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SHARE YOUR SOCIAL WORK STORIES

If you can cope with this and still want to do it, you are made for social work

November 9, 2020 | Written by Mary Carter


Story written by Mary Carter, Student Social Worker of the Year Award winner 2019 and Newly Qualified Social Worker at Essex County Council.


Back in November 2019, which I’m sure feels a lifetime ago for us all, I was
thrilled to win the prestigious award of Student Social Worker of the Year.

I remember this day like it was yesterday and it’s high up there on best days ever. For me, it reignited my lifelong desire to become a social worker.


Great expectations


I was earnestly grateful for the recognition I received for my work as I know that every other nominee, in fact thousands of students around the country, was as capable of winning this award. I was overwhelmed – a combination of shock, excitement and pure happiness.


Hearing the remarkable efforts that practitioners were making to their profession reminded me that social work was my calling, a truly honourable evening to be part of. This being said, it did not come without its worries.

I went into the new year with all that was ahead and this knocked me, the ‘emotional hangover’
began to unveil.

…it reignited my lifelong desire to become a social worker.


Winning this award left me feeling that the pressure was on and the expectations to do well were uncomfortably high. What if I struggle? What if I get ‘found out,’ a feeling we all struggle with from time to time.


Four months on from this evening and a time of our lives that none of us would have expected – Covid-19, a crisis that has highlighted the importance and value of this field. A time when a new generation of social workers was very much needed.


From student to social worker


Although I was fortunate to have only ten placement days left, my final statutory social work placement was significantly impacted by Covid-19. I was instructed to self-isolate and work remotely.

I needed to know how to respond to this crisis professionally and appropriately.

Some students did not want to be in placement when I was adamantly sure I wanted to be. I was supported and a solution was made that was creative and flexible. I feared the leap from student to practitioner, I feared the unknown.


After a successful interview and rest from placement, I started my dream job in the Children in Care team at Essex County Council. I was nervous and feared what was ahead in my new role, whilst equally desperate to use my newly developed skills, passion and optimism to make a difference.


For all students and newly qualified social workers, learning had to change quite significantly. I had to learn my role, tasks and what was expected of me very quickly. I needed to know how to respond to this crisis professionally and appropriately.


New beginnings

It felt outlandish starting a role where I didn’t have a full team around me for help and support. This being said, I was warmly welcomed and, by connecting on our teams WhatsApp and remotely via Microsoft Teams, I began to feel comfortable asking questions, seeking guidance and opportunity. I formed part of a team that wanted me to grow and a team that saw potential.



Winning the Student Social Worker of the Year award gave me the confidence to get involved with and become a founding member of Social Work Connect: a webinar-based initiative helping students, practice educators and practitioners from across the world to stay connected and develop knowledge around social work theory and reflection.

I have also been volunteering in my community in support of ending homelessness.

I feel incredibly proud to be a social worker

My plans to set up a student exchange to Ukraine for care experienced students is under way. The Covid-19 pandemic has showed us how much we can achieve when we all work together.


You are made for social work


Whilst the beginning of my journey as a newly qualified social worker has been a different experience from the one I had envisaged it has, in many ways, prepared me for my lifelong career in the profession.


I feel incredibly proud to be a social worker and honoured to have been able to contribute to supporting people through the Covid-19 crisis where my professional identity is becoming more apparent.


Social work is a gift that allows us to walk into the lives of wonderful people
and children from all different walks of life and make positive, purposeful and meaningful changes. I remain focused and determined to develop my skills and use my experience to build a positive social work career.


As a committed Pinterest user I love a quote – the following words from professor Brené Brown comes to mind.

Connection is the energy that is created between people when they feel seen, heard and valued – when they can give and receive without judgment

Brené Brown,
PHD, LMSW

I share this award and journey with all the social work students who, despite the circumstances and the existing struggles, commit to making change every day.


If you can cope with this level of uncertainty, manage your everyday lives and still want to do it then you are absolutely made for social work.


Tell us your social work story at stories@socialworkawards.com telling us your name, job, contact details and social care number (just so we know you’re a social worker, we will keep it private).

