Ahead of World Social Work day on Tuesday 20 March, two student social workers, Stephanie Wood and Gabrielle Gardner, met with City of York Council, Corporate Director for Health, Housing and Adult Social Care Martin Farran to find out what social work means to him.
Gabrielle is working with the Customer access and assessment team at West Offices, and Stephanie is working with the adult learning disabilities team at Systems House, both seem to be enjoying their training.
Stephanie said of her role: “We are both in our final year of study at the University of York , and on placement with CYC for 100 days. We started at the beginning of January and will be finishing at the end of May. I think it’s fair to say that we are both enjoying our placement and are looking forward to the careers ahead of us when we qualify in July.”
Gabrielle said: “I am based within adult social care in the customer access and assessment team. (CAAT) This is the front door service for all referrals into adult social care.
“As part of my role I have met with customers and carers to provide advice and information about resources in the community to assist them to remain independent within their own homes and to work along side customers to identify their outcomes and look at options to meet these. This includes completing Self Supported Assessments, and commissioning support when appropriate. All of my colleagues have been very supportive throughout.”
Gabrielle: What does social work mean to you?
Martin: Social work to me means facilitating and supporting people to live the lives they want, working with people and doing things with them instead of for them.
Social work means working creatively, with vulnerable people and supporting them to fulfil their potential.
Stephanie: Why did you choose to become a social worker?
Martin: I took a slightly unusual route into social work; I studied business studies and then started working for British Nuclear Fuels – Sellafield in Cumbria.
I realised that it wasn’t what I wanted to do and started doing voluntary work with people who had mental health problems and people with Learning Disabilities before getting a job as a support worker in this sector. This then lead to a passionate for working with people and I then later completed my social work qualification in Hull.
Gabrielle: What is the most important thing happening in adult social services at the moment?
Martin: Personalisation, as it has been a game changer for social care. This has been happening formally since the approximately 2007 with the initial pilot sites, before being rolled out nationally. Fundamentally this is about working in a person centred and strengths based way which supports people to maximise their control, maintain independence and choice.
Adult safeguarding has also come a long way; people are becoming more aware of safeguarding concerns and how to manage risk more effectively.
Stephanie: Why do you think community involvement is important in social work?
Martin: Being part of a community is good for people’s emotional and mental wellbeing. In a perfect world would you want to be cared for by public services or by the community? I think most people would pick the latter.
People who feel part of a community tends to leads to them being A- mentally / emotionally more robust and B- less dependent on statutory services. “Look after yourself, the place you live in, and the community” generates positivity, better outcomes for all, including resilience.
Gabrielle: Where do you see the future of social work heading?
Martin: I see us building upon the personalisation, and strengths based practice. A decrease in the use of traditional and often paternalistic models of care, to supporting more people to manage their long term conditions and a greater emphasis on promoting wellbeing rather than the historic focus on ill health. More community based support and a more targeted use of statutory services.
Stephanie: What is the council doing to involve the community in social work at the moment?
Martin: One word, CO-PRODUCTION.
Doing things together. That is the biggest shifty – arguably where social work is rooted. Working with people – individuals, families and communities, including those with often excluded eg with limited capacity.
During my time as an approved social worker, like most colleagues I didn’t like the bureaucratic elements eg filling in assessment forms, so I used to ask customers to complete a self assessment which I added to as required. I soon realised this positively changed the power dynamic and in many ways formed part of my journey to more person-centred practice / approach. It is also important that social work embraces risks as opportunities, but focuses on supporting people to manage their risks.
Stephanie: Can you give us an example of a time in your career which stood out to you?
Martin: When I was working in Bridlington, I was working with a customer who required to be formally detained given the risks to herself wellbeing / safety.. It was a formative moment as I realised while balancing the need to preserve her independence it made me realise the responsibility we have in terms of the need for safeguarding.
Original news story produced by City of York Council e-magazine for CYC employees