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Social work is one of the hardest jobs in the world. In our exclusive article, a social worker lets us know her thoughts on whether it’s important for practitioners to care about their clients.

“Sometimes I wonder if I care too much. Is that the reason I become stressed at work, weeping at my desk when I can’t arrange emergency respite care for a carer in desperate need of a break. I’ve often asked myself whether I just need to toughen up.

In recent years I’ve met many newly qualified social workers who see the job as a series of processes to be completed – forms to finish, applications to submit and databases to update. To an extent of course that’s accurate. The job has changed hugely in the years since I qualified. I’ve noticed however that the compassion aspect of our job appears to have fallen by the way side. Does it no longer matter if social workers don’t care what happens to their clients? 

When I look at the social work values I trained in, empathy, compassion and sympathy were viewed as desirable qualities, seen as essential for the job. I’m not convinced that in practice it’s still the case. It’s certainly not discussed in my supervision, where the focus is more on ticking boxes and paperwork. A previous colleague was a great example. She was qualified, and experienced but lacked what I felt were necessary tools for the job. Kindness. Empathy. Humanity. If a carer couldn’t be helped or a package wasn’t approved by the panel she’d shrug her shoulders and move on. 

Initially I thought it was a case of her upholding boundaries but after a while I came to the realisation that actually she just wasn’t bothered. To her it was a task to get through. I was appalled and then a little bewildered. She got the job done but I wondered just how she could do that if she didn’t care. Surely that was part and parcel of the job and what our clients needed; not just the practical aspects of the role, but also a sympathetic ear. 
Austerity has impacted massively on our job; we all know that. There’s more to do, in less time, with fewer resources. For many workers, something must give. It might be patience, time or, for some, kindness. Ironically, I think that compassion is needed more in these difficult times where budgets are small, and things are stretched even tighter. I can’t change who I am or how I react to clients and situations. 

So, to sum up – is it essential for social workers to care and to show kindness? In short, no. However, in my experience, it means so much to those with whom we work and I for one, will not be changing.”

What do you think about this social worker’s opinion? Do you think the ability to care is an essential element of a social worker’s role? Let us know what you think in the comment box below

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