It should come as no surprise that this year’s World Social Work Day once again dedicated itself to a human quality we can all sign up to, regardless of circumstance or geography: respect for the dignity and rights of all people. It was a theme the Guardian echoed on the day with a piece sharing the views and experiences of six social workers from around the world.
What shines through from all six is their humanity and empathy, sometimes born of personal experiences which fuelled their desires to help others overcome barriers to happier, more fulfilled lives. The dignity they carry within themselves allows them to recognise and protect the dignity of others:
I was thinking about when social workers made decisions about me as a child, how did they make them, and were they the best decisions for me? And then it just struck me: this is something I’m going to do.
Today, I hosted a special celebration of our profession, inspired by World Social Work Day. I was also pleased to launch my annual report for 2015/16 which sets out the progress made since publication of my first report in October 2014, the challenges ahead and priorities for the next twelve months.
I was joined by social workers, people with lived experience and carers to celebrate individuals and their communities. Speakers included Dawn Wakeling, Director of Adult Social Services, London Borough of Barnet, who delivered the keynote address, and Dr Ruth Allen who spoke on mental health in adult social care. Other speakers and discussions showcased international social work, the imperative of co-production and there were reflections from people and carers who have had social workers working alongside them to make a difference.
I’m pleased also to have the continued support of our Minister for Community and Social Care, Alistair Burt:
The potential to expand and deepen social work’s role can only be met if we continue to raise the profile of social workers and the work they do. That is why celebrating social work through events like these is so important.
Social workers have the potential to transform the way we deliver health and care, and that is just one of the many unique and brilliant aspects of this profession. Working tirelessly with individuals and communities, social workers provide the critical support needed for people to live their lives in ways which matter to them.
This day also sees the Minister launch a new call for evidence 'How can we improve support for unpaid carers?' This national engagement exercise will gather opinions and insights from across the sector and beyond to help inform a new cross-government national Carers Strategy – one which will better support carers to enjoy happy and healthy lives alongside caring. I urge all social workers - and those working with them - to offer their own unique insights and enrich even further the body of knowledge this consultation will gather.
Also published today - a joint report from Think Local Act Personal (TLAP), Skills for Care and Shared Lives Plus and one with which I have been closely involved: Developing a wellbeing and strengths-based approach to social work practice: changing culture.
The report addresses the need for a change in the culture of social work practice to deliver the aspirations embodied in the Care Act. Specifically, it considers the development of a different social work approach that is strengths-based and focused on practice not process.
It’s a busy and exciting time for social work and this day, with its flurry of reports and announcements, demonstrates how much more valued and respected our profession has become. There is a dignity in what we do which helps us defend the dignity of others and the world is waking up to just how vital our profession is in supporting people to have better lives.