As a Senior Social Worker, Jay shares her responsibilities and some tips on being a good Social Worker...
I am Jay Adams, a woman of a certain age, but with all that life experience under my belt! I’m employed by a local authority as a senior social worker in a disability service where I have been since 2009, apart from a hiatus of a few years in adult social care commissioning which taught me a lot. However, I missed working with people which is what I do best and got myself back into social work practice.
So, what does a senior social worker do? Well, you are trained to do it and become ‘qualified’ to become a social worker. It’s a lot of responsibility including trying to help people to help themselves, keeping them safe, upholding rights and responsibilities, assessing their understanding of decisions while working with their significant relationships and networks. All of this has to be done within the law which often means managing lots of conflict and competing needs… phew…not much at all then!
But, I love it, especially when you have to build a relationship, build trust (sometimes ‘broken’ trust) and get to a point where a person or family realises you are actually ‘ok’ and there to do the best you possibly can with and for that person .
If I could impart any words of wisdom to what a tried and tested formula for being a good social worker looks like, they would be:
- Listen well. Be nosy (or rather, professionally inquisitive!), keep the person right at the centre of everything and with as much control as they can have and cope with - it’s their life after all.
- Be a good and most importantly reliable communicator. Be there when you say you will be, get back to someone when you say you will, check out with them you are getting it right.
- Be humble. You can’t know it all so tell people you will find out and work things out together.
- Respect, respect, respect those you work with, always.
- Look after yourself. Easy to forget, but you need to be well and good to be a good social worker to the people that need you.
So how did I find this role that suits and rewards me so much? Well, I had a banking career at one point, (it wasn’t all online or a touch of your watch, back in the day) and I thought the 9.30 to 3.30pm short opening days would just suit me fine.
Now I need to share at this point I have a much older brother who was born with a learning disability. When I was younger, I saw him going off on the big coach to the local adult training centre where he used to assemble Helix pencil boxes and make little rattan stools that would be sold. He got ‘pocket money’ he called his wages, he loved that… though of course it wasn’t a wage at all but it made him feel important and valued. I would see my brother be fine one minute and then suddenly have an epileptic seizure which my parents would handle so tenderly and carefully without panic.
I learned to support my brother in the same way and so, a carer from an early age I became and became aware that most people didn’t have this type of special relationship with their older brother.
As I got older, I saw professionals come and go at home visits to my brother who now lives with me and who I look after since our mom passed away 18 years ago. I did it because he is happiest with his family, not in a placement, and that is what he told me he wanted at that sad and difficult juncture in both of our lives. This experience has really shaped my approach, attitude and thinking in my day job.
There isn’t really a typical day to being a social worker. I have people allocated to me who I am responsible to work with (my ‘case load’) and of course I do all that a senior social worker is expected to do. To give a flavour, this means I assess, review, safeguard, attend and lead meetings, visit, be non-judgemental, write up reports on a laptop, negotiate, manage conflict, do duty on designated days, be there for colleagues and work as a team.
What I enjoy most about my role - pure and simple - is working with people and building trusting, listening relationships. This means helping people make their own way to where they need to be, with you walking alongside them for a while doing what you can to support them. Building these relationships takes time and hard work and I’m so proud of the outcomes and aspirations that people I have supported have gone on to achieve.
What for others thinking of doing this work? Come on and jump in if you are brave enough!
Social work is brilliant and rewarding. The waters can be very choppy at times but treat others how you would want to be treated, be creative, use your colleagues and team to support you, find alternatives, and don’t think you always know best, because the person who teaches you the most is the very person you are trying to help.
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