Social work is a challenging profession. To realise our vision of a highly skilled and confident social work workforce, able to meet the diverse challenges of frontline practice with children and adults, we are working across our partnership to support social work students to build resilience and develop strategies that will help them manage their emotional wellbeing throughout their career.
Emotional wellbeing and resilience was the theme of a recent support session for placement students at Calderdale Council. Carly Johnson and Harriet Sykes, Teaching Partnership Practice Educator Consultants (PECs) facilitated an exercise called ‘Social Worker in the Middle’ which aims to simulate the multiple, competing demands which are often placed upon Social Workers. A student representing the Social Worker sat in the middle of the group while the other students took the roles of other characters involved in a case including the Social Worker’s manager, the child’s parents, a contact officer, a teacher and legal services colleagues. Each character took it in turns to say 10 demanding statements to the Social Worker.
“I’m worried about the child’s attendance and his behaviour, it’s far too low. We need social services do something about this.”
“I’ve allocated you four new cases, two of these are urgent so you’ll need to deal with them today.”
“Please can you return the court paperwork by 4pm today? Otherwise we’ll miss the deadline. “
“You’ve overacted; my child’s fine and we don’t need your help”
“Can you update your timesheet for the last 2 month’s please?”
“Have you updated the interim care plan for court?”
“Please can you ring me urgently?”
After the questions were asked, the student reflected on how they felt and the emotional impact of managing the competing demands; the group then considered tactics to manage their own emotional wellbeing and resilience when working in this context.
“As the social worker in the middle, I found the exercise quite fun to begin with. I tried keeping track of what was being said and by who; while; at the same time as formulating responses in my head. However, it very quickly became overwhelming and unmanageable to keep up with everybody. Quite intimidating in the end.”
“I felt very overwhelmed, stressed and panicky as I know this may happen to me when in practice. Putting myself in the social workers shoes, hearing all these demands made me feel very intimidated and small. I felt that myself as a human didn’t matter, it was okay for everyone to throw different demands at me and expect me to be fine.”
The session also included a talk from Calderdale Council Health and Safety colleagues on the importance of sleep and ways to effectively improve sleep quality and an introduction to mindfulness as a tool to support wellbeing and resilience.
Emotional wellbeing and resilience will be on an ongoing focus of student sessions; the Partnership is also working with Practice Educators to ensure they have the tools to help students build resilience and are well supported while on placement.
Students experiencing any issues or concerns please do not hesitate to contact your Practice Educator for support. Practice Educators who require further information and support in this area contact your Practice Educator Consultant or Workforce Development Team.