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.

Better Investment in Lone Work Required for Social Workers.

A survey, conducted with over 200 Social Workers, has highlighted the increasingly apparent problems surrounding arrangements in which staff are expected to work alone. The survey also draws particular attention to visitation safety, training practices, and managerial responsibility.

Social Work Needs to Help Fathers

[vc_row bg_type=”” dima_canvas_style=”” translate_x=”0″ dima_z_index=”0″ delay=”” animate_item=”” delay_duration=”” delay_offset=””][vc_column bg_type=”” dima_canvas_style=”” min_height=”” translate_x=”0″ dima_z_index=”0″ delay=”” delay_duration=”” delay_offset=””][text delay=”” delay_duration=”” delay_offset=”” id=”” class=””]It’s no secret that families have changed in recent years. Divorce is no longer a taboo subject, IVF and other advances have made it easier for everyone to start a family and, slowly but surely, adoption by a gay or lesbian couple is becoming legal worldwide. To look at things simply, the term family means something different to what it did 50 years ago. With such positive development though, we must take the time to make sure we are adapting to the new normal: in particular in terms of the roles fathers play in the lives of their children.[/text][custom_heading delay=”” delay_duration=”” delay_offset=”” id=”” class=”” style=””]

Why focus on dads?

[/custom_heading][text delay=”” delay_duration=”” delay_offset=”” id=”” class=””]When a couple separates children are more likely to live with their mother, which leaves their relationships with their fathers in a precarious position. Or if a family is hit by a tragedy, a father can sometimes be the only parent a child can turn to. These changes mean the importance of the role a father stereotypically used to play in the nurture and emotional upbringing of a child is very different. With these new changes, social workers need to make an active effort to ensure that they are working with fathers and teaching them about how best to care for their children. There’s endless research proving how having an engaged dad is beneficial for the whole family, with kids developing better social skills and mental health, as well as performing better educationally. Sharing the child care responsibilities reduces the pressure on individual parents and statistically leads to more positive relationships with both parents.

The past year has been dominated by strong women standing up for themselves and taking a stand for equality; and while it’s a slightly quieter movement, men are fighting their own fight around gender stereotypes and what it looks like to be a man in 2019. Hollywood actor Justin Baldoni recently gave an inspiring TED Talk which went viral in a matter of days, where he discussed why he was done being “man enough”. President Obama was celebrated not just for his political actions, but for the way he expressed his emotions towards his daughters while in the public eye, most notably in his farewell address in Chicago. Men in positions of power or fame are more frequently using their platforms to discuss modern masculinity and most importantly, their relationships with their children. The power of technology and media means that children can see what positive father-child relationships look like across the world; whereas historically a father eager to actively participate in the typically feminine role of care was a rarity in everyday life. It’s becoming more normal for fathers to be involved in their child’s emotional growth.[/text][custom_heading delay=”” delay_duration=”” delay_offset=”” id=”” class=”” style=””]

So how do we start helping UK fathers?

[/custom_heading][text delay=”” delay_duration=”” delay_offset=”” id=”” class=””]The whole social work industry needs to develop programmes where fathers can learn about pregnancy and raising children in a welcoming environment, through advice from men going through similar situations or sessions with doctors or child psychologists. By understanding the situation, fathers can then learn to facilitate change with the help of social workers. As a society we need to show support for men who challenge the stereotypical norm and are keen to take on a leading role in the emotional education of their children. Practitioners need to involve dads in their work, by asking about them if they’re absent in meetings or ensuring their voice is heard. It can be difficult to engage with some fathers, maybe they aren’t comfortable discussing their emotions, especially during tough times but it is so important for the whole family that they do. A good place to start could be promoting support groups for dads dealing with loss or encouraging workplaces to recognise family commitments for men in the same way as they do for women. This is an issue that has gained government attention, with MPs recognising that the current parental leave system needs reform, but while the politicians debate legal change; we as members of communities need to show societal change. Social workers need to make sure there is adequate support for dads within the existing structures, even with simple things like making sure fathers get all the same information as mothers. Meanwhile, everyone else can show their encouragement for dads by asking about them in schools, doctors’ appointments, extracurricular sessions… any aspect of a child’s life where another parent would be a positive addition.

