Working from home, the cost of living crisis and rising need among service users has put social workers under intolerable pressure, says Jaison Musindo
Social workers have seen changes in the way they work since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic.
These changes have affected social work practice – for example, the need to wear personal equipment (PPE) when in in a hospital setting and visiting clients in the community to carry out assessments.
Remote working has seen a shift away from close team contact to contact being electronic/virtual.
But such new ways of working come with challenges – for example, not having the close therapeutic team contact and not having the real time ad-hoc case discussion or unplanned supervision sessions, which are helpful to individuals and the team.
Other challenges include planning and ensuring that the worker at home has the recommended equipment since they will be using their home as an office – a chair, desk and other electronic equipment needed as well as having a workplace safety assessment.
Gas and electricity bills will also be increased, and workers use their own WiFi for local authority business with no financial incentive or compensation.
Given the difficult times we are in economically with the cost of living crisis, it means that social workers are worse off. They are struggling to manage finances with the added strain of keeping a job while getting no incentive, apart from knowing that they have made a positive impact to the
people they support.
The expectation is that social workers should continue to support vulnerable people even though they are facing the same problems as most of the community they support. They are also affected by poverty, increased utility bills, food expenses and cuts to services such as mental health, as well as lack of services across the board to ensure the people they support are cared for effectively. This can leave social workers feeling frustrated and burnt out.
The cost of living crisis is creating increased need within communities and families at a time of high vacancy rates within our profession. This means higher caseloads, higher thresholds, an increased emphasis on emergency interventions and often longer working hours.
There is an expectation that social workers should be resilient and empower others, thereby helping them to create resilient communities and individuals. But social workers working under such pressures cannot rely on their resilience alone. They need extra support to ensure they continue to make a difference to the lives of the people they support.
In order to enable social workers to continue doing their vital job they need to:
- Have their voices heard so that they are part of the decision-thinking, not just decision-making. This is because as agents for change, social workers are not passive bystanders. They will ask questions, want to understand how decisions have been reached, which at times can cause resentments, frustration and feeling undervalued.
- Be able to say ‘no’ and ask for help. Knowing your boundaries is important as it helps to create balance in life, avoid overloading, as well as fostering a culture of helping each other within the team.
- Ensure they have ongoing periods of reflection, sharing their experiences in order to understand that they are not alone.
- Be encouraged to research and read, for example through a book club at work, taking it in turns to share thoughts.
- Be able to create self-care methods that build resilience physically, emotionally and professionally. This could be by engaging with people, places and activities that help maintain balance.
- Celebrate successes and achievements as well supporting and validating each other as this helps team morale and creates a supportive team environment.
If you are a social worker in need of financial support visit Help & Advice for further information.