“For a newly qualified social worker the landscape they’ve qualified into could not be more challenging”
What does the world hold for a Newly Qualified Social Worker? Especially with the reputation that much of the media has accredited to the profession.
I think social work has now served its apprenticeship in the public eye as a profession and what we need to do now is consolidate and educate the general public to the real value that social work brings to the community. The demonisation and general use of social workers as scapegoats has to stop as inevitably, it will contribute to making it much more difficult on the doorstep for social workers trying to form professional relationships with any family in the future.
The media, in fact, like it or not, is the window on the world for the vast majority of the population and when people look through the social work window they have to see and hear many different stories. With the advent (and possibly soon the dominance) of social media there are more pressing reasons why our profession has to set its stall out in a modern and more open way. In most other western industrialised countries the status of social workers in the community is higher than in the UK. This has to be changed. It’s also important to consider the perceived status of social work in this country in comparison to other professions. It’s still the case – as far as I know – in some places that social workers still defer to lawyers or medics as opposed to being equal partners in the conversation and negotiation process. I also believe that a majority of social workers when asked if they would consider themselves expert witnesses in court would say no, which in my view is the wrong answer. They are experts in social work.
For NQSW’s the landscape they’ve qualified into could not be more challenging. Vacancy rates being high superficially mean more opportunity for employment but if they are joining a department with a significant amount of agency staff and a lower percentage of permanent experienced staff then learning opportunities become fewer and the possibility of being given complex cases too early increases. I’ve always said that we need a root and branch review of how social work is delivered in the UK and a national education programme that aims to achieve what none has done so far — that is to highlight the value that social work brings to society in all its different guises and have far more positive reports in all forms of media about the successes that social workers achieve (which are plenty).
The analogy of turning round an oil tanker may apply but not only is it worth it from the point of view of the social work profession, but the community benefits of having a more respected, inclusive and understood workforce would be significant.