A Story of Difference

November 4, 2020 | Written by Dan Smart

Dan Smart, a social worker at South Gloucestershire Council, shares his experience of being a newly qualified social worker during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Tell us your social work story at stories@socialworkawards.com telling us your name, job, contact details and social care number (just so we know you’re a social worker, we will keep it private).

Going the extra mile (or 100) during coronavirus: part one

October 11, 2020 | Written by The Social Care Reablement Team, Devon County Council

This is a guest blog from The Social Care Reablement Team at Devon County Council. 

The Social Care Reablement Team (SCR) provide a short-term service, usually up to three weeks, to adults who need support to remain independently living in their own home. The majority of referrals come directly from hospitals when patients are ready to be discharged home.

The team has shared with us how their work has changed during the pandemic and how they are going the extra mile for their clients.


Alice’s story:

“I was the first to visit a client on her discharge from hospital at the beginning of lockdown. She was feeling scared at the prospect of not being able to see her family and was worried about being isolated. Her fridge was full of rotting food. I cleared it all out for her, went and bought her a few items and arranged a food delivery service.

Sensing she was going to struggle I chatted about what she liked to watch on TV. She mentioned a programme she had enjoyed but hadn’t seen it all, remembering it was called ‘The Crown’. I did some research and realised it was on Netflix. With her consent I organised for her to have Netflix installed and when I visited her again, I found her thrilled to have discovered there were 4 seasons of it and she was happily binge watching it! She made great progress with us.”

 

Sami’s story: 

“A client I was visiting was finding isolation very hard and was feeling scared with all the news on TV about COVID-19. She needed the security of her family and they arranged for her to move up country to stay with them. She was worried about stopping at the motorway services and being at risk of picking up the virus and thought it best to take some snacks and drinks for the journey. She didn’t have much in the house to pack up and so, on moving day, I bought her some snacks and a reusable water bottle with a straw as her leaving gift from me. It was warmly received and hopefully made her a little less anxious about the journey.”

 

Julie’s story:

“I was visiting a gentleman who was struggling with his health. He was 99 years old and coming up to his 100th birthday at the end of June. I wanted to make his birthday special as I knew I would be visiting him that morning.

His daughter had spoken to one of our team leaders and expressed that her dad had become very low in mood & feels like he’s ‘giving up’ but she had arranged a small surprise celebration at his home for his 100th birthday, which she hoped would boost him up again.

It certainly did! He received over 100 cards, including the one from me, and the balloons I bought him brought a huge smile to his face. He was visited by some friends and family – from a distance – and he even had a film crew there and made in onto the local news on TV!”

 

Eddy Broadhurst’s story (Occupational Therapist):

“During these unusual times, our ways of working have needed to be reconsidered and adjusted, especially joint working; in order to ensure guidelines are adhered to amidst working in a pandemic. I feel technology – particularly video chat platforms have allowed me to do this.

“I completed a joint virtual home visit to complete an Occupational Therapy assessment with a client. The client returned home from hospital and now needs to use a wheelchair at all times and was not able to access essential facilities around their home.

“With the virtual presence of OT and the physical support of a Reablement Team Leader we were able to obtain the client’s strengths and needs, observe the client around their home and gather essential measurements of the home and their wheelchair in order to inform the next steps. I established the client would benefit from major home adaptations of doorway widening and ramped access to ensure safe and independent access to essential facilities and the community. I was able to complete the necessary paperwork and sent it to the client via email. They were able to apply an electronic signature which I then sent to the relevant District Council to be processed as an urgent recommendation.”

 

Tell us your social work story at stories@socialworkawards.com telling us your name, job, contact details and social care number (just so we know you’re a social worker, we will keep it private).

Lockdown reflection: A day in the life with Sue Connell

September 20, 2020 | Written by Sue Connell


This is a guest blog by Sue Connell, Professional Practice Development Advisor at the London Borough of Wandsworth.


As an ASYE (Assessed and Supported Year of Employment) assessor, I work closely with Wandsworth’s Newly Qualified Social Workers (NQSWs) as part of the Wandsworth Children Social Care Academy (WCSCA).