A father is an irreplaceable part of a child’s life; no matter what social background, economic class or nationality – fathers are important. And if social work does not factor in this importance then children can be left with emotional scars and damaged relationships that stop them from living their best lives, which at its core is what social work aims to do for every citizen.[/text][callout type=”style_one” delay=”” delay_duration=”” delay_offset=”” title=”Direct Resources” message=”List of free to download resources you can use when working with parents.” title_color=”” text_color=”” bg_image=”” href=”” id=”” class=”” style=””][button text=”Parenting Risk Assessment | Assessing Parenting Capacity (NSPCC)” type=”” size=”large” color_class=”” float=”start” target=”blank” lightbox=”” delay=”” delay_duration=”” delay_offset=”” href=”https://www.onestopsocial.co.uk//social-work-social-care-resources/resources-card/?dID=5379″ title=”” popup_content=”” id=”” class=”” style=””][clear by=”10px” id=”” class=””][button text=”Parents Guide to making plans for their children after separation” type=”” size=”large” color_class=”” float=”start” target=”blank” lightbox=”” delay=”” delay_duration=”” delay_offset=”” href=”https://www.onestopsocial.co.uk//social-work-social-care-resources/resources-card/?dID=3819″ title=”” popup_content=”” id=”” class=”” style=””][/callout][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row bg_type=”” dima_canvas_style=”” translate_x=”0″ dima_z_index=”0″ delay=”” animate_item=”” delay_duration=”” delay_offset=””][vc_column bg_type=”” dima_canvas_style=”” min_height=”” translate_x=”0″ dima_z_index=”0″ delay=”” delay_duration=”” delay_offset=””][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Active Listening Skills and Person Centred Approach in Social Work

Social workers practice not only in the traditional social care services (both Adults & Children & Young People), but also in schools; the military; third sector, voluntary services and local government agencies and legislative bodies. In fact, social workers can be found anywhere and everywhere there are people who need the help or assistance in addressing personal or social problems.

A ‘shared journey’; based on a positive working relationship

Social work practice seeks to help those assessed as in need to improve their situation through assessment, planning, intervention and supervision. However, effective delivery of support and services can only be done after the social worker manages to engage the individual (and family) and build a rapport with him or her as a ‘shared journey’; based on a positive working relationship (look at Systemic Practice).

As such in the ‘beginning process’, it is vital for the social worker to engage and secure an individual’s trust to bring the helping relationship to a greater height. But how can this be achieved and what do we need to demonstrated in practice?

Social work engagement skills

Two areas that social workers must be competent and demonstrate in practice on a day to day basis includes the ability to promote active listening skills and adopt a person centred approach (this includes when working in Child Protection or Safeguarding).

Below we have broken down these social work ‘buzz words’ and have offered guidance on how they can be adopted and promoted in front-line practice. We’ve also provided an excellent resource on ‘Social Work Engagement Skills’ that practitioners can download for free.

Active listening

Active listening is a communication technique that is used in social work, counselling, training and conflict resolution. It is a great (and essential) technique to promote empowerment and engagement. This document offers a good guide to help develop and understand active listening.

Person Centred Approach

The ‘person-centred’ approach was developed by Carl Rogers in the 1950s in the field of psychotherapy. It’s use emphasises the importance of creating a positive relationship and environment, focusing on:

  • Respect
  • Empathy
  • Genuineness (congruence)
  • Unconditional Positive Regard

Download resource

My Social Work Story Series: As a Social Work Manager I Let Staff Down

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]I’ve been a qualified Social Worker for just over six years, working primarily within Children’s Services. Throughout my career, it’s safe to say that I have experienced some fantastic highs and I’m a very proud practitioner; yes, the role is very challenging, but it is also very rewarding.

