It breaks my heart to admit this, but I think I care too much to be a social worker any longer…
Like most people, I became a social worker because I had this naïve notion of wanting to ‘help people’ (I even think that’s what I said at my University interview when they asked me why I was applying for the degree, they must get sick of hearing that same answer all the time!).
In those days, I didn’t realise that most of the time I’d be trying to ‘help’ people who didn’t really want me in their lives or that managing to breakthrough and make a difference would often involve fighting against the same Government that pays me to try and protect people from harm.
I just wanted to help try and make a difference in the world and I believed that social work would allow me to do that, while also keeping a roof over my head and food on the table.
Again, a lot of people probably feel the same way as me and I know my reasons for wanting to be a social worker aren’t that special. No time spent in care and no great struggle in my personal life that I’ve had to overcome to make it this far.
Just wanting to do something for a living that helped people at the same time.
But I’m four years down the line from graduation now and it feels like I’ve come to a crossroads in my career path.
If I want to make the step up to management and senior positions, I know I should embrace the way that things in my office are going by making sure my visits are all typed up the morning after, having my assessments and reports in to my manager a week before the deadline and buying in to the culture of ‘it it’s not recorded, it didn’t happen’.
But to do that I’ll have to work even longer hours that I do already or cut out something else, like my lengthy direct work with children and parents.
Some managers I’ve had seen to think there are efficient and inefficient workers in our office. Well the truth is that there are people who try and stick to a 37-hour week and those who work however long it takes.
It won’t surprise you to know that the ones who try and work 37 hours are seen as inefficient and those who always work late are lauded as the best thing since sliced bread.
Do I go down that route and give in to become a white-collar wage slave or do I get out of statutory social work and go back to the charity project work I did before I qualified?
The money’s nowhere near as good and there aren’t as many jobs out there, but I wonder if my quality of life will be better and, more importantly, I’ll be able to have the time to help people again.
The truth is that I really do think I care too much to be a social worker these days.
It eats me up for months and months when I’ve had to deliver a negative parenting assessment and tell a parent we’re recommending alternative care for their son or daughter.
I lie in bed awake into the wee small hours, night after night, thinking about those parents that are just on the edge of collapse and hoping they pull through.
Most days I struggle to hold back my tears when I’m speaking to parents who are telling me about the most horrific things that have happened in their own lives, secretly thinking to myself that they’re doing far better in their position than I ever could.
I used to think it would all get easier as I got more experience, that the ‘emotional resilience’ they talked about at Uni would build up inside me.
But the longer I do this, the harder it gets.
The more I see, the less I can handle.
Sometimes I wish that I could slip twenty pounds into a parents’ hand and tell them to put some electric on the meter and food in the cupboards.
Sometimes I wish I could take children home with me and show them the care and affection they’ve been desperately missing their entire lives.
But I know that I’d be up in front of the HCPC and struck off for daring to do such a thing. My name would be all over the internet as my managers trawled back through my records to find a few case notes I’d missed in 2016 to add to the case against me.
They say that “having a soft heart in a cruel world is courage, not weakness” but that’s hard to believe when you do this kind of thing for a living.
Maybe I’m just not cut out to be a social Worker.
Maybe it’s time for me to give up and call it a day.
Every Sunday we feature an anonymous blog from a ‘secret social worker’. Email me via firstname.lastname@example.org if you’ve got a story to share