World Social Work Day

World Social Work Day

Mental health social workers build relationships with people, supporting them through care, therapy, community actions and helping people to get well and stay well. Using the skills and talent of social workers to tackle the social determinants of mental health problems is crucial to improving the lives of service users.

To mark World Social Work Day today, 20 March, we hear from the Trust’s Director of Social Care Cath Gormally, Consultant Social Worker Iris Seechurn and trainees on the Think Ahead programme.

Cath Gormally, Director of Social Care

The Adult Principal Social Work Network of England has published an e-book of 100 reflections to celebrate World Social Work Day today. This has inspired me to write a short personal account of why I became a social worker.

It was 1982 and I witnessed an elderly woman with dementia being very badly treated in one of the big old 'asylums' in the north of England. At the same time, my beloved grandma who also had dementia, had been admitted to a residential care home because she could no longer remain safely in her own home. The connection was made, my social work values born and my passion and determination to make a difference was ignited.

At the time, I wasn't really sure what social workers did. But I knew I wanted to challenge institutionalisation, social injustice and inequality and the 'social determinants' of poverty, poor housing, unemployment and stigma and discrimination such as racism and homophobia which disadvantage people in terms of health and life chances.
So, that’s why I became a social worker. To challenge injustice, help people and families to make the most of their strengths and to remain in their communities to have the best life they can; to safeguard children and adults when they are vulnerable and at risk of harm or abuse and advocate for them when needed.

So, my message to all social workers in mental health is: be proud of our profession today and celebrate the positive differences you make every day.

My message to all my multi-disciplinary colleagues in mental health today is: if social workers in your teams question and challenge the status quo, please listen to them. They are rebels with a cause and are doing what they are committed and trained to do.

Happy World Social Work Day to all.

Iris Seechurn, Consultant Social Worker with Croydon community mental health team

Social workers have many hats. We empower individual with mental illness working alongside their families, carers and communities, supporting them to lead fulfilling independent lives. We monitor and coordinate the care of vulnerable clients. We support them with things like advocacy, taking their medication and financial difficulties.

Our approach is to build on service users’ strengths and what they are good at doing. We promote social inclusion, helping them deal with shame and stigma. Ultimately, we support them with their goals and getting back into life within their community. I most enjoy the ability to make a difference to service users, to be able to help them in their recovery. It’s brilliant to see them being able to pursue their dreams and aspirations. I’ve also got wonderful colleagues who share this vision.

I am proud to be involved with the Think Ahead mental health social work scheme. It’s a fast-track programme and trainees become qualified social workers within a year. Supported by the Government, it started in September 2017.

There are currently seven trainees at the Trust, with three based in Croydon. My role is to mentor the trainees in Croydon and supervise their placement with the promoting recovery teams. It’s great to help marry the theory they are learning with practice. It’s very exciting.

Think Ahead

What the Croydon Think Ahead trainees say:

Jake Hollis: "The great thing about Think Ahead is that it’s focused on mental health where other social work training may be more general. The scheme is popular with career changers – I used to work abroad in international development but decided to come back to the UK and work in mental health."

Elicia Westley: "I was working as a carer and decided to apply for the scheme. The team have been so welcoming and supportive. I enjoy getting to know the service users’ stories and listening to them, finding out what their goals are in life."

Director of Social Care at the Trust, Cath Gormally, said: "Social work students entering mental health services for the first time, see this internal world with fresh eyes and can bring a really healthy challenge to qualified social workers and other professional colleagues in multi-disciplinary teams.

"They also bring fresh ideas and spark lively debate about new research and evidenced-based social work interventions, something that I have already seen our Think Ahead participants doing very competently."

Find out more about Think Ahead

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