However, one of my most challenging periods arose after my first year of practice; I was ‘fast tracked’ into a management role.[/vc_column_text][vc_custom_heading text=”What happened?” font_container=”tag:h2|text_align:left|color:%23ef7e21″ use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_column_text]To be honest, I felt slightly pressurised in applying by my managers/senior managers. Yes, I was interested in a future in management, but I was very inexperienced as I had only been qualified for 12 months; I lacked relevant experience and had no previous experience of management or leadership roles. I hadn’t even supervised a Student Social Worker as a Practice Educator.

However, at the time I was made to feel that if I didn’t apply it would have a negative impact on my future career aspirations and would ‘look bad’ within the Service. Trust me when I say that I now view such thoughts as ridiculous and hugely regrettable. I also believe that it flies in the face of Social Work values, standards and conduct; particularly where we should challenge, where appropriate, and be accountable for our own practice/development.

But I was relatively inexperienced and felt I needed to please others. I initially thought I had no chance in getting the job. But little did I know I was the only applicant.

Whilst the interview didn’t go particularly well, I received a phone call later that day offering me the management role. I accepted and began within a three week turn around. As a manager I was accountable and responsible for a group of seven Social Workers and four Support Workers; the longest serving practitioner in my group had only 18 months of front-line work under her belt.[/vc_column_text][vc_custom_heading text=”I was way out of my depth” font_container=”tag:h2|text_align:left|color:%23ef7e21″ use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_column_text]What followed for the next six months can only be described as the most difficult period of my Social Work career. I felt I was only ever one step ahead of my staff and in some cases several steps behind. Rightly so, this did not instil them with confidence in my ability to offer informed decision making.

How could I possibly offer them guidance or advice, without the relevant experience or knowledge? To address this, I spent most evenings and weekends working; reading and learning the latest policies, procedures, guidance and legislation on how best to support Social Work Practitioners. This only contributed to the demise of my personal relationships. For the first time, I began to feel depressed; I would often get anxious on Saturday evenings for the following Monday.[/vc_column_text][vc_custom_heading text=”I started to burn out” font_container=”tag:h2|text_align:left|color:%23ef7e21″ use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_column_text]However, at the time I believed that these feelings were a small price to pay as I tried frantically to develop my management skills and knowledge. I constantly felt I was letting them down but instead of being honest with them, I felt I needed to portray a sense of invincibility.

During my personal supervision, I attempted to highlight my deficiencies and that I was struggling both professionally and personally. My managers response came as a surprise; I was told that me being in the role was better than having a vacancy to fill. This only further contributed to my anxiety and for the first time I had doubts about Social Work.

I started to burn out…This couldn’t go on. Subsequently, I was signed off on sick leave due to work related stress. I let everyone down, including myself![/vc_column_text][vc_custom_heading text=”Road to recovery” font_container=”tag:h2|text_align:left|color:%23ef7e21″ use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_column_text]Whilst I was off, I saw a friend who happened to be a therapist. Initially I found opening up tough. But, through the process of critical self-awareness and reflection, I began to feel a growing sense of power in my decision making and control over my actions. This was something that had previously been lacking in my role as a manager. I started to understand the importance of self-care and work-life balance. This gave me energy; my passion for social work started to burn once more.[/vc_column_text][vc_custom_heading text=”Returning to work” font_container=”tag:h2|text_align:left|color:%23ef7e21″ use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_column_text]After four weeks on sick leave, I took the decision to return to front-line practice. My Service was hugely supportive in my return. They understood the reasons for me leaving in the first place and had developed ‘internal mechanisms’ to address concerns raised and made sure that they wouldn’t reoccur.  I was given a new manager and started to practice in a different area within the County… and I have never looked back!

I’m really pleased to say that I now feel hugely supported in my role (now a Senior Practitioner). Also, I am now undertaking a management and leadership course and I’ve had a number of Student Social Workers (I’m also a Stage 2 Practice Educator) that I helped develop.[/vc_column_text][vc_custom_heading text=”Social Work Progression Pathways” font_container=”tag:h2|text_align:left|color:%23ef7e21″ use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_column_text]I am now reconsidering a role into management as I feel I have the right amount of experience both in practice and supporting staff development. However, no matter what happens I will forever feel as though I let staff down in my first management role.