The ASYE programme replaces the regular probation period and so this is a really important time for our NQSWs. Thanks to the team, the ASYE processes are continuing. The processes include: virtual panel, ASYE update meetings, the full ASYE programme of reflective supervision, support, regular reviews, appraising reflective pieces and observations.

So, how do we manage this all from home? I’m not sure how I would have coped without my little computer, but I’ve been amazed with Microsoft teams and have used Skype (for business) too.

we’re dealing with layers of risk, loss, transition and the emotions that this brings

I’m pleased to say that our reflective supervisions –  where our NQSWs look at how theories apply to their work, resilience building and self-care skills, and anything else they would like to discuss – have been met with enthusiasm and I’ve been able to link in and continue to assess and support. Luckily, I have scanned the reflective resources that we use so we have a range of choices and levels of reflection. ​​​​​​​

With each meeting, I’ve come away with great ideas that NQSWs have brought to the table – they’re such fabulous team players. We’re developing virtual observations and have made a start on these. Reviews have been surprisingly easy and straight forward. I would add that the current situation brings an element of focus too: ‘getting straight to it’ as there’s so much screen time. ​​​​​​​

I am missing the impromptu visits and being able to ‘just ask’ a question.

One pattern that’s come up for the group is how busy they are, but in a different way. It’s a good reminder that we’re dealing with layers of risk, loss, transition and the emotions that this brings – I’m certainly finding that.

Florence and I facilitate Action Learning Sets, which is a sort of structured peer supervision. We will be arranging to facilitate these virtually to ensure this ongoing support at a time when it’s most needed. I am booked onto the webinar for my first bit of training on how best to adjust to the virtual style – such a learning curve!

Of course, there are challenges; the ‘togetherness’ is harder to maintain and takes that bit of extra work. I am missing the impromptu visits and being able to ‘just ask’ a question. Also, coffee time in the office is a great opportunity for team building and I’m missing that. So, we must be creative and put in that extra effort to keep connected.

Today, I will be working on my next final report. It’s a privilege to capture (and analyse) all the hard work and learning that each of our NQSWs have completed and to see them ‘fly the nest’.

… well, a cup of tea always helps too.

We have three due for panel and more coming through soon. The couple of virtual meetings later will bring a nice balance to the day. What else? … well, a cup of tea always helps too.

Tell us your social work story at stories@socialworkawards.com telling us your name, job, contact details and social care number (just so we know you’re a social worker, we will keep it private).

If you can’t go home, we will bring home to you.

September 3, 2020 | Written by Wendy Ashton

This is a guest blog by Wendy Ashton, Palliative Care Social Worker and Family Support Team Lead at Eden Valley Hospice and winner of the Making a Difference Social Worker of the Year Award 2018.


As a palliative care social worker in a Hospice, Covid 19 has really challenged my ethics, morals and ways I practice – hopefully for the better in the long term.

I work in a small Hospice that covers a vast rural community as a full time Palliative Care Social Worker and Family Support Team Lead. I work with people at end of life who have complex needs and aim to make the time that people have left as happy and content as possible. A large part of my role involves working with families and friends as well as clients.

Technology for good

Often, a patient is too unwell to return home and chooses to die at the Hospice. A last wish is often to see home for one last time, and we can arrange this with a carer and transport for an hour at home. It is tricky to organise, but it is worth it when you see the joy on that patient’s face when they return after seeing home for the last time.

The High School Musical Song ‘We’re all in this together’ springs to mind frequently

Unfortunately, this was not an achievable goal with lockdown. However, I am not one to give up so, after speaking to the patient’s husband, we set up for him to video the house room by room – including the cats in it too.


The patient’s husband did this and, after a bit of IT help, we downloaded 2 short videos onto a laptop that we left in the patient’s room. She watched the clips with animation, showing staff her beautiful home that she was so proud of.

The cats (too feral to visit apparently – we had suggested) also made an appearance and the patient was ecstatic to see them. She watched those clips daily for a couple of weeks before she became too unwell to watch. A truly positive and happy outcome. If you can’t go home, we will bring home to you.

