Social work books – recommended reading list

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.

Hollie Guard: An App To Keep You Safe

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.

The Emotional Impact of Care

No-one wants to imagine a time in their life when a loved one needs real care. We don’t like to think of what it would be like if a person we know and care for, needs professional help. However, care is a part of so many people’s lives and can bring support to more than just their service user.

Depression & Older People – An International Perspective

Depression impacts 1 in 5 of the population

As the saying goes, ‘time flies’. Suddenly we’re already in March and no one can quite believe how our lives can move on so quickly. When you have the energy and distractions of youth, it can be easy to forget that the passage of time affects others much more drastically.

Older people are more likely to suffer from depression, an issue which impacts 1 in 5 of the whole population; and feeling like time has left them behind can bring about intense feelings of loneliness and sadness. So, the dilemma presents itself: how can we help?

What are the ‘symptoms’

Depression can manifest itself in the elderly through symptoms such as lack of energy, sleep disturbances, neglecting personal care and a loss of interest in socialising or previous hobbies. Whether living in their own homes or in care homes, older people of society struggle to fight depression once their regular routines of work or childcare are lost. Retirement brings an era of great change for people and as their health begins to deteriorate, it can be easy to slip into a sense of hopelessness and depression.

Now, it must be recognised that diagnosing depression in older people can be tricky, because the symptoms can be mistaken for grief – an unfortunate companion of the passage of time. As we age, time takes people we care about from us and processing loss can be an incredibly difficult part of life. Therefore, it’s important that we all learn these differences, so that we can be present and able to help those around us who may be going through a tough time. Looking out for our elders does not always involve them directly; it can sometimes be more about the younger generations clueing themselves up on mental health and how things change over time. By understanding what older citizens may be going through, we can then be in a better frame of mind to provide the comfort and support they need.

Understand the role depression

Once we understand the role depression plays in the lives of the elderly, it’s then the case of figuring our how best to fight it. For this, sometimes it’s best to widen our horizons and compare how other countries are finding different ways to support the elderly. While countries such as Germany, who have a current epidemic of “exporting” their elderly due to the price of care in state, are not the example to be followed; another European country is setting the bar pretty high: Denmark.

Envy of the Scandinavian lifestyle is now extending beyond IKEA meatballs and a “hygge” approach to interior design and into the care sector all because of Denmark. Not only do they spend 2.2% of their GDP on the elderly and establishing the necessary facilities for them, but they also have councils of senior citizens to advise on the improvements needed to create the best quality of life. The Danish have also put in place financial help by providing a basic pension of £811 before tax AND making medicine cheaper for those who don’t have a private pension. Their centralised e-healthcare database is also a great source of pride for the nation, as it allows them to be more aware of medical issues their elderly may have; working in conjunction with a policy that all 80-year olds are entitled to home visits to show the older citizens that they are still a priority. We could definitely take a page from their book.

Denmark is not the only nation to take a new look at as we try to rethink how we try to provide the best care for our elders and protect them from the pain depression brings. Canada and the USA are currently taking on an adorable approach to revitilising the elderly: by throwing a bunch of energetic toddlers at them. In Seattle, a living care community shares its facility five days a week with a kindergarten, looking after 125 children aged 0-5. The senior citizens are mostly in need of serious care but being around such young and enthusiastic children reminds them of how vibrant life can be. “Humans are, and have always been, an intergenerational species” so bringing together these vastly different generations of society is both an act of innovation and tradition. After all, before there are friends and bosses and the pressures of adulthood, there have always been grandparents ready and waiting to join in with the daily game or sing a nursery rhyme with.

Depression in older people can stem from feeling out of touch or alone

Here in the UK, we’ve started to recognise these benefits through the Channel 4 programme “Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds”. But one TV show is not enough if we want to truly help our senior citizens feel an equally-valued part of our community. Depression in older people can stem from feeling out of touch or alone if they live far from family or in a care home because their bodies are not working as they used to. Four-year olds are the very epitome of joy, with their weirdly wonderful train of thought and infectious laughter – so it’s hard to feel depressed and helpless around them.

Our senior citizens are our grandfathers who sit in a deck chair and talk to you about the garden, our grandmothers who never think you’ve eaten enough and will always smell of cake, our parents who would move mountains for us even when they struggle to walk. They fought for women’s equality and in a war unlike any of us want to really understand; they designed the fashion statement pieces we now are calling “vintage chic” and fought against politicians for our futures. Now it is our turn to stand up for them and we are not doing enough. Ideas like integrating the care of older people with the education of the young should be rolled out nationwide and providing financial and structural support shouldn’t be up for regular debate. The UK always strives to be different, but that shouldn’t mean ignoring successful policies from other countries. After all, we owe our elders this much.

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Resources addressing Depression - download for free

Seven reasons to become a social worker

If you want an in-demand career that lets you make a real difference in the world, there’s never been a better time to become a social worker. If you need a little persuasion, here are seven reasons why you should join.

It will challenge you in ways few other careers will

Social work challenges much more than just your typical professional skills. Social work is practically challenging. No two cases are the same, which means social workers must constantly solve problems and apply their studies and experience in creative ways. Social workers also have a direct influence on someone else’s life, which can be extremely rewarding, but also emotionally difficult, which is why social work requires a unique combination of intelligence and emotional strength.

You get to change someone’s life for the better

You may not get a thank you or card every day, or even every year, but when you do occasionally get someone thanking you for helping them to overcome the challenges in their life, you will not be able to stop smiling. To know that you helped another person in some small (or sometimes big) way is quite rewarding and one that you will cherish throughout your career.

You will learn new things about yourself

The situations social work put you in are unique and often extreme. You will learn how to cope when someone feels unwell or has emotional and well-being issues; you will learn how do deal with aggressive or challenging behaviour. You will learn your different strengths and weaknesses as you constantly reflect on your practice.

Being a social worker is really diverse

Whilst training to be a social worker, you will be trained in all aspects of the profession, from child protection to mental health. While you can choose to specialise in one area once you qualify, you will have the opportunity to move around different areas.

It is not just a desk job!

At any point during the day, you may get a phone call that requires you to drop everything and go to the scene of a crisis. You have to attend people’s homes, hospitals, schools, and community centres. Being an effective social worker means engaging with the community and this cannot be done from behind a desk. In fact, when you do eventually get to sit down at your desk, you enjoy the short break.

Your job will never be boring

In social work, each day is completely different than the next. While you may try and plan meticulously, you can guarantee that there will be several unexpected challenges for you to deal with each week. Social work constantly keeps you on your toes, allowing room for new challenges each day.

Opportunities to make a difference

Social work is undeniably stressful, because you witness many challenges firsthand. You might have to help families living in poverty, parents with drug problems or young people who are turning to crime. You might also witness mistreatment of senior citizens or meet victims of sexual violence. Social work careers are not for the faint of heart, but they are for those who want to make a difference. Few careers offer you the opportunity to be an advocate and a positive force for change the way that choosing to become a social worker can.

Deciding on whether or not a career in social work is for you takes a lot of thoughtful consideration. If, however, a passion for social justice and an interest in both your community and job security appeal to you, then social work may be exactly the career you’ve been looking for.