My final thought about my experience is that I should’ve challenged those that wanted to ‘fast track’ my career. It is right to say that not all Social Workers can be good or effective managers. But I felt that, with limited experience and little support, I was contributing to staff anxiety and made complex situations worse.

However, I do believe that services now understand the importance of investing in the professional development; Specifically, Social Work Progression Pathways, which significantly limits or reduces the feelings of being ‘thrown in at the deep end’. Long may this trend continue to develop.[/vc_column_text][vc_custom_heading text=”So, what learning can others take from my experiences?” font_container=”tag:h2|text_align:left|color:%23ef7e21″ use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_column_text]

  • Never feel you need to apply for a role as a result of being pressurised by others.
  • You cannot know everything – I’ve learnt that the best staff are not those who think they know everything. It is those who understand their weaknesses as well as their strengths.
  • We are all humans – We will make mistakes. Learn from me, accept it, you are not invincible… Use Peer support and develop self-care.

This was completed by a Senior Social Worker, who wishes to remain anonymous. This is part of our Social Work Stories Series, if you’d like to contribute, please contact us at central@onestopsocial.co.uk[/vc_column_text][vc_custom_heading text=”Related Articles” font_container=”tag:h3|text_align:left|color:%23848685″ use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_btn title=”How To Be A Social Work Manager Practitioners Value” style=”outline-custom” outline_custom_color=”#ef7e21″ outline_custom_hover_background=”#ef7e21″ outline_custom_hover_text=”#ffffff” shape=”round” align=”center” link=”url:https%3A%2F%2Fwww.onestopsocial.co.uk%2Fsocial-work-manager-value%2F||target:%20_blank|rel:nofollow”][vc_btn title=”Top Tips: How To Be A Good Social Work Manager” style=”outline-custom” outline_custom_color=”#ef7e21″ outline_custom_hover_background=”#ef7e21″ outline_custom_hover_text=”#ffffff” shape=”round” align=”center” link=”url:https%3A%2F%2Fwww.onestopsocial.co.uk%2Ftop-tips-good-social-work-manager%2F||target:%20_blank|rel:nofollow”][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Top Tips: How To Be A Good Social Work Manager

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As practitioners, what qualities do you look out for and value in a manager? Below we’ve put a few ‘top tips’ that we hope will help assist managers in developing their skills and support for practitioners within the social work and care sectors.

[/vc_column_text][vc_custom_heading text=”Honesty” font_container=”tag:h2|text_align:left|color:%23ef7e21″ use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_column_text]

If a staff member has asked you for help on a certain task and/or your opinion, be honest. Sounds simple, right? But you’d be surprised at how many managers try to ‘wing it’ or misinform their staff. Honesty really is the best policy… so lets practice in line with the correct social work values and ethics we’ve been taught.

[/vc_column_text][vc_custom_heading text=”You won’t know everything, live with it!” font_container=”tag:h2|text_align:left|color:%23ef7e21″ use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_column_text]

The difference between being a good manager and an average one is that a good manager will be the first to admit that they don’t know everything. But, what they will do is help you find out the answer (as a shared journey). By being open about not being all knowing will break down barriers and show that you are human after all. This will help create a far better working relationship with your staff/practitioners.

[/vc_column_text][vc_custom_heading text=”Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty” font_container=”tag:h2|text_align:left|color:%23ef7e21″ use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_column_text]

One of the most common themes when highlighting the difference between a boss and a leader is that the latter is not afraid to get down and dirty in completing work with staff. Whereas the former is more than happy to sit back and ‘bark’ orders (usually to hide their own incompetence) even when there are staff shortages… A good leader will not be afraid to do as well as say.

[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image=”4908″ img_size=”large” alignment=”center”][vc_custom_heading text=”Don’t punish good practice” font_container=”tag:h2|text_align:left|color:%23ef7e21″ use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_column_text]

As managers we can often become reliant on our most skilled and experienced practitioners to complete the majority of work. We often allocate and inundate them with the most complex cases and do this because we know that the work will get completed to a good standard. However, think about it, this isn’t good practice. In doing so, you are likely to increase staff burn due to them managing unworkable caseloads. It can also create feelings of resentment within a team, which can be toxic. So, make sure cases are evenly distributed between the teams. Yes, you may need to offer one practitioner more support, but this helps professional development and will strengthen the team and their practice.

