Back when social work rocked

Back when social work Rocked

Don't laughter but when I became a social worker it was seen as a Rock and Roll profession. Righting wrongs, fighting injustice, challenging the system, speaking up for people. We took on the housing department, the benefits agency and the juvenile court. Whether in court or in the head teacher's office we argued for a second ( or third) chance. When the ward staff or relatives wanted to put a frail elderly person in a Home we challenged medical opinion stressing the benefits of independence, self determination and a combination of day care and home helps. Lots of people argued against the continued existence of long stay hospitals for people with a learning disability but we were the ones to find individuals a new home. It was the same with the radical changes in mental health social workers were against "sectioning" individuals and for supporting them in the community. We were also against the " liquid cosh" the use of heavy sedation to controls a range of clients whose behaviour was viewed as "difficult" by staff. We were instinctively anti the use of electrotherapy treatment used against the patients will considering it barbaric.


True we were a little naive. A win for a client did not change the system but we fought case by case. We did take children into care. We did recognise " sectioning " was sometimes the only way to get the person the help they needed. And kids who we argued needed a second chance often did reoffend. The police thought we were soft and gullible. The magistrates thought we needed to dress smarter if we wanted to be taken seriously like probation officers. Housing and benefit officers thought we were being taken for a ride and suckers for a sob story. Some of our more experienced colleagues thought we meant well but had a lot to learn. Our managers tended to focus on getting us to keep our recording up to date and passing on their wisdom in supervision.

Of course not every on in the office viewed the job like this we had our share of cynics, do gooders and the odd skiver but there were enough of us to reinforce the view that we could make a difference.

Whilst these are very different times and young radicals have become old cynics or senior managers or both I still think that social work is a Rock and Roll profession, all be it that it's a bit out of fashion, the energy, passion, creativity and excitement can still be found. Rock On.

Blair McPherson ex social worker and former director still rocking at

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