The value of human relationships is such an intrinsic part of what we do we barely acknowledge it is there, but in truth it forms the foundation of everything.
In a world of change and challenge perhaps we should try to relax and trust ourselves a little more – connect with others and remember the importance of that connection. World Social Work Day this year reminds us of the importance of human relationships. Amidst all the change and challenge this could be seen as a timely reminder of one of the great constants in social work.
I qualified as a social worker about 15 years ago. Since then I have become a stage 2 Practice Educator, a mentor and I hope to receive my MA in Advanced Social Work this year. I have been lucky enough to have worked in both children’s and adults services, as a social worker and a manager in statutory and community teams and I’ve worked in workforce development as a professional educator.
From my varied career so far you might also have gathered that I like change. However, I appreciate that change doesn’t always feel good. We operate in a messy world that is constantly changing with what often feels like cold business drivers and fewer resources than ever to help us manage growing demand. Going forward we will have to keep doing things differently, needing yet more change. This will require us to be ever more informed and courageous in our ideas. I would argue that we have always been innovators, but this expectation on practice has probably never been more pressing or urgent than it is right now. I understand and recognise these and other pressures but I also know that there is no shortage of dedicated, compassionate and knowledgeable workers whom I admire immensely.
One of my roles as a Practice Standards and Quality Officer for Cambridgeshire County Council is to work with Research in Practice as our Link Officer. I have been in this role for over a year now and I can honestly say it’s one of the best bits of my job. I see the position as an important one in that I try and ensure that we all make the best use of the great resources, in whatever ways that suit our need.
Of course our relationships with our clients are vital, but it’s important to remember that professional relationships matter too. My colleagues and I try to visit the teams as much as we can to speak to practitioners and their managers face to face. For us this connection is invaluable, without which much of what we do would be lost in an email somewhere. We attend as many meetings as we can, and work from the teams when we are able to ensure we are more accessible and familiar to as many people as possible. Personally I have to remind myself that a phone call is sometimes better than an email. For those of us who support practice and do not work with clients, we need to keep in mind that emails are not the only form of communication and they certainly aren’t always the most effective means of communication.
We take pride in the fact that our approach to our work with service users and families, is relationship-focused, strengths based and person-centred, we also need to ensure that we carry this approach through to our relationships with colleagues. By understanding and focusing on the strengths of individuals and their teams we can affect change more easily, if required. In my experience, change is made an easier and more constructive experience when it is underpinned by good relationship based working and sustained by a mutual respect for each other’s strengths.
In 2019 I was lucky enough to win the Link Officer of the Year award. In truth, I still don’t always feel like I know what I’m doing in this role as a Link Officer but I am passionate about the position and working with the wonderful team at Research in Practice, and my Account Manager Melika who, for a short while every couple of weeks, allows me to be her entire focus. I honestly believe that one of the ways in which we will remain confident, competent and resilient is to feel supported and to be enabled to develop and learn.
Really it’s the human connection that makes it all happen. Happy World Social Work Day!