Mark Harvey: Meet Carmen Colomina, Practice Development Manager at the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE). Like all of us, Carmen's main objective as a social worker is to improve social work practice in a way that benefits the people we are tasked to help. She is passionate about a profession she feels is still frequently misunderstood and undervalued.
Currently leading on adult social work practice for SCIE, she focuses on learning and development, practice improvement and the promotion of strength based practice. In this guest blog, Carmen reflects upon the pandemic's effect on her life and work, the wider profession's adaptability, including the technological adjustments many of us have had to make to keep delivering for those who need our help.
Coping with the unexpected
I know I am not alone when I say that coronavirus has changed my life enormously, both personally and professionally in the last six months, and in ways I could never have foreseen.
This pandemic, alien to most of us, is not over yet, and many of us are still struggling with the continuing uncertainty in our lives.
With this in mind, I have been leading a project in SCIE to develop resources for social workers to maintain excellent practice during the pandemic under a programme funded by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).
These resources have been developed with input from the London Principal Social Worker Network (PSWN) and engagement with BASW and social workers across England.
In April, we sent a survey to 13,000 social workers across England asking them to define the major challenges they were facing. And what would help them overcoming those challenges? Based on the responses, we had a good idea of the kind of resources we needed to develop.
Over the last six months, social workers have demonstrated their most invaluable qualities, core values and beliefs, as set out in DHSC’s covid-19 ethical framework for adult social care.
I think it is fair to say, though, that social workers are not particularly known for being technology savvy. They have, however, risen to the challenge during lockdown and taken their practice online.
No matter how alien this may have seemed before, they have none the less worked hard to adapt to this new way of supporting individuals and communities.
This change to ways of working has not been easy for everyone of course, which is why we have developed a technology checklist for video calling an adult or carer to help boost confidence and technical ability.
During lockdown - and even now - many interactions do not happen face to face. Social workers and social care practitioners have adapted their communication and interview skills to gather the necessary information without the usual observations of environment, face or other physical reactions.
The Care Act 2014 makes clear that sometimes interactions need not be face to face. The pandemic has undeniably forced us to realise the benefits of a phone conversation or video call. Obviously, social work can’t be practiced entirely online, but it does not mean it has to be all face to face either.
In the social work virtual meet-ups I have been running over the last months (with more than 200 social workers attending), I have heard multiple examples of the benefits of online or phone interactions.
I very much hope we can incorporate this learning in our daily practice. To support this learning we have developed a decision making tool called matching interventions and people where we explore the means and ways of each intervention. For example, determining if Continuing Health Care Assessments could be carried out fully or in part online.
Our next resource we be focused on building rapport and establishing meaningful relationships through technology. it will be informed by the voices of people who access care and support and their carers.
Let’s continue learning, developing and maintaining excellent practice in our amazing profession – it’s what we all want to do and what the people we want to help deserve.