My last blog of the year provides an opportunity to wish everyone a restful and recuperative break over the festive period. It is well deserved and 2016 has been a busy and at times surprising year. Many of us may be thinking it’s time to make good on the familiar phrase ‘out with the old and in with the new!’
We have had to come to terms with developments and decisions which seem to be changing the world as we know it and there is certainly a degree of uncertainty and anxiety for many of us.
Recent events mean that our role in supporting and working with the most vulnerable and marginalized people in our communities is more vital than ever.
We must not waiver in supporting their needs and right to lead the lives they want – and help them grasp each and every opportunity.
The social work focus on inclusion and citizenship chimes well with the ambition for personalisation and better integration of health and social care. Social workers can make a real difference in demonstrating a more holistic and genuinely person-centred approach. By listening to and working with people we help them achieve the things that most matter to them.
I also believe good progress has been made over the last year in strongly positioning human rights, strengths based social work practice at the heart of adult social care.
I am impressed by the great practice leadership that the Adult Principal Social Workers, with support from Directors of Adult Social Services, are taking across the country in focusing on best practice and achieving the right balance between practice, procedures and process. Career pathways for social workers are gaining more traction with more employers increasing the number of lead practitioner and advanced practitioner roles in adult social care.
I am delighted that following the No voice unheard, no right ignored consultation, we now have six local areas prototyping and testing named social workers for people with learning disabilities, autism and mental health conditions. They are now helping to shape a model of social work practice designed to achieve the best outcomes for people and those who care for and about them.
It has been a positive step that the Department of Health has published good social work practice resources with support from the sector, including resources on dementia, social work in mental health, autism, social work with carers and the capabilities framework for forensic mental health social work. The increasing recognition by government that social work practice is the keystone of social care is to be welcomed.
The Children and Social Work Bill is making its way through parliament and one of its aims is to establish a bespoke, dedicated regulator for all social workers. I believe this will be good for social work practice and social workers, supporting and recognising high standards of practice delivered by capable and compassionate social workers.
2017 will bring new challenges of course, but I am optimistic that social work will continue to rise to these challenges.
The continued pressures on funding and resources are significant and cannot be underestimated, but hopefully these pressures will be addressed. There are also opportunities to shine a light on the quality of social work conversations and interventions that in themselves can make a difference for people and their carers.
We need to be determined, dedicated , curious, responsible, accountable and courageous to make the differences we all came in to this profession to achieve.
Our knowledge, skills and practice methods are resources that must be utilised to respond effectively in serving people well. Social work’s approach in understanding cultural and social issues which impact on people’s lives and opportunities, together with understanding the internal and subjective meanings of peoples experience ensures we are well placed to be change agents committed to social justice and systemic improvement.
In the New Year, we will be producing a Capabilities and a Continuing Professional Development (CPD) pathway for social work with older people. The work to develop the capabilities and pathway will increase recognition of the roles of social work with older people, providing the framework to strengthen social work capabilities and confidence in this increasingly important area of practice.
I will also be working with the sector to develop a knowledge and skills statement for supervisors in adult social work and to support a model of supervision which is reflective and person-centred and includes service users and carers.
Work continues on developing an approach to supporting research and practice evidence for social work interventions with adults and resources to support social work practice with coercive and controlling behaviour will also be launched in 2017.
Hopefully, the year ahead will help us focus even more on those areas which will support and retain social workers in practice.
I was pleased that we had the first ever national programme to encourage people to Come Back to Social Work which will continue into the New Year.
World Social Work day is 21 March next year and I hope to publish my third annual report to coincide with celebrating social work across the world. This time I will mainly focus on best practice developing across the country, particularly in response to the Care Act and its reframing of our work with citizens.
We should all be proud of our social workers and social care staff whose dedication and hard work in supporting people in need never falters in quality or compassion.
Enjoy the break and I look forward to seeing you in the New Year. I hope you can take some time out with family and friends to enjoy your time away from work - and for those of you who will continue to provide a service throughout the festive period, many thanks.
Merry Christmas and a very happy New Year