Skip to main content
main-content
Top

About this book

Social work is a profession under strain, and practitioners report finding the role increasingly challenging. What can sustain social work in these times? How can social workers sustain themselves in the role? How can they derive confidence and meaning from what they do?

In addressing these questions, Sustaining Social Work is a source of understanding and support for professionals struggling with the tensions of practice. Accessible and engaging , it explores the fallout that results from social workers experiencing these tensions, including feelings of powerlessness, responsibility, optimism and cynicism. Drawing on ideas from social theory and the social sciences, it puts forward a model of sustainable social work that will help practitioners not just cope but flourish – even in the context of ongoing crises.

An enlightening, uplifting read in a difficult and uncertain time for the profession, Sustaining Social Work addresses the challenge of finding sustenance and consolation within day-to-day practice, enriching it beyond the short-term.

Table of Contents

Introduction

Abstract
Social work is a profession that is anxious and hurting. Bruising commentary in the media, rapid levels of change within organisations, and cuts to services have unsettled the profession in general and individual social workers in particular. Social work has long been regarded as ‘perhaps the most demanding, conflictridden, worrying and controversial of modern public services’ (Cooper et al. 2003: 16). However, practitioners report finding the role tough and uncertain in different and more cutting ways than in the past. In particular, they talk about feeling depleted.
Robbie Duschinsky, Sue Lampitt, Susan Bell

1. Between Power and Powerlessness

Abstract
Social workers often disappoint service-users. For instance, an older person may be requesting support based on what they saw their parents receive from the state and feel a sense of entitlement to certain provision. They may well feel that services are being withheld unreasonably and that the decision is in some way a response to them as a person rather than their situation, made by the arbitrary power of the social worker. We may have to deal in that moment not only with how that makes them feel — we may also be confronted with our own sense of frustration at being put in a position where we can do nothing, and the past disappointments and rejections that this might resonate with and bring back for us.
Robbie Duschinsky, Sue Lampitt, Susan Bell

2. Certainties

Abstract
Social work inevitably generates negotiations about the truth, often with others about the situation, but also sometimes with ourselves. These can become fierce, especially when the stakes feel high. The truth is put at stake by the needs and expectations of those we work with, our organisations, and the perspectives of other professionals.
Robbie Duschinsky, Sue Lampitt, Susan Bell

3. Responsibility

Abstract
The sense of responsibility infuses our practice activities. It is tied up with the things we feel that we personally should and could do, and the ugly feelings generated by not achieving many or most of these. Whilst this may often feel like partly our fault, it is also true that we face real limits in what we can do. Within the social work role, there can be a great deal of guilt produced in the confrontation between our sense of responsibility and these limits. Even if we do not feel responsible for how things have turned out, someone else may be able to put up a good argument that we should be.
Robbie Duschinsky, Sue Lampitt, Susan Bell

4. Optimism

Abstract
As social workers, we know that we work with many people who have little that is dependable in their lives, whose experiences shake unsteadily between crisis and muddling by. We see how, where social and financial supports are not available, what dependability there is for the people we work with may have had to be carved out of hard compromises, debts and past-dues, and perhaps some pain.
Robbie Duschinsky, Sue Lampitt, Susan Bell

5. Relationships

Abstract
We operate as social work practitioners on and through relationships. Furthermore, practically and experientially our sense of self overlaps profoundly with who we need to be with others. When our relationships are damaging or fail us, and when it feels all-or-nothing, we can lose something of ourselves. We can also feel trapped within any one of them. When relationships nourish, supply and hearten us, and when things can go wrong and it is possible and safe to address these problems, then life can feel full and open for inventiveness.
Robbie Duschinsky, Sue Lampitt, Susan Bell

6. Sustaining Social Work

Abstract
Social work practice places great emphasis on the need to view service-users holistically. However, we tend to pay much less attention to how the personal and emotional dimension of social work impacts on us and how we operate. It is telling that over half of social work students report that they would not consider seeking counselling services if they became chronically unhappy and distressed in the course of practice (Collins et al. 2010).
Robbie Duschinsky, Sue Lampitt, Susan Bell

Conclusion

Abstract
People read for all kinds of reasons: sometimes because they have been told to; sometimes because they want to share an experience with someone else. Sometimes we can find ourselves reading because we want to escape from the world to somewhere safer. But equally, reading can sometimes be a route to return us to the world when we are feeling estranged and adrift.
Robbie Duschinsky, Sue Lampitt, Susan Bell
Additional information