Today is World Social Work Day. It’s an opportunity to pause, recognise and celebrate the great work of our social work colleagues across the city and around the world. We’re grateful to have so many dedicated and passionate people making lives better for people every single day, often in challenging circumstances. My guest bloggers are Principal Social Workers Maria and Vanessa, who both work for Bristol City Council.
Here, Maria tells us what it means to be a social worker.
I came into social work to make a positive difference to the lives of others and almost 20 years later I believe that social work is still the best way I can make that difference. We work in the places where people are at their most vulnerable, supporting them to take control of their lives and the way they want to live them.
I was speaking to a social worker last week who had been working with someone with dementia who was extremely reluctant to even open the door to us. This incredibly skilled social worker was able develop trust, which ultimately meant she was able to offer support to help this person stay safe and well in their own home, despite enormous pressure from others to place them into residential care.
Another colleague stayed out late into the night last week to ensure that a very traumatised young adult in mental health crisis was safe until a hospital bed was available. She stayed with that vulnerable young person, making sure they were safe and supported.
Examples like these show how each day brings with it a fresh scenario you never imagined you might encounter. I don’t think we always realise the amount of creative thinking that is needed to be an effective social worker. Each day social workers explore different ways to support individuals to live the life they want to live in the context of people having access to often very limited personal resources. We work with people and their families to find a way through their difficulties by acknowledging their needs whilst highlighting strengths in complex and often emotionally demanding situations.
So this year’s theme for World Social Work Day is human relationships, which is very poignant for me. Supporting people to maintain their relationships is essential to delivering good social care. The importance of human relationships cannot be underestimated in terms of sustaining wellbeing for all of us and when these relationships break down so often does people’s mental health. Social isolation and loneliness are key factors in predicting poor mental health.
I am observing a real shift in social work practice in Bristol. Back towards having conversations with people to discover what they want from life and their care and support and moving away from traditional more formal solutions. This, for me, is returning to social work’s good roots, and this makes me proud to call myself a social worker in Bristol.
Vanessa, who works with children and their families in Bristol, tells us about her chosen career.
Social working with children and families in Bristol is one of the most rewarding jobs that anyone can have. It’s fast paced and demanding but it is also really rewarding. We work hard to help families stay together safely wherever we can and, where necessary, we take action to protect children from harm.
Our focus is always on building relationships with children and their families so we can understand what life is like for them, and working with them to make the changes needed to keep their children safe. We are also lucky to have such great colleagues in Bristol. We celebrate each other’s successes and help each other through harder times.
Today we are hosting a ‘Wellbeing’ afternoon for practitioners to mark World Social Work Day and to show just how much we value our social workers and what they do for people in our great city. We are looking forward to welcoming to City Hall our guest speakers Dr Nina Smyth, senior lecturer from the University of Westminster, and Jane Evans, parenting specialist and expert in self-care.