The Meandering Social Worker

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Archive for the tag “training”

Life Experience counts

An article in Community Care this week highlights the problem of the growth of the importance of academia in social work training and why the lowering of the age of qualification has its drawbacks.  Social work students with ‘life experience’ found it easier to get alongside service users and empathise with their needs better than those who had gone straight from school to college and university.

Clare Evans’ article highlights that you just can’t teach values and experience in an academic environment, often leaving this to be learnt during practice placements.  Practice placements have so much ground to cover in a relatively short space of time they are not the place to have a transformative experience in developing life experience and empathy.

There are undoubtedly some young students who, straight from school and university, have the gifts of compassion and empathy.  But by making it possible to take this path, have we done any favours to the others who are having to take this steep learning curve on the job?  Have we done any favours to the service users and the vulnerable who are the source of such learning?

It’s one of the tragedies of so many of the caring professions, and I’ve seen and experienced it in nursing as well as seeing it in social work, that the rise of the importance of academic achievement blocks so many of those with the genuine empathy and caring skills from taking the professional path.



Book Review – Qualitative Research

Qualitative Research Skills for Social Work by Malcolm Carey [2012], Ashgate Publishing, Surrey, ISBN 978-1-4094-4931-7

Written in an accessible style Carey’s comprehensive guide to undertaking qualitative research will be particularly appreciated by social work students undertaking their first piece of research as well as experienced practitioner-students undertaking subsequent research but wanting a quick reference guide or handbook available.

Presented in three sections, part 1 is the background you need before you start and in the early stages of your research, and includes research concepts, undertaking a literature review, the theoretical perspectives and ethical principles.  Part 2 moves on to practical tasks such as designing and carrying out interviews, running focus groups and using case studies while part 3 covers the final stage of analysis, writing up and disseminating your research findings.  Case studies help illustrate aspects of the different stages.

Although the book outlines qualitative research as likely to be the most appropriate research for social work, lending itself to small scale in-depth inquiries based on local needs and service provision, there are many comparisons to quantitative research and much of part 1 and at least some of part 3 are relevant to both disciplines.  The three page list of social work related websites that are also relevant for social research towards the end of part 2 is a valuable resource in itself.

Book Review: Evidencing CPD

Evidencing CPD: A Guide to Building Your Social Work Portfolio by Daisy Bogg and Maggie Challis, 2013, Published by Critical Publishing Ltd, St Albans, £15.30 (on Amazon), ISBN: 978-1-909330-25-2


The book opens with a succinct and clear summary of the history and development of social work education, training and registration and the Professional Capabilities Framework (PCF). Beyond this brief introduction Bogg and Challis do not discuss the link between the politics that have brought about changes in social work education and the impact on the professional social work role.

Bogg and Challis see the expectations of Continuing Professional Development (CPD), which focus on the relevance of training and learning to practice, as a significant improvement on the PRTL (post registration training and learning) that preceded registration being taken over by the Health & Care Professions Council (HCPC).  They provide evidence as to the value of using a portfolio-based learning as both an effective method of engaging with and managing adult learning as well as being relevant to the evidencing of CPD as part of the registration requirements of the HCPC.

The authors engage the readers with their easy to read style and Reflective Activities, working through what portfolio based learning means, what goes in a portfolio, as well as assessing your own learning style, skills and learning needs.  There are separate chapters for those at different stages in their career, from developing portfolios for workers in their first year of practice (ASYE); using portfolios for CPD; to using portfolios for career development.

Appendix 1 gives a useful breakdown of the PCF domains and capabilities across all levels of learning and experience, from end of last placement through various levels of qualified worker status to strategic level.

The remaining appendices include useful exercises and templates to support the previous chapters, although unfortunately these do not appear to be available in a downloadable format.

The book is engaging and easy to follow.  It contains useful guidance on what can be included in a portfolio and makes it clear that it is not just a record of learning achieved but an all round tool that can be used to plan future needs and development.  This book will be a useful reference for practitioners at all levels from the first year (ASYE) through to senior social work staff, supervisors and managers.

Although portfolio based learning is not mandatory it is clear that maintaining an ongoing (electronic or paper) record of learning, experience and practice fits well with HCPC registration expectations and will make it easier for the 2.5% who are called upon at the two-yearly registration renewal to quickly provide the required evidence of CPD.

Claimants Tricked Out of Benefits, Says Jobcentre Whistleblower

There was a time when the JobCentre was there to help people find jobs. When I went into my local JobCentre in the summer of 2012 to inquire about work opportunities I was pointed towards a computer terminal and told to get on with it. It was made clear this was normal practice, no additional help normally available.

The blog from Beastrabban\’s Weblog below shows comments on a Guardian report from 2011 about the practices of JobCentres. My experience from 2012 and since suggests not a lot has changed.

