As social workers working in all settings, we know how important our role is in supporting people to live happier and healthier lives – but sometimes it’s good to know that others appreciate and understand our work too. So, I was very pleased last week to join eight of our adult social care Principal Social Workers (PSWs) in their meeting with the Minister for Social Care and Community, Alistair Burt. He was keen to hear from them about the challenges and issues they face on the front line of social work practice and the ways in which he could support their work.
It was great to have representation from across the country and the PSWs were able to ask the Minister to give his support to the vital role and value of social work in adult social care. He responded by saying he would seek to raise the profile of our work and is keen to spend a day with PSWs and the social workers they support. I’m pleased to say arrangements are in hand for this to happen.
Social work with adults and their families has always had a lower profile than statutory children and families work which is something that I, along with others in the sector, remain keen to address. There are approximately 18 thousand registered social workers working in local authorities and health trusts, delivering social work services at some point to almost 1.2 million adults and their families.
Elsewhere, there are other social workers working in community and voluntary sector organisations, many of whom are supporting individuals, families, older people and their carers. Palliative care is one important area where they work positively with people who are coming to the end of their lives. They play a vital role in helping to resolve a person’s emotional, psychosocial and practical issues by taking an inclusive, rights and strengths based approach.
The Association of Palliative Care Social Workers held their annual conference last week and it was humbling to hear about the amazing work they do working alongside health colleagues to make sure people have the best possible support.
Social workers are a key professional group in adult social care and our values and principles are helping to change the culture of health and care services. Our focus on listening to people, understanding their needs and wishes, is a simple but fundamental approach. We’re making sure our support, as part of a range of services, is making a positive difference in people’s lives in ways that are relevant and important to them.
One area that requires more attention is working with older people. There is a greater need for us to use our skills to enhance quality of life for older adults and their families. We are uniquely placed to assist them in navigating the ever changing and increasingly complex health, mental health, social care and community landscape. Social work offers a comprehensive approach to meeting an individual’s physical, emotional, spiritual and social needs. This perspective is essential in providing services which have wellbeing, human rights, inclusion and citizenship outcomes at their heart.
It was great to know that academics and practitioners gathered recently to consider ‘Rethinking Social Work with Older People’ and hopefully social work with this important demographic is starting to get the profile it deserves. It is essential our older citizens have the same access to good quality social work as we would expect for children, their families and others.
A welcome to new social work students
If you are embarking on courses to become the social workers of tomorrow, please do read my letter of welcome. You find yourselves at the beginning of an exciting and rewarding journey, at the end of which you’ll be joining a caring and empathic profession where a person-centred approach to health and wellbeing has been our mantra for decades. Good luck!