By Francesca Crozier-Roche (Parent with lived experience of the CP system) and Simon Haworth (Social work academic, University of Birmingham)
We seem often be hearing of differences and disagreements in the current world, with conflict and anger seemingly in the news constantly. Social workers and parents can and do agree, get along and work together. Francesca, a parent with lived experience of the child protection system, and Simon, a social work academic, agreed each to write a short piece on what makes a good social worker from their different points of view. Importantly our views have major similarities, see what you think:
I believe that it goes without saying while in practice social workers should remain empathetic and humanitarian at all times. Although social workers have a code of conduct to operate under, it does not mean that you cannot be empathetic or human within any given situation. It allows the service-user to feel less threatened by the power imbalances, or imposed intervention. Being empathetic allows the service-user to see that the social worker is more than just a worker and therefore allows them to disassociate from any preconceptions the service-user may have. It may also help to build an effective relationship between both parties.
While in practice it is imperative to listen carefully and effectively, listening carefully will allow the social worker to access the situation, the needs, the emotions and the narrative of the situation, giving further insight into things that may not be as visible at first glance. Listening carefully and effectively would also give the social worker time to show their own warmth and respect towards the service-user within their own physical and emotional responses.
For me a good social worker is somebody who genuinely cares about people and is genuinely committed to supporting people. Empathy is central and social workers need to pay attention to their own and service users’ emotional states. They need to be patient and show warmth, building relationships based on respect and openness. I think being genuine and human can be undervalued qualities, it is so important to truly relate with people you work with. Listening is central to good practice and building open and respectful relationships. Adopting a non-judgemental approach is also key, while believing that people can change.
Social workers need to recognise the knowledge and expertise that service users bring and adopt a collaborative approach to supporting change. They need to recognise disadvantage and how this impacts peoples’ lives, not judging people because of their circumstances. Social workers need to be connected with communities and prioritise social justice and equality, challenging inequality and viewing issues facing families as structural and social. It is these ideas of respect, humanity, compassion and collaboration that will help us to take this agenda for positive change within social work systems forwards.
It is these ideas of respect, humanity, compassion and collaboration that will help us to take this agenda for positive change within social work systems forwards.