I was told about a lecturer on the social work course who had taken a year off to gain a social work qualification but mostly to get a reality check. He deliberately choice to do a probation placement as this was the area where his students were most critical of the gap between academia and practice. On his placement he became concerned about the lack of accommodation options for recently released offenders. Probation hostels served a purpose and met the needs of some ex offenders but a more homely option would defiantly benefit some. He had clients who he felt strongly would have a much better chance of rehabilitation if they could be offered board and lodging with an ordinary family. His supervisor said it had been tried and failed. It was impossible to recruit people who were prepared to welcome a recently released prisoner into their home. Never the less despite a lack of support from his supervisor and the cynicism of his colleagues he went out knocking on doors in an area close to the university. He did much of this in the evenings and weekends. He was not discouraged by the negative response he received. But to the surprise of his supervisor and team by the end of his placement he had manage to recruit a small number of households willing to provide board and longings to ex offenders.
I have come across other examples of students or newly qualified social workers who have wanted to try something more experienced colleagues have said was a wast of effort, wouldn’t work or had been tried before. The social worker who wanted to find meaningful paid employment for some one with a profound disability or support some one with a server learning disability to live independently. The social worker who works in a specialist residential home for elderly people with dementia who is resisting the idea of a locked door policy to cope with ,”wanders”.
My question is are newly qualified social workers and probation officers still naive and idealistic or have years of austerity, increased case loads, changes in working practises, and the Governments lack of confidence in the profession resulted in a generation of professionals who are pragmatic? And what does this say for the future?
Blair Mcpherson former Director, author and blogger www.blairmcpherson.co.uk