It’s 9pm and I’ve just got home from work.
Another thirteen-hour day.
I’ll be paid for eight of those hours, with a promise that I’ll be able to take the extra five back if I ever find the time. I had about ninety of those ‘flexi’ hours built up before I gave up counting. Most council’s say you can only build up two days a month so you’re always fighting a losing battle to grab back the time you’ve lost to the system.
Another day when I’ve only seen my home in darkness.
Another night where I’ll only see my children sleeping.
Today, when leaving a meeting, a teacher thanked me for my effort and said how ‘excellent’ I’d been with supporting the family we had just been sat with. This was backed up by the Health Visitor, who was walking with us as we headed back to our cars, who said I always went the extra mile for the children.
I went back to the office feeling pleased that my multi-agency colleagues had taken the time to appreciate the effort I put in and happy my hard work was recognised.
But then I saw the dreaded performance indicators for the week and how my name was marked in red, for everyone to see that I wasn’t on top of my work. I was a marked man because I hadn’t immediately recorded my visits from the evening before (even though we’re meant to have 48 hours to do this). I knew I’d have to drop everything else and prioritise this because, regardless of the quality of my work, this was what would show up on the spreadsheets.
There was no box to tick which would show the good comments I’d had today.
There’s no league table sent around to show who worked the most hours for free last week.
No satisfaction survey that’s circulated within the council to show your successful outcomes.
Nobody will see my sacrifices
Naught but a list of shame to make sure everyone is providing the most basic of data: children seen, meetings attended, reports filed.
No matter how hard I try, it always feels like I’m fighting a losing battle.
There are always too many cases but there’s never enough time.
I don’t want this to sound like I’m showing off, but I know that I’m a good social worker and I know I work my balls off every day. If I can’t manage everything, and I’ve got a fair few years of experience and a good record of achievement under my belt, then it’s no wonder so many people in the office are either on the sick or on their way out the door.
If I could be the social worker they wanted, I would.
But they want the impossible. They want someone who can record everything the second it happens, return every call within an hour, respond to every single email as soon as it’s sent. They want someone who will have everything they are going to do in their electronic diary, every report in well before the deadline, every meeting’s minutes typed up the day after it happened.
As well as all this paperwork and admin, I think they want someone who cares about children too… but this seems low down the list of priorities.
I’ve got broad shoulders but even I’m beginning to buckle under the burden of this pressure.
I’m sick of being made to feel like a shit social worker. I’m sick of being hit with the stick and never getting a bite of the carrot.
When will they realise that this culture of fear is failing us and, most of all, failing the children the system is supposed to be there to protect?
Every Sunday we feature an anonymous blog from a new ‘secret social worker’. Email me via firstname.lastname@example.org if you’ve got a story to share