Social work is a job for young people. Mostly.
A few survive into their 40’s- possibly by specialising, or (oh dear- like me) becoming a manager, but on the whole, the nature of the job, and the political/economic/social environment we work in simply burns people out.
It is a slow process- and is poorly recognised even within the profession- as it is usually manifested in a loss of effectiveness and responsiveness- and in these days where performance targets dominate every area of practice, this kind of thing wins you no friends in busy teams.
It is a process that must be difficult to understand when you have never been involved in this kind of work. Some of my friends have a go at me as being in an easy lazy public sector job, often in comparison to their ‘real’ jobs. I smile, but inside I want to have a bit of a go back- and ask them to try doing what I do for a while…
I want to ask them who they think will do the jobs we do if we do not?
Who will visit a family living in squalor because of an alcoholic parent?
Who will look after an old cantankerous man who has become to infirm and confused to get out of the house, and has been unable to manage to get himself to the toilet for the last few weeks?
Who will try to build relationships of trust with the people on the margins of society who have lost all social connections?
Because in devaluing the people that do these things, we potentially devalue the people who need the help.
I read this today-
“Modern social work is in a state of crisis. It has always been a profession towards which society has displayed ambivalence and it is now grossly underfunded and understaffed. Tragedies and subsequent vilification of social workers and their managers are reported with increasing frequency. The profession attempts to function in an environment of obstructive administrative ‘systems’, … severe financial restrictions and conflicting demands …” –Davies, p. 9, Stress in Social Work (1998, Jessica Kingsley Publishers).
“Because they deal in actual and emotional injustice, and actual and psychic injury, the reality for social workers much of the time is that while they may bring about some relief or improvement, the most that they may hope for is some damage limitation, particularly in areas such as child abuse and criminality.” —Davies, p. 19, Stress in Social Work (1998, Jessica Kingsley Publishers).
This is a familiar picture to me. Add to this the fact that the cut backs in public spending are making things worse. I am about to lose my job for the second time in 2 years through ‘reorganisation’. Quite what I will be doing in 2 years I have no clue.
My colleague recently had a health check and was told her blood pressure was very high. A retest suggested that this might just have been temporary as a result of a particularly bad day.
‘I think I am going to take the blood pressure test with a pinch of salt’ she suggested, and then realised what she had said.
Thank the Lord for companionship and good colleagues. As long as we can hold on…