide-ranging consultation examining social worker activities.
The over-arching aim of this piece of work was to explore the approach the College of Social Work should take so that social workers are able to work with and support their clients as efficiently and effectively as possible.
Five focus groups were held at various locations across England both in prison and in the community with young offenders and adults with drug and alcohol misuse problems who had first-hand experience of social workers.
These were followed up with a series of one-to-one interviews. In total, 46 people took part representing a diverse range of experiences and backgrounds.
The benefits of our unique methods of employing ex-offenders who have shared backgrounds with the groups could be seen in the findings:
- Participants did not generally believe that social workers listened to them;
- They felt social workers do not understand the lives experienced by participants;
- Social workers break up families without seeking a young person’s view on what should happen;
- Social workers should have more training to enhance their communication skills and to enable them to be more empathetic with participants;
- Social workers should attempt to work with appropriate ‘information givers’ who can work with young people before introducing them to formal processes coordinated by social workers;
The language people were using… I felt like they were getting at me rather than… when they should have been supporting me. And I wanted… what I really, really wanted and needed was someone to mention about what my rights were.
Despite recognising their heavy workload, there was a general lack of trust of social workers.
My social workers change on a regular basis. They don’t want to handle my case and they’ll pass it on to somebody else, so I’ve never got to the point where I’ve actually been able to know the person and for them to know things about me. They’ve just heard what they’ve heard through the previous social worker.
The recommendations therefore centered around improving listening and communication skills, the provision of information on rights and the stability of relationships with social workers.