The speed of burnout in social work is currently estimated at around 8 years, with more and more social workers having to take long term sick leave or changing professions as a direct result of the pressures of the job.
Whether you’re a parent or not, we all want to keep children safe. They are not yet aware of the dangers of the world and can’t protect themselves as well as adults can, so we all look out for children and hope to prevent them from any negativity or exploitation.
as experienced social workers and practice educators, we’ve been asked by a number of student social workers to compile a list of recommended social work books.
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Wondering what questions you’re likely to be asked in a social work job interview? We’ve outlined what you need to know. From the experts at One Stop Social.
This blog summarises the key findings from this work. Although the findings are specific to Somali mothers and families the learning gained could be relevant for developing approaches to supporting mothers and families from across communities.
Hollie Guard is a free app which essentially transforms your smartphone into an advanced personal safety device. All you need to do is shake your phone or tap the screen and you generate an alert, which automatically sends your location and audio/video evidence to your emergency contacts.
How often do you change your tone of voice or find yourself adjusting your vocabulary when communicating with children? One of the earliest forms of communication for children is the ability to pick up on cues given by adults. Some of these are nonverbal cues, such as a smile, touch, furrowed brow, etc. Others are verbal, and come from reading subtle changes during an interaction, such as inflection and tone of voice. Tone of voice is very important in human interaction, as it tells us more about the topic of conversation than just the words. However, communication is not just about the words you use, but also your manner of speaking, body language and, above all, the effectiveness with which you listen. To communicate effectively it is important to take account of culture and context, for example where English is an additional language.
Good communication is central to working with children, young people, their families and carers. It involves listening, questioning, understanding and responding to what is being communicated by children, young people and those caring for them. To build a rapport with children, young people and those caring for them, it is important to demonstrate understanding, respect and honesty. Continuity in relationships promotes engagement and the improvement of lives.
The importance of listening to children
Children experience a range of problems and worries at home, at school, with their friends and in the community. Some children may talk in a way that ‘normalises’ abuse and neglect because that’s what they have experienced as normal. Alternatively, they may avoid discussing these topics because they are painful to acknowledge or because they’re concerned about the consequences of telling.
With that being said, it is vital that professionals and carers pay attention not only to what the child says, but also to what they are not saying. They also need to pay attention to how the child behaves. Listening to the child’s views will help social workers and others to build a trusting relationship with the child.
The importance of relationships
Looked after children and young people are vulnerable individuals. The experiences that led to placement, including mistreatment or neglect, will have resulted in separation from their birth family which, even if unsafe, was the home they knew. Developing trusting relationships is important for these children to help them build security through attachments. Continuity of relationships is key to helping children construct their identity and develop a strong sense of belonging.
A consistent message is that children value relationships with people who:
- are always there for them
- love, accept and respect them for who they are
- are ambitious for them and help them succeed
- are willing to go the extra mile, and
- treat them as part of their family, or part of their life, beyond childhood and into adulthood.
What skills do you need to communicate effectively with children and young people?
In order to communicate effectively with children, social workers need to be confident and have a range of skills. These include:
- active listening
- empathising with the child’s point of view
- developing trusting relationships
- understanding non-verbal communication
- building rapport
- explaining, summarising and providing information
- giving feedback in a clear way
- understanding and explaining the boundaries of confidentiality
Check out our Children Services resources out here.
In summary, spend some time reflecting on the words you use when communicating with children. Build a rapport, develop a trusting relationship and use language that the child will understand, but above all – listen.
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Whilst social workers aim to improve the lives of others, with a major focus on human rights and overall wellbeing, it’s also important they also receive assistance.
It’s a stressful job and requires a lot of hard work and commitment.
As such, social workers should have access to support all day, every day. And in this article we explain why.
It’s essential that social workers look after themselves. There are limits and avoiding burnout can ensure they do their job to a greater extent.
This is a longstanding issue with many in the industry, with NHS nurses reportedly quitting as they’re burned out and suffering from excessive workloads. That report is from June 3rd in The Guardian, which back in 2013 highlighted the need for looking for warning signs.
In social workers must look after themselves and recognise their limits Dr Paula McFadden states:
“Emotional exhaustion and a lack of personal accomplishment leads to a lowering of resilience in social workers. Further analysis found a chain of events that begin with excessive workloads. Workload was found to be a predictor of emotional exhaustion. Emotional exhaustion was a predictor of de-personalisation, and this was then related to lower levels of personal accomplishment about the job.”
As Dr McFadden confirms:
“Social workers and their employers must recognise their personal limits and look after themselves first if they are to help others.”
And whilst they can do that by living a healthy lifestyle—eating the right foods, taking the right downtime, and getting enough sleep—they also need to ensure they look after their mental health.
Signs and symptoms of stress
The reasons why this needs addressing are clear. The British Association of Social Workers (BASW) conducted a report in 2017 and found half of social workers were intending to leave the profession.
This report also found over £600 million of unpaid overtime had been created by social workers.
Social workers do an important job for communities and help to further the progressive path of modern society. But they should also have access to wellbeing opportunities to ensure they can continue doing their jobs.
The trick is to look out for issues before they develop into something uncontrollable. Signs and symptoms of stress include:
- Mood swings.
- An increase in sick days.
- Turning to comfort food or alcohol for support.
Once these issues begin manifesting—often with many simultaneously—then the situation can head into a downward spiral.
As such, it’s important to address stress as soon as possible. In the long-term, this can create a better work-life balance and reduce the amount of stress a social worker deals with.
Techniques to encouraging recovery
The best thing anyone can do is tackle the situation with the right steps. Some of these we covered earlier, but below we’ll clarify more of the options available.
- Refer to an EPA—employee assistance program. These can be enormously beneficial in ensuring all staff members stay happy and focussed.
- Be healthly, which includes taking regular exercise, eating well, drinking the right drinks (lots of water, tea etc.), and getting a good sleeping pattern established.
- Rediscover the joys of a personal life. Embracing the joys of a night out at a restaurant with friends is, as one example, a great way to restore personal time. This will, in turn, ensure a return to full health and productivity.
- Take regular time off. Unwind at the weekends and enjoy some much deserved holiday time as and when you need it. If social workers put an aspect of their personal life first, it can offer a significant boost.
- Set boundaries with clients and colleagues. Social workers shouldn’t feel the need to work unsociable hours that will only ever damage their mental health. As such, they should take control and make it clear the hours they’re willing to work.
So, why is this all important? As it keeps our social workers healthy and happier. In the long-term, that keeps them in their roles and helping those around them for the good of society.
Self Care for Social Workers
One Stop Social are working with the Local Government Association and Newham Council to increase awareness around the safety of Lone Working in Social Work.
Many colleagues have voiced their concerns over the lack of equipment and policies protecting Social Workers lone working within the community. It’d be greatly appreciated if you could complete this 2-minute survey so we can understand the current dynamic and learn how Social Workers can be better protected when working alone.