I’m not going to go over the statistics about the stress and pressure in Social Work as it has already been said – by me and many a report from the Sector across the world. It is undeniable that Social Workers doing the job have been trying to do too much with too little time and too few resources, and they are suffering.
We focus on the needs of the clients and expectations of the organisations so much that the majority of Social Workers do not give the necessary attention to their own needs. They keep on striving to do the job, to live the values of their profession and deny the harm that they are inflicting on their own psychological and physiological health.
But what happens when they begin to lose hope, to lose the belief that they can be an agency for effective moral change. If all the Social Workers that are thinking about quitting their job for something less stressful actually decide to take the very reasonable and in many ways sensible decision to quit – What happens then?
Society relies on those that care to let the rest of us feel ok. What happens if we keep pushing these guys to their limit and they either break or (better still for their wellbeing) quit. What will happen when no one responds to the terrible cases of child abuse, the neglect, the violence, the community poverty? What happens to those individuals who need societies care? And if that doesn’t raise concern for you, what happens when society fractures?
We don’t want to know what it is like when the carers’ stop being able to care. Because it will affect everyone, not just the Social Workers and the clients. When the Social Workers lose hope, we are all at risk.
We are not martyrs. The social workers worldwide should not be putting their health at risk to keep propping up a broken system. I loved my profession but in the end it made me ill. I kept on doing what I thought I had to do. I had warped my beliefs that I had to keep on going, to support the staff who were also desperately trying to keep going, and I was still driven by a belief that it was my civic duty to work to seek to try to make a difference.
There are things you can do to support yourself better, to prioritise your own needs and stand up for your wellbeing within your workplace. But if in the end the work you are trying to do is making you ill – you owe it to yourself and the future Social Workers coming up to make a change.
We have to rewrite the story – let me put it this way. By not attending to my needs, I became a client of the system, I added to someone else’s caseload. Looking back now with clarity – that was madness.
This article was inspired by a an episode of ‘The Social Work Tutor’ Podcast – tune in to listen at https://socialworktutor.podbean.com/e/is-social-work-at-breaking-point/