Health and social care is high on the government's agenda but is the resent advice note from the DoH another example of trying to narrow the remit of local authorities and their awkward squad, social workers?
The Department of Health and Association of Directors of Adult Social services has issued an advice note which recognises the "essential "contribution of social work, sort of. This is about the future of social workers working with adults in an integrated health and social care service. The paper doesn't recognise social work as a unique contribution just clarifies what the government and apparently social work directors think social workers should be doing. As an ex social worker and former Director I don't disagree with what's included in the role my concern is what isn't included.
The focus is very much working with the individual so there is no recognition for the role of community social work even though we as social workers recognise that the difficulties faced by those we seek to help often arise out of social inequality, poverty, homelessness, unemployment, discrimination, the welfare system and inadequate housing. This isn't just about understanding the impact of social policy it's whether it is legitimate for social worker to spend time empowering local communities and setting up self help and support groups.
The paper specifically refers to the role of upholding individuals rights and challenging appropriately other professionals whose training and background may make them risk adverse. This is the old medical model v social care model or Doctor knows best. Whilst the relative status of doctors and social workers hasn't changed ward staff concerned about discharging a frail or confused elderly person now take comfort in knowing they are being transfers to a rehab scheme. Risk aversion is more likely to be seen in the residential and nursing home setting where staffing shortages and over protective care leads to locked doors and a surveillance mentality, where upholding rights is down to inspectors rather than social workers.
The paper does not explicitly refer to the social work values of promoting dignity and independence yet this is very much part of challenging other professionals and management who seek care solutions that are "efficient" and suit the convenience of the service rather the needs of the client for example the notorious 15 minute "pop in service" .
Upholding rights presumable extends to up holding the individuals human rights, to challenging services on behalf of the client which don't take proper account of their culture or faith or make assumptions about their gender and sexuality.
It's not what's in the report that reflects the government's view of social work it what's isn't in it. Describing social work as "essential" is meaningless flattery if it's unique wider perspective is not also recognised and valued.
Blair McPherson ex social worker and former Director.