What is the role of a Social Worker in the 21st Century?
Social workers help people to find solutions to the problems troubling them, however big or small. They form relationships with people and help them to live more successfully in their day to day lives.
They engage not only with the clients but with a wide network of their friends and relations, whilst working alongside key organisations such as the police, councils and schools. They work at an extremely personal level and this is where potential problems can occur. Balancing relationships with all of these individuals and organisations is by no means an easy task, but it is an extremely vital part of the care given to those in need in the UK.
Social work is a fantastic career for people who are outgoing, love meeting new people and who really want to make a long lasting difference to people’s lives. However, it is true that social care has not had the best reputation over the past few years. For example, 6 years after the case was taken to court, the death of Baby P still haunts the reputation of the social care industry.
There have been many other instances where investigations have had to be carried out into the mistreatment or neglect of clients. Still, if you think of the thousands of people receiving help from social workers up and down the country, the few who have had bad experiences are still most definitely in the minority.
In order to restore public faith in the industry, the previous government introduced a social work recruitment scheme to ensure that the sector attracted the best candidates for its jobs. The scheme fast-tracked the brightest graduates in an attempt at giving the profession a better reputation in light of scandals involving social workers. The idea is that the public will see that skilled and able people are going into the industry and will therefore have more faith in its capabilities.
But was this just a publicity stunt?
There are many people who know that they want to be a social worker from early on; they are passionate and dedicated and often take specialist social work degrees at university to become qualified. Of course there will still be opportunities out there for these people. 200 intelligent high-profile social care education graduates are not going to fulfil the social care needs for an entire nation however. The passionate individuals whose lifelong dream is to go into social care will be the backbone of the industry, but the public won’t trust passion as qualification enough.
It seems that the biggest problem that the social care industry faces today is not the people working within it, but the proposed social care cuts that the government is now aiming to put in place. Social care is arguably already underfunded and understaffed, and cutting the budget further can only make social workers’ jobs harder.
Working as a social worker in 2018
Plans for 2018 now include government regulation of all social workers under the Children and Social Work Act, which again aims to restore faith in the industry. The government plan to introduce a stricter set of professional standards for social workers. However, some critics have noted that a government led agency controlling all aspects of social care will mean that it’s goals will be primarily driven by the goals of short term government policies. Some others have pointed out that it fails to address other key issues around social care such as the number of people leaving the profession due to increased workloads.