So what is Social Work anyway I hear people ask.
You take children away right? You’re a counsellor yeah? The list goes on.
Right, so what is it?
Well, to help us understand this a little more I’ve taken some descriptions from New Zealand Univerisity sites.
- Social work is a profession based on principles of social justice, human rights, collective responsibility and respect for diversity (Open Polytechnic, 2020).
- Social workers help people to overcome personal and institutional barriers to well-being and achieve their full potential.
They work with individuals, families, groups, and organisations in a wide range of contexts (Canterbury University, 2020).
What are some of the stereotypes?
Social workers take children away and mostly in the dead of the night when it’s least expected.
They live boring, appropriate lives, they go inside peoples houses to teach people to steal money from the government, they carry templates to tick off what people do wrong and my personal fave, you get paid to sit around and drink tea yeah!?
No! It’s a four year degree. Yes folks – four years!
That’s just as much as a nursing or engineering degree! It includes A LOT of hardwork, lengthy placements, endless assignments, lectures, marae stays, workshops and a whole lot of other stuff!
We learn about theories and models, The Treaty of Waitangi, laws pertaining to social work like trespass notices and care and protection of children, culturally relevant practice, learning to think critically, communication and relationship management, human development, psychology and human services and the various fields of practice and so much more and we don’t get to be let loose at the end of it all. No, we have to be mentored and monitored and we have to have a field educator while we learn on the job and there are laws, guidelines, ethics and standards we must adhere to at all times. We even have to be registered and hold a pratising certificate that needs to be obtained every year!
And what’s more? We don’t just work with children! We support those experiencing addictions, domestic violence, crisis, trauma, disability and care and protection to name a few, but we all help communties to develop and organisations to provide resources and the list goes on.
So what’s a typical day look like for me as a Social Worker?
I join a meeting of several multi-disciplinary colleagues (today it’s a clinical psychologist, occupational therapist and a GP), I complete some case notes from a home visit I did earlier in the day, I meet a family whose father has just completed chemotherapy treatment, I sort a taxi for an older person to see their GP, I call a colleague at WINZ to see if they can help with the cost of school uniforms and firewood for a family whose main caregiver has just lost their job, I listen to a client sob softly while they talk about their journey of mental health struggle and I check in a client as I do every week to see how they are managing in their new role.
What is to me?
I’d say, we get to hang out with people that have been deprived of basic human rights for too long, people that have suffered injustices and unfairness, the homeless, prisoners, the vulnerable, hurt, frail, scarred and the scared. But, and it’s a big but, we also get to revel in success every so often, we get to witness tears of joy and gratefulness, house a family that’s been living in a car, support someone to be heard, wrap support around a person who’s been traumatised and left shaking and alone, teach a Mum to speak up for herself or a young person to find a job.
At the end of the day, we get to climb into bed knowing we have done a whole lot of good even if it’s just a little bit of good.