‘They don’t see themselves as heroes’: England’s social workers hailed for Covid response | Social care

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Early in the coronavirus pandemic, duty social worker Dan Smart took a call from someone worried about the wellbeing of their elderly father, living alone in a village and fiercely proud of his independence. But rather than trigger an intervention that he sensed would not have been welcome, Smart instead got in touch with a nearby volunteer group.

Although the group was not based in the same village, it nevertheless organised a daily telephone call by one of its members. She found the man in low spirits, saying he felt “bloody useless”, but later reported that after regular chats about gardening, his past life, his wife and family, the man had perked up a bit “and even laughs occasionally”. Bread and milk were delivered, the freezer was topped up and a neighbour cut his large lawn, which had been worrying him.

Recent updates suggest things are much better. The man’s wife has returned home from residential care, where she had been recovering from a hospital admission when the Covid-19 emergency broke, and the family is much less concerned about their welfare. Independence has been preserved and no additional services were required.

Smart, 29, who qualified last year and works for South Gloucestershire council, reckons the community spirit unleashed by the pandemic is “something that perhaps we were missing before, living at such a fast pace in an individualised society”. He hopes it will persist beyond the crisis and that social work will do more harness it, working with people to develop neighbourhood approaches that avert the need for formal care.

His story is one of scores submitted to the organisers of Thank You Social Workers, a virtual event on Thursday to acknowledge the profession’s contribution during the emergency. Organised by the charity behind the Social Worker of the Year Awards, and happening in place of the 2020 awards, the event is a celebration of how England’s social workers have not only stuck to the job, but have also innovated and inspired in the way they have supported people in need and safeguarded those at risk.

“This year isn’t about winners,” says Peter Hay, chair of The Social Work Awards charity. “This is not a time to separate people through judging. But it is a time and opportunity for the voices of the profession to articulate many stories.”

The awards were founded in 2006 by Beverley Williams, a social worker who now works in Southend. For the first few years, she organised them in her spare time. Last year’s overall winner was Louise Pashley, a team leader working with care leavers in Rotherham, who will be speaking at Thursday’s event about how her team’s social workers and personal advisers have managed to sustain contact through the pandemic with the 340 young people on their books.

“We’ve still been getting out there and seeing people, using PPE if we’ve needed to get into their homes or meeting up with them to go for a walk,” says Pashley. “We’ve had some scary times, with staff self-isolating, but we make sure the young people always have a named second worker as a back-up.”

Communicating much more digitally with other agencies and council departments has been one of the positives of the crisis, says Pashley, 54, who is Rotherham born and bred and has worked for the council for 27 years. “It seems to have made things that bit more focused. We’ll need to work out after all this what’s really worked and what we want to keep.”

Clenton Farquharson, who uses care and support and chairs the Think Local Act Personal alliance of organisations working to transform care and health services through personalisation, is a new trustee of the awards charity and will also be speaking as part of the event.

“Covid-19 has been a devastating experience for many people who use social care and for the workers supporting us,” he says. “We acknowledge that not everyone has had uplifting experiences – it’s been tough and these are exceptional times – but there are stories of great promise of what’s happened in communities with people working together, and social workers have been a tremendous part of that.”

Hay hopes the event will motivate social workers for the winter ahead. “These are not people who see themselves as heroes,” he says. “Rather, they see themselves as often limited mortals desperately trying to assemble some response to the overwhelming odds facing people. Their stories are powerful opportunities to learn and grow professionally in offering compassionate, kind social work.”

Hafta Ichi
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: ‘They don’t see themselves as heroes’: England’s social workers hailed for Covid response | Social care

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