In my recent voluntary work in the autumn of 2013 I worked with people who are terrified of being sanctioned because they have not met JobCentre demands to apply online for a specified number of jobs every day or every week. Some of these applications often have to be made online via a specific website the JobCentre can access to track claimants’ activity. The website is cumbersome to use and prone to faults. It doesn’t matter if the claimant has never used a computer before, or even if they know how to turn a computer on let alone access the internet, let alone cope with clunky inadequate jobsearch websites. It doesn’t matter that many online applications can take an hour to complete for even the most competent computer user. They still have to achieve the target of job applications using a system with which they are either unfamiliar or not confident. There is no support or sympathy from the JobCentre. Instead the claimants are expected to enlist the help of friends or family who are more familiar with computers and the internet if that’s possible, or find their way to public internet cafes (where these still exist and can become quite expensive); or the alternative option of using UK Online Centres which are usually most easily found in libraries where they are over-subscribed and time limited to an hour (not enough to fill in a job application with ASDA which takes an hour and a half for someone experienced at using the internet – I tried it) and with only the minimum of help and advice available. In larger towns the voluntary sector is filling in the gap with UK Online provisions but funding is poor and dependent on volunteers, many of whom themselves are there because they need the work experience to keep the JobCentre happy.

Meanwhile a whole industry has been created out of this situation. Private agencies who are publicly funded provide work related training, the better ones having offices where clients can access the internet for job searches.

But the greatest damage is in the stress caused by fear of sanctions. In some people their stress levels have become so high it has blocked their capacity to learn even the simplest of things.

Stress can do that. It can block the ability to learn. I’ve been there myself, in a particularly stressful work situation where I was conscious of the fact that while I could continue to function on a day to day basis I was completely incapable of learning from new experiences or even make the best use of ‘reflective’ learning.

I’ve also seen the effect in others when I worked with refugees from war torn countries: intelligent men (and sometimes women) whose terrible memories and experiences were so overpowering they struggled to learn new skills that would help them settle in their new environment (this effect was well known at the time but I will have to find the links to any further evidence and add it here later – in the meantime there is reference to the effect of stress on learning at

Targets and sanctions are the tools of the neoliberal, capitalist, managerialist, society and work environment that has been created over the last couple of decades. But it’s not effective. The weakest and more vulnerable, the already disempowered, are the victims of this society we have created. And it’s time we spoke up about the effect this is having.

Beastrabban\'s Weblog

This is another video from the Guardian’s Youtube channel. It’s an expose of how the DWP has set targets to get people thrown off Jobseekers’ Allowance. These revelations are made by a whistleblower, whose face is naturally shadowed and voice disguised. He states that there is competition between departments and offices to have the most people thrown off benefits. According to the Jobcentre employee, the staff have two option available for getting someone off benefits: either find them a job, ‘which is really difficult’, or have them thrown off benefits ‘which is really easy’. He states that the DWP deliberately targets the young, because of their lack of maturity and experience, the under-educated, and those with problems reading and writing, such as sufferers from dyslexia. They will not try to remove the tough and experienced from the benefits system.

Mike over at Vox Political has described Atos and the Coalition…

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Fitness to Practice?

A female social worker struck off for faking conversations with a vulnerable child during an assessment had been qualified for 17 years.  Included in the hcpc report is the statement that she seemed not to realise the potential consequences of her actions for the child and his family.

A male social worker struck off for having an inappropriate sexual relationship with, and supplying drugs to, a service user, to whom he had been allocated as the social worker, had been qualified for 36 years with no known previous concerns regarding practice.  A lack of remorse and insight into the impact of his actions was a significant factor in his being struck off the register.

An experienced social worker who had undertaken diversity training made a shockingly racist comment to a Zimbabwean colleague.  With no known previous concerns regarding practice she claimed the comment was meant to be lighthearted, when in fact other staff also found it offensive.  The social worker who made the offensive comment “has shown no meaningful insight or remorse, nor has she indicated that she appreciates the seriousness of her conduct” according to the hcpc.

A male residential social worker responded with excessive physical actions against a child, shocking his colleagues and despite de-escalation training.  His claim of self-defence was not accepted and he too was considered to have refused to acknowledge the seriousness of his action.

A male social worker had sexually harassed female staff in at least two different workplaces.  He had not shown any remorse or apologies for his actions.

Each case is concerning in its own right.  However, what is worrying about these cases as a whole, is that out of five at least three involved experienced social workers, and all showed no apparent awareness of, or willingness to acknowledge, the inappropriateness of their actions.  In at least two cases the worker had an apparently unblemished record; in only one case was it noted that there had been previous similar behaviour.


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