Mark Raeburn: 7 minute read

World Social Work Day 2020

We don’t believe that social workers should be celebrated on a particular day of the year. They provide a frontline service and deserve to be celebrated every day of the year, much like all of the other public services such as the NHS, Fire Brigade, Police and even teaching. All of these services work under enormous pressure and deserve our utmost respect. This is especially true at this point in time with the unprecedented challenge that COV-19 poses to the world.

Today we are thinking of all of the workers who are continuing as best as possible to care for those who need help and assistance. Social isolation will be a challenge for all of us and maintaining business as usual will be a huge test, with alternatives such as video conferencing becoming essential. The possibilities of working from home have been available for years but were untested and so many organisations are being required to adapt quickly.  

Social workers on a day to day basis juggle larger than average caseloads against trying to spend as much time as possible with those in need of help. They work under immense pressure and deserve our respect and assistance.

From a service user and public point of view, it is to change the perception of all frontline workers, but as today is World Social Worker Day we want to focus on social workers, from being a nuisance to being an essential friend. From a supplier point of view, it is our responsibility to design and create applications that really make a difference, not take advantage of the situation.

Promoting human relationships is this year’s theme for World Social Work Day. To encourage thinking of others and not yourself. Something that we directly associate with social work. Placing service users first whilst looking at the bigger picture. This is the central theme for this year’s day and one that we look to get behind every day.

Working under enormous stress

Nationally, the government estimates that a children’s social worker is responsible for the welfare of 17.8 children and young people. This naturally varies per region and per local authority, but despite the variance - that is a lot of responsibility per person when you consider the preparation, travel, direct contact time and recording burden.

Breaking this down into a working week of 40 hours, we see that 2.2 hours is then available per young person, which leaves little face to face time available. The more time you spend with one family, the less you are able to spend with the next and this situation is accentuated when you consider the travel distance between each family home. Something that has been required to be re-adjusted in the current climate.

One thing not in dispute is that social work is a stressful job, no matter the situation.

Coming back to the office and updating your notes after scheduling your visits for the morning and driving for hours is not conducive to promoting human relationships. It is also something that is now unavailable as an option for many, with most being required to work from home. At all times social workers should be free to spend as much time as needed with those they support through manageable workloads and systems that work with them.

We should all have access to the same levels of technology at work as we do at home. This seems like a no-brainer and essential at this point in time. If you can order a taxi from your phone then you should also be able to work from wherever you are. Updating case notes as you go, breaking workers away from the shackles of the office is key to promoting human relationships, with social workers and their managers, alongside other workers and those that they care for.

Promoting human relationships

This is key in any position in life. You are only as effective as the team around you. Social work cannot work in isolation. It needs to promote relationships with the community around it in order to be fully trusted and the way in which it does this is through spending time with those that they care for. Time is essential to building any successful, long-lasting relationship.

We have created all our software and services alongside practitioners as they are the ones that will be using them and so they need to be fit for purpose. We created our latest technology platform, ECLIPSE, alongside 500 frontline practitioners. This we did to provide the best software possible that is as fit for purpose today as it is tomorrow and in ten years from now.

Re-skinning our existing technology platform was an option, but not one we wanted to take. It would not have been the right thing to do and would not have promoted a good relationship between ourselves and our customers. A decision that has been proved correct as in our last customer satisfaction survey we saw a 100% satisfaction rate recorded. We take this as confirmation that we took the right decision, but we won’t now rest on our laurels.

The ECLIPSE Software and Services Platform is our interpretation of those early conversations with frontline staff. It is the personification of person-centred recording. It records all of the information around the child or adult that creates the 360-degree view of them and brings them to life.

It provides a complete snapshot of the person through the human relationships that connect them. Rather than a word document that is sent around to teams and then edited by a few, which then creates multiple versions, ECLIPSE a single source of the truth. This is something that is essential today with the amount of pressure on all frontline services.

ECLIPSE can be accessed anywhere, at any time on any device, ensuring that social workers always have the most up-to-date version of the case files before a consultation. They can then update the notes immediately following the meeting without needing to head back to the office, which is now an essential consideration. This is the way in which human relationships can be given additional time and not miss out on the details, regardless of the situation.

The lesser sibling

Social care has been historically seen as the unloved sibling of the NHS. It should not be this way as they both perform frontline services but the NHS is always seen as the vote winner and social care treated as the ‘don’t want to think about service’. That cannot be the case today. The NHS is fighting a battle against a situation that is evolving each day but it needs support. Social workers are needed to care for those vulnerable families who will be scared at this point in time.

Each service promotes human relationships and without which we would be lost but it is the perception that we so desperately need to change. We need to understand the role of all frontline services and understand that health and social care are two sides of the same coin. Rather than being separate and seen as such, we should be doing what we can to promote harmony between them.

We are all going to come in contact with each service during our lifetimes and recording all of those interactions to ensure that the story that is us is told in the best way possible is paramount. Social workers by that token need the best tools and equipment in which to do their job, much like those working in hospitals. In the 21st century, we should not be faxing information between departments.

We care about everyone who is involved in health and social care. We know that the job is tough and anything we can do to reduce the administrative burden is a good thing. From day-to-day recording to stat returns, technology can help to improve relations between the NHS and social care. This can only have a positive impact on those who are cared for at this time.

They work hard and should be properly supported

Workers on both sides of the field work hard. None more so than today. Whether you are within health or social care, you should be properly supported. To promote human relationships you first need to treat those that you care for as humans and this is one thing that we are pleased to see. The assessment for services factory that was once open within social care is being replaced with an asset-based, care in the community approach. This infrastructure that has previously been in place will need to adapt in order to continue being there for those who need help.

The King’s Fund report Reimagining Community Services: Making the most of our assets cites good practice undertaken through Think Local, Act Personal initiatives - and how these can deliver more person-centred care. For too long social care has been handcuffed, seemingly doomed to continue assessing people for services which could not respond to our diverse communities and now, following years of service assessment it is free.

Free to follow the correct course of action and consider help in the community before anything else. Keeping people in their homes for longer is the goal and that is the new focus of social care, not waiting for the government to issue the elusive Green Paper. This from what we have seen is the current focus of social care. To make a difference based on the assets close by and only moving into care if absolutely necessary, something that gets more dangerous as each day passes.

Social workers are working tirelessly to achieve this goal and need our support. This World Social Work Day we call on everyone around the world to acknowledge the difficult job that they do every day. For everyone at OLM, we understand the job that they do and dedicate ourselves to making life easier for them through our software and services.

To conclude

This World Social Work Day we call on everyone around the world to take a moment and acknowledge the amazing work that social workers do every single day. All frontline services that continue to charge in and help those who need assistance need to be applauded and we as suppliers have a duty to support them. They are an inspiration to all of us, completing their job each day under large caseloads with a high administrative burden. What social work and the wider health network needs is to be brave and have modern software in place that will work with them and not against them.

The theme of this year’s World Social Work Day is promoting Human Relationships and a key way in which to do this is to provide as much time as possible to develop these relationships with service users. Through the use of technology this is possible. Our ECLIPSE Software and Services Platform has been designed to give time back. It works with workers to build time around their day by enabling work at any time, from any device, anywhere.

Social work is about the creation of human relationships. This is what social work is at the core, the relationship with the people and not the technology. In an age in which we can order a pizza or taxi from our phone at the click of a button, we should be working in an environment that works with us and not against us.

Take a moment to think of those amazing social workers around the world today and say thanks for everything that they do. They continue to push forward and adapt as needed to a world that is changing by the second. 2020 is quickly becoming a year that we would all like to forget but by working together we can get through this, supporting the most vulnerable.