[/vc_column_text][vc_custom_heading text=”Good communication skills are essential” font_container=”tag:h2|text_align:left|color:%23ef7e21″ use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_column_text]

To manage effectively, it is wrong to assume that you can communicate with all staff at the same level or way. If staff are to fully process information, communication must be tailored to their own individual needs. Remember learning styles when working with service users/customers? Well, the same applies here… Some learn best by doing and others by watching or following. As managers, you need to adapt to these variants and engage with your staff differently.

[/vc_column_text][vc_custom_heading text=”Compliment staff work” font_container=”tag:h2|text_align:left|color:%23ef7e21″ use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_column_text]

All too often managers only comment on staff work if it’s not of the expected level or standard. This can create an atmosphere of hostility and one that will be counter-productive. Whilst it sounds a bit cheesy, positivity really does breed positivity. So, the next time a practitioner does something well, tell them… It doesn’t hurt.

[/vc_column_text][vc_custom_heading text=”Be careful not to create anxiety” font_container=”tag:h2|text_align:left|color:%23ef7e21″ use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_column_text]

Sometimes it’s difficult as managers not to feel the stress of the job. Whilst this will always (to some extent) be a part of our role, it’s essential that your anxieties are not passed onto your practitioners. Yeah, we want to promote professional autonomy, but we need to do this in a supportive and ‘save’ environment. If we don’t safeguard staff from manager anxiety, this will increase the likelihood of panicked decision making; which will fall under defensive rather than defensible practice.

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Related article:

[/vc_column_text][vc_custom_heading text=”How To Be A Social Work Manager Practitioners Value” font_container=”tag:h2|text_align:center|color:%23ef7e21″ use_theme_fonts=”yes” link=”url:https%3A%2F%2Fwww.onestopsocial.co.uk%2Fsocial-work-manager-value%2F||target:%20_blank|rel:nofollow”][vc_empty_space][vc_separator color=”custom” accent_color=”#ef7e21″][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Free Resource Packs on Self Harm, Forced Marriage, Trafficking & FGM

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_custom_heading text=”Self-harm Awareness Resource Pack” font_container=”tag:h2|text_align:left|color:%23ef7e21″ use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_column_text]Virtual College have completed these free resource packs on self harm in young people, forced marriage & FGM. Download copies for free now.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]To help parents & practitioners to understand the scale of self-harm and raise awareness of the issue, we have created a free resource pack.

The Resource Pack includes:

  • A poster
  • An infographic
  • An email footer
  • Images to share on social media
  • A website banner

[/vc_column_text][vc_btn title=”Download Self-harm Awareness Resource Pack” style=”outline-custom” outline_custom_color=”#ef7e21″ outline_custom_hover_background=”#666666″ outline_custom_hover_text=”#ffffff” shape=”round” align=”center” link=”url:http%3A%2F%2Fwww.onestopsocial.co.uk%2Fsocial-work-social-care-resources%2Fresources-card%2F%3FdID%3D1310%26title%3DSelf-harm%2520awareness%2520resource%2520pack%2520%7C%2520Understanding%2520Young%2520Minds|||rel:nofollow”][vc_custom_heading text=”Human Trafficking Resource Pack” font_container=”tag:h2|text_align:left|color:%23ef7e21″ use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_column_text]An estimated 36 million people are being used, bought, sold or transported for exploitation worldwide, yet awareness of the issue remains low. Download this resource pack by filling out the form below to help raise awareness across your organisation.

