A day in the life of a social worker – Adults Social Care (Learning Disability Team)

What was your first task of the day?

If I have taken some annual leave, I usually turn my phone on at home in the morning and check my emails. I commute 40 minutes to work so this gives me time to think about how I am going to address some of the issues that may have arisen. I find that if I have been off for some time I can come into the office with a large amount of emails which can be overwhelming so I like to take this time in the morning to think rationally about the best approach and to know what I am walking into when I get to work.

This morning I am heading straight to Leighton hospital for a discharge meeting so I reply to any urgent emails before setting off.

I then attend a care plan review at a client’s supported living home to assess how things are going and address any issues. There are some actions from the review that require following up and I find that my client is expressing a wish to move property. I ensure I have collated my information, listened to the wishes of the client and their family as well as checked the care plan. I then agree that I will update the client’s assessment and address actions.

Did you have a lunch break?

We are of course encouraged to have a break, however, I am guilty of eating at my desk on busy days in order to get everything done. My manager always encourages us to take a break and it is something I definitely need to master the art of!

What was the most challenging thing that happened today?

After the meeting I check my phone and find that there has been an incident with one of my clients in which he has left a day centre and is threatening to overdose on his medication. I try to contact him however have no response and therefore rearrange the rest of my plans that afternoon to deal with this as a matter of urgency. This client suffers from anxiety and I am aware of previous threats he has made of this nature. I contact the police to alert them to the incident and try to make contact with friends/ family to no avail.

I attend an unannounced home visit to which the client is not home and I alert the emergency duty team of my concerns as I am aware that it is almost 5pm on Friday. I then spot my client along the street and encourage him to come back to the house. I have a long discussion with my client and assess the risk of overdose as low so ensure my client has people visiting over the weekend. I agree to meet with my client on Monday to come up with a support plan moving forward. I leave, alerting the emergency duty team of my visit and my assessment of current risk. I also alert the manager on shift of my visit and that I am safe and well.

What was the most rewarding thing that happened today?

On visiting my client he expressed to me that he felt he had ‘nowhere to turn’ until I visited and realised once I spoke with him that things could get better. This was extremely rewarding to see how my visit had impacted him and stopped things from deteriorating. We were able to make a plan to keep him safe over the weekend and arrange for protective family/ friends to visit which significantly helped him during this difficult time. I was also able to offer advice regarding mental health services that he had the option to take up over the weekend.

Thinking about all the things you did today, can you give us an example of how your work has changed a service user’s life for the better, or how you think it will make a difference in the future?

I feel I gave my client a chance to voice his concerns/ worries and gave him support options that could help him see that he had prospects he could pursue. I gave the individual the option for help should they wish to take it.

Furthermore at my morning discharge meeting at the hospital, I fought for my client to return home if at all possible. Some professionals at the meeting were hesitant about this due to her high level of need after a fall however I ensured we followed the least restrictive principle and worked with colleagues to facilitate a safe discharge plan.

When did you decide you wanted to become a social worker and how did you set about pursuing this goal?

Making the decision to become a social worker felt like a natural progression. I had worked as a learning disability support worker for a number of years and thoroughly enjoyed the role. This passion to advocate for adults with learning disabilities spurred me on to complete my training. I have not looked back since! Though at times I miss the amount of front line work with clients that I was involved in as support worker, I do thoroughly enjoy the role and feel I am able to make a difference advocating for others.

I applied via UCASS and applied for the social work Masters 2 year programme as I previously had an English degree. I completed 2 placements, one 70 day placement for a family support charity in my first year and one 100 day placement in my second year, for a vulnerable adult team. Both placements were great experience and taught me about statutory and charity roles that I could get involved in as a social worker.

What advice would you give to any young people considering a career in social work?

Don’t close yourself off to only one area of social work and be open to placements working with both children and adults. I had a variety of placements which helped me to build my skills in a holistic way. I would also recommend you to get as much experience in social care as possible beforehand to ensure this is the path for you. I find that my previous experience in social care has helped to build my skills working with clients and to have a good understanding of expectations of social care providers. I found that due to my previous experience I was able to get the placements that I wanted whilst at University and felt more confident going into new settings. University prepares you for the theoretical side of Social Work however it is your placements and previous experience that gives you the practical skills in order to do the job. It is never too young to start building experience. Have a look in your community for local voluntary opportunities to get involved early.

Lastly, don’t believe everything that you hear about Social Work. There is a very negative discourse in the media about the role and this can put people off applying for the course. Though at times it can be stressful and you do have to be a certain kind of person, there are so many positives to the job! If you are a people person and thrive from a busy work environment, full of variation then it may be the job for you. I find that though it can be difficult, it is a rewarding career and autonomous job that allows me to work flexibly, managing my own diary. I also feel that the qualification can open so many doors for you in terms of progression, statutory or otherwise. Once you find the area you want to work in and work within a supportive team it can be a very fulfilling career.