New Year blog: learning from 2015; hopes for 2016

The blogs that I have written in 2015 show the shape of my year: January’s was on stress following a survey by Community Care; for world social work day in March I wrote about the importance to me of having a college of social work; May’s blog was about the election and its implications for social work; through the summer I wrote about the closure of the college and how we could take its legacy onwards; I finished up the year with a blog on motivation following the November spending review.

The work I carried out in 2015 also had clear themes: the importance of legal literacy – preparing people for the Care Act in England and the Social Services & Well-being Act in Wales; the essential role of managers – strengthening their practice and particularly the practice of supervision; the need to understand people better – whether people who use services, for example through learning about adult attachment, or other professionals, through support to work well in integrated teams.

The main positives for me this year have been mixed up with the negatives. Justice for LB’s work to change the way we view and respond to people with learning disabilities is inspirational – and has made me very uncomfortable about my own practice. The closure of the college was a blow to social work but has been met with determination to ensure that social work has a strong voice and a united one with people who use services. The election and spending review have signalled real difficulties for people who need support for whatever reason, and have also led to much greater awareness about the importance of social care funding.

The main lessons I have learned this year are ones that I should have grasped a long time ago, though they are also life-long lessons: firstly, you cannot just work to strengthen practice without taking account of the context; secondly, collaboration is vital for social work to achieve its potential; thirdly, optimism and support from people who you admire are essential to keep you going. My favourite moment this year was probably writing a short piece on my social work hero, Sheila Fothergill.

My hopes for 2016 fall out of looking at what has gone on in 2015.

I want a strong, united voice for social work alongside people who use services. I have great hopes of what BASW can do arising from its 2020 vision and its publicly stated wish to continue the work of the college.

I have two concrete hopes for social work practice. Firstly, I want social workers to use research more and everyone to know more about what social work offers through research on what we do. Lyn Romeo, the Chief Social Worker for Adults, continues to have this as a priority. NICE are producing research-based guidance that social work can use. And we have excellent evidence available, for example from Research in Practice for Adults and the Social Care Elf.  Secondly, I want social workers to work confidently in integrated teams. The college did a lot to set out the role of social work, for example in mental health. I am proud that my faculty has continued to work with the Association of Palliative Care Social Workers on a resource about social work in end of life care despite the college’s closure. This will be completed in March 2016.

My final hope is for there to be genuine anti-oppressive practice in social work and social care. Justice for LB’s work to uncover how people with learning disabilities are treated has shown again that we are neither recognising oppression or removing it effectively. The planned role of the named social worker for people with learning disabilities, the growth of integration and the work of children’s social workers to show the impact of poverty are opportunities for us to stand up with and for people who are pushed to the edges of society. I trust that we will do that better in 2016 – and make progress in using the resources we have well and arguing for enough for those who need support. BLOG TAGS: 

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