This resource pack contains:

  • A poster for your staff
  • A flowchart of actions to take should you suspect trafficking
  • Modern Slavery Act 2015 legislation

[/vc_column_text][vc_btn title=”Download Human Trafficking Resource Pack” style=”outline-custom” outline_custom_color=”#ef7e21″ outline_custom_hover_background=”#666666″ outline_custom_hover_text=”#ffffff” shape=”round” align=”center” link=”url:http%3A%2F%2Fwww.onestopsocial.co.uk%2Fsocial-work-social-care-resources%2Fresources-card%2F%3FdID%3D1311%26title%3DHuman%2520Trafficking%2520Resource%2520Pack||target:%20_blank|rel:nofollow”][vc_custom_heading text=”Recognising and Preventing FGM Resource Pack” font_container=”tag:h2|text_align:left|color:%23ef7e21″ use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_column_text]A recent study revealed that 137,000 women in England and Wales are estimated to be living with the consequences of FGM. We worked with the Home Office to combat this by creating a resource pack which aims to increase awareness of the issue.

To help you raise awareness of FGM, this pack includes:

  • A poster for your staff
  • An email to send to your colleagues
  • A banner to put in your email signature

[/vc_column_text][vc_btn title=”Download Recognising and Preventing FGM Resource Pack” style=”outline-custom” outline_custom_color=”#ef7e21″ outline_custom_hover_background=”#666666″ outline_custom_hover_text=”#ffffff” shape=”round” align=”center” link=”url:http%3A%2F%2Fwww.onestopsocial.co.uk%2Fsocial-work-social-care-resources%2Fresources-card%2F%3FdID%3D1312%26title%3DRecognising%2520and%2520Preventing%2520FGM%2520Resource%2520Pack||target:%20_blank|rel:nofollow”][vc_custom_heading text=”Awareness of Forced Marriage Resource Pack” font_container=”tag:h2|text_align:left|color:%23ef7e21″ use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_column_text]Help in the fight against forced marriage by downloading this resource pack and raise awareness across your organisation.

This free resource pack contains:

  • A poster for your staff
  • A footer for your email
  • A facts and figures infographic
  • A guide to Forced Marriage legislation

[/vc_column_text][vc_btn title=”Download Awareness of Forced Marriage Resource Pack” style=”outline-custom” outline_custom_color=”#ef7e21″ outline_custom_hover_background=”#666666″ outline_custom_hover_text=”#ffffff” shape=”round” align=”center” link=”url:http%3A%2F%2Fwww.onestopsocial.co.uk%2Fsocial-work-social-care-resources%2Fresources-card%2F%3FdID%3D1313%26title%3DAwareness%2520of%2520Forced%2520Marriage%2520Resource%2520Pack||target:%20_blank|rel:nofollow”][vc_column_text]Virtual College also run a number of free online courses. Follow the link below for further information.[/vc_column_text][vc_btn title=”Free Online Courses” style=”outline-custom” outline_custom_color=”#666666″ outline_custom_hover_background=”#666666″ outline_custom_hover_text=”#ffffff” shape=”round” align=”center” link=”url:http%3A%2F%2Fwww.onestopsocial.co.uk%2Fvirtual-college-free-online-courses-social-workers-care-staff%2F||target:%20_blank|rel:nofollow”][/vc_column][/vc_row]

NQSW explores relationships as the heart of social work

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_custom_heading text=”The past” font_container=”tag:h2|text_align:left|color:%23ef7e21″ use_theme_fonts=”yes”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”2/3″][vc_column_text]

Throughout my social work education, it was drummed into me the need to be a radical social worker. Fight for social justice they said, stand up to the establishment they said, this was the ONLY social worker to be. Now whilst I don’t mind challenging when necessary, here I was, a fresh faced, unqualified newbie who was now questioning how I was going to hold down a job, look after my family, attend rally’s and protests and generally cause a bit of trouble. Noooooo that couldn’t be right surely? I mean, I had sacrificed my entire social life, my sanity AND the pub to fulfil my career goals, surely there was a better way? .

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/3″][vc_single_image image=”4676″ img_size=”large” alignment=”center”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_custom_heading text=”The present” font_container=”tag:h2|text_align:left|color:%23ef7e21″ use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_column_text]

They say social work is a calling and I believe it is.  I have heard stories about social workers lying to people about their jobs, but not me.  Wear my badge with pride I do.  I can honestly say I love my job, I really do.  I had found that work life balance that most people fantasised about.  You see social work values really do fit in line with my own.  However, eighteen months qualified and I was beginning to feel unsatisfied.  I knew I was struggling to deal with a profession that was becoming besieged by targets and timescales.  It has been feeling like social work was being defined by everyone except social workers and we were losing our voice.