Supporting families

On another day, a patient was dying and was Covid positive. One family member was allowed to see her – with full PPE on – but others were upset they could not say goodbye too. I set up a WhatsApp call with the family so they could all say their goodbyes to her.

Although the patient was unresponsive, hearing is the last sense to go – we truly believe she died knowing that all her loved ones said goodbye before she died.

we have given lots of virtual hugs and hands on shoulders to comfort

We also had volunteers knitting hearts for the Hospice; the patient kept one and her family were sent matching ones that were bagged for the quarantine period prior to sending out.

Keeping connected

As a social worker I have used Facetime and WhatsApp to connect family and friends. We’ve had family/MDT meetings in the gardens sat 2 metres apart, and we have given lots of virtual hugs and hands on shoulders to comfort. It has been difficult at times trying to make a difference at end of life, but I feel we have been successful within our restrictions and limits.

I’ve had heart-breaking moments when I could not initiate change. A lady in her 50s was troubled constantly in her last week of life. When I asked what was wrong and could if I help, she told me that she was struggling to decide which 10 people could go to her funeral. How on earth can you answer that?  I could not do anything except listen – often that helps.

A good quality of life is so important even if it is only for a day or two. I love my job and hope that we can continue to work to achieve dreams and happiness at end of life with our clients and families. I know I will keep on trying.

I could not do anything except listen – often that helps

Social workers play such a valuable role at end of life for both clients and families and friends.

Tell us your social work story at stories@socialworkawards.com telling us your name, job, contact details and social care number (just so we know you’re a social worker, we will keep it private).

Lockdown diaries : A day in life with Mary Scarlett

August 24, 2020 | Written by Mary Scarlett

This is a guest blog by Mary Scarlett, Safeguarding (Schools) Lead Training and Development Officer at Wandsworth Children’s Social Care Academy


Will social distancing be our new working norm?

When I left the office on 10th March, I had no idea of the roller-coaster of thoughts and emotions I was sleepwalking into, and that I would finally hit a “brick wall” at about the fourth week.

At the beginning, I thought it was a bit of a novelty, even though working from home and using virtual platforms has always been a significant feature of my Social Work life.   

Initially, I welcomed the team daily Keeping in Touch (KIT) meetings using the MS Teams platform.  I willingly attended every day even though I worked 3 days a week.  That soon wore off, appearing to me as no longer being a choice, but a necessity. 

I had no idea of the roller-coaster of thoughts and emotions I was sleepwalking into

In what seemed to be a wave of anxiety, I began to think that if I did not attend and take responsibility for my understanding and learning, I would always be behind the curve playing catch up.

It was like a runaway train, every man for himself justifying the adaptability of their roles in these unprecedented circumstances. ​​​​​​

What also became apparent to me, was the different group dynamics that played out in the team virtual meetings; this had me thinking about the four group stages: forming, storming, norming and performing

Whilst I acknowledged we were an established group; in reality we were a group trying to operate and communicate in very different situational circumstances which seemed to be working for some and not for others.

It was like a runaway train, every man for himself

It appeared to be “business as usual,” but in my mind it couldn’t be – these were unprecedented times, things were moving and changing very fast, both in our personal and working lives.

Technology had become our new BFF as well as an appendage which you wanted to cut off when it did not work, only adding to the anxiety and stress.

The level of information that was being shared and meetings being convened felt like “white noise”; it was not relevant to my role and it felt impossible to retain it all.  

It appeared to be “business as usual,” but in my mind it couldn’t be

I soon mentally and emotionally withdrew from the process, choosing to be visible or invisible during the team meetings depending on how I was feeling that morning, and it seemed to me no-one noticed. 

What I have taken away from this lockdown period is, as agents of change, how much do we really hear, are we even listening, and how much do we really see, or notice, when we’re looking at each other on a screen?

For some it’s may be the new way forward for practice but, for me, there is the danger, is it taking us down a path of permanent social distancing? ​​​​​​​

Share your social work story at stories@socialworkawards.com telling us your name, job, contact details and social care number (just so we know you’re a social worker, we will keep it private).

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