Social Workers are human too: we deserve to have a personal life
As soon as you start training to be a Social Worker, you get hit with the warnings:
Lock down your Facebook page
Be careful what you post online
Watch what you say to your fellow students and colleagues on placement
Keep your personal views to yourself
Don’t go out partying like you used to
There’s this explicit feeling, right from the very start of your Social Work journey, that you must be wary of everything you do and anything you say for fear of causing offence.
In an era where people sometimes seem to take joy in being offended at anything they can, this can make Social Work professionals and students feel as if they are constantly walking on eggshells for fear of speaking out of turn.
Whilst it is of course important to follow our respective codes of conducts and ethical guidelines, we must be wary of stifling Social Workers to the point where we are so scared of upsetting someone that we dare not speak up at all.
Social Workers are real people and we should be able to have separate personal and professional lives
I understand that we are regulated professionals and, coupled with the extremely important decisions we must make, we should be held to a high standard in our personal integrity.
But why are we held to such a higher standard than the politicians whose laws and acts of legislation set the rules that we must abide by?
In the UK, there is a well-known Politician called Keith Vaz who has held office for thirty years. In September 2016, a newspaper investigation reported that he had engaged in sexual activity with prostitutes and offered to pay for cocaine if they wished to use it.
Did he lose his job?
Was he suspended?
Nope… he had to step down as chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee but has recently been appointed to a Public bill committee, which aims to tackle money laundering and corruption
Yeah, you read that right, he’s now part of a committee which aims to tackle money laundering and corruption… I bet all those sex workers were paying tax, weren’t they?
(and don’t even get me started on how many sex workers are victims of abuse, extortion, are addicted to substances, have experience of care or suffered from childhood sexual abuse)
Vaz is just the latest in a long line of politicians who seek to set the rules for others to live by but think they are above the law themselves
Now imagine if a Social Worker had done that.
Do you think we’d have gotten away with stepping down from one area of our practice and keeping our job as if nothing else had happened?
Well, considering a Social Worker was recently struck off for accessing legal adult pornography on a work laptop, it doesn’t take a genius to guess that a Social Worker would lose their job for life if caught doing what Vaz was up to.
Now I’m not advocating that Social Workers should be doing what Vaz was doing, but I’ve picked this extreme example to show the disparity between how Social Workers and those that govern our practice are treated.
With Social Workers sanctioned for commenting about their work on Facebook and investigated for sending offensive tweets to David Cameron, we live in an age where many of us feel it is safer to not even discuss work online at all. In my case, I don’t dare use my real name to blog even though I have never written about my own direct work or referred to the people I support.
Living in constant fear of how our words will be interpreted isolates us and prevents us from challenging the issues we face in Social Work
Social Work is such a hard and demanding job that it is unfair to expect us to be held to the highest possible standards in our personal and professional lives at all times. I take my hat off to the man who had a go at David Cameron online because it showed that Social Workers are human and get angry at the injustice he was causing.
The HCPC talk a lot about maintaining public confidence in the profession and use this as their rationale for many of their sanctions and striking offs.
But, if you ask me, I’d much rather have a Social Worker who was a real human being than someone who was in such fear of the sack that they dare not show any shred of personality.
Social Workers are human beings and that means we should be allowed to act like ones, as long as we are not breaking the law or putting people at risk.
If our sleazy and corrupt politicians can get away with so much, then Social Workers should be able to enjoy a drink on a weekend, share a funny meme or engage in anonymised professional talk online without fear of a malicious complaint costing us our jobs.