Then I was given information about an event looking at social pedagogy in Europe.  Having completed a module on it in university I was intrigued to find out more………and besides, who can refuse a free day out in Preston?

On the day of the event I spoke to many people from many countries, all talking about this value-based approach of relational working.  This was it, this was the “radical” social work I had been looking for.  A holistic way of working to support well-being, learning and growth. Putting relationships at the heart of social work!  Before I knew it, I had signed up to the MA in Social Pedagogy Leadership, and that “free” day out in Preston would result in more student debt!

[/vc_column_text][vc_single_image image=”4646″ img_size=”large” alignment=”center” onclick=”custom_link” link=”https://www.onestopsocial.co.uk/social-work-membership/”][vc_single_image image=”4665″ img_size=”large” alignment=”center” onclick=”custom_link” link=”https://www.onestopsocial.co.uk/social-work-membership/”][vc_custom_heading text=”You’re studying what?” font_container=”tag:h2|text_align:left|color:%23ef7e21″ use_theme_fonts=”yes”][vc_column_text]

One of the first things I was introduced to was the term ‘Haltung’.  Roughly translated as ethos, mindset or attitude.  I was taught how Haltung guides our actions by what we believe in, and is characterised by core conditions of congruence, empathic understanding, and unconditional positive regard.  It was now that I realised why I had been struggling.  Yes, I love my job, but at a time when social work and austerity go hand in hand, I was finding it increasingly difficult to build relationships with the children and families I work alongside, and I was realising why that was.  Relationships are important to me both personal and professional – and these are naturally linked.  It was obvious there was a “tug of loyalty” between my Haltung and the needs of my organisation.

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I was always told not to share any personal information when working with families.  I found this difficult as I felt like I was doing “to” families rather than doing “with”.  There I was with my laptop and ID badge oozing power, expecting families to divulge their deepest darkest secrets without sharing anything of myself.  I mean, as far as I am aware I am human too? I have my own challenges and experiences, and by sharing I could help reduce the imbalance of power and connect on a human level.  The relationship forms the foundation of my work and that could only succeed if I was authentic (3-ps).

Social work values and ethics tell us to be non-judgemental.  We were taught to be aware of our own beliefs and prejudices and how these can affect working relationships, but never to consider what the people we work with bring with them.  Very often we get “stuck” cases that become labelled as “troubled families”.

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Hermeneutics offered me an understanding of why people don’t come to any given conclusion without some form of pre-understanding, which is influenced by their own views and experiences.  “Understanding is, essentially, a historically effected event” (Gadamer, 2004). Basically, the inappropriately labelled “troubled families” bring with them their own views and experiences, and by realising how their reality is constructed by these experiences, effects how they engage and could make a person feel misunderstood.  Never had the saying “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink” made more sense – change will not happen if it is imposed.  Essentially, I needed to understand that we can all look at the same thing differently and arrive at different conclusions.

When I initially read a case, I make assumptions about a family, its natural, I am only human.  However, hermeneutics explained how my prejudices can affect my interpretations of that family.  It made me look at people’s behaviour and challenge my own thinking, beliefs and perceptions, and consciously try and not label families.  It is important to me to understand the way of life of a person, therefore, I had to understand their thinking and behaviour.  By utilising empathy and dialogue will only lead me towards a greater commitment from families and develop positive relationships.

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I am used to the scrunched-up faces and look of confusion when I tell people what I am studying.  I try and explain that social pedagogy is not a method or something we can adopt for a particular situation, it is about how we do what we do.  As professionals I learn and act using my head (knowledge) heart (emotions) and hands (actions) – striving for the balance of all three.

*Gadamer, H, G. (2004) Truth and Method. London: Continuum.

Written by an anonymous NQSW Social Worker.

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