Social worker in recovery; speaking up loud & proud!

I have not written a blog for months. Mostly as life has been too challenging or too sad to write about it. Either that or I would have written an angry rant . Even now I am not sure what to write about but feel compelled to record something about my work life.

I have been wary about writing about work. I tend to keep my work life away from my other world. I am also really frightened that any speaking up will destroy my career. That is a really hard thing to write. I think the experience of last year was full on organisational bullying from so many directions it left me feeling vulnerable. I was going to write broken. But that is not true. Throughout this last year at whatever I was having thrown at me my values and principles kept me strong. I have always and will continue to work on “doing the right thing”.

I will never ever take my strong congruent professional and personal self ever for granted again . What a roller coaster that has been this past year. I keep my professional and my personal life separate and it is fair to say that this blurred in 2016. The challenges of bringing up children that challenge and working for a local authority with little or no compassion for family life left me broken at the end of 2016. So many folk have said to me my losing my old job was “personal”. Not sure what to say to this. It is very hard to realise that however capable or skilled or committed I was to my job I lost my job because of the “personal”.

I have always worked in social care and up hold the words social and care as integral to my personal and professional values. As a social care professional I fundamentally believe if you do not as an organisation create a culture of care and respect for employees then it is ridiculous that you will in any way be able to provide a sustainable model of social care to support the community we serve. In challenging times all we know as a constant is our professional values and skills and if we do not take the time to nurture these then we are left broken as I was at the end of 2016.

Values, principles, vision statements are all headings we use . They are often on strategies, policy documents , terms of reference and processes. But when we fundamentally do not up hold those values and do not use them as the framework for day to day practice then why bother? We work with people often in the most challenging times of their lives. What most folk want in crisis is empathy, compassion and kindness not a process.

We work in challenging times and individuals still need care and support. Last year I worked in an organisation that seemed to forget  the focus of CARE & SUPPORT . I could say that running social care by accountants is a dangerous game but you would call me naive. I could say referring to people as unit costs or bed numbers is also naive.  I do not want to give you the wrong impression . But more than ever when the pot of resource is smaller and we are having to make it go further then surely we have to constantly ask “ are we doing the right thing?” . When as a professional you are constantly going the extra mile , coming home later and later then you have to know that this is because you are “doing the right thing”.

I am proud to be a registered social worker and anyone who knows me or has worked with me knows I am passionate about social work practice in the adult world. I see us agents of social justice and as having the skills and importantly the values and principles to enable individuals and communities to help themselves.  An organisation that shifts its focus to spreadsheet and fails to get the practice right in this respect is flawed. In challenging times we must work hard as change makers knowing we are “doing the right thing”.

I need to share and record the experience I had of  sitting in meetings for hours when mentioning  CARE or SUPPORT and asking  “ are we doing the right thing?” is like mentioning the emperor’s new clothes. This  is soul destroying. Writing restructures gone 7pm at night which is unprincipled and based on little evidence except for a fantasy bottom line leaves you exhausted . No one listened so I gave up speaking.  As I reflect and write I realise the   professional shame I felt and the inner conflict this caused as it impacted so heavily on my values and principles.

My lasting memory of this  organisation I worked for on and off for nearly twenty years was the interview I “failed at”. This post was to provide leadership for the social work  workforce and safeguarding. Both areas I have strong knowledge skill and plenty to say about! When the unseen presentation question is “how will you get 40% of the residential care budget?” I knew it was time to go. I have never interviewed badly in my life. Mostly as I apply for jobs I want, believe in and am planned and prepared. With this one , I didn’t want, didn’t believe and thus did not give the right answers to the wrong questions!  However what this experience gave me was the gateway to walk away  this organisation.

So here I am now post voluntary redundancy. I have a new job in a new organisation. I keep telling people I love my new job. The joy of returning to work in an organisation that upholds my personal and professional values I will never undervalue. Yes times here are challenging . But the challenges are addressed with leadership that ask “are we doing the right thing?”. Conversations are about delivering best practice so that the individuals we serve get the best CARE & SUPPORT. It’s not perfect but nowhere is. But conversations are about getting it right. People have conversations about individuals, families, communities and their lives. There is intent to do the right thing with less resource. But values and principles are real. They are real as they are demonstrated in behaviour both as an organisation and personally and professionally. The challenge is still there. We are in challenging times in adult social care but the approach is different.

I have got my social care passion back. I also feel my  social work values, principles, skills and knowledge may make a difference to providing care & support and “doing the right thing?” for individuals, families and communities. I love my job and have professional self respect again.