Although a much abused word, crisis currently typifies much of social work. It is no exaggeration; social work is approaching turmoil. Increasing workloads, multiplying responsibilities contrasting with static or contracting resources, the emotional and physical impact of the work, the deletion of posts in some fields to meet financial targets or the demands of child protection work, apparently contradictory public expectations and vitriol from the media which often sees little other than tragedies: these are all reflected in low morale, vacancy levels and burn-out. Practitioners face a plethora of pressing problems and yet do not feel highly regarded. Some conceal their occupation or derive little pride from their work. Few believe it commands public respect (Davies and Brandon, 1988). Given the work’s complexity and difficulty, this absence of public commitment to social work — and the concomitant low morale, confusion and frustration among practitioners — must be of major concern. Moreover, major changes are imminent: the privatisation of parts of the National Health Service and the possible reorganisation of social services whereby departments coordinate packages of care rather than provide directly many of the services currently within their remit. Other, arguably more beneficial, changes have been dismissed.
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