The real crisis in social care
By guest blogger JOHN BURTON
I’d been working in social care for 13 years before I understood why we spent so much time and energy avoiding the work (the core task) and making this avoidance the main task.
In 1978 as a post-qualifying student on the Bristol University “Advanced Course” for senior residential workers, and while doing my first placement as a hospital porter at The Bristol Royal Infirmary, I was introduced to Isabel Menzies’ hospital study, Social Systems as a Defence Against Anxiety, first published in 1960.
This was an eye-opener or, rather a mind-opener, a revelation. I had been working in, and more recently leading, organisations (social systems), mostly children’s homes, where, for example, the list of daily tasks on the back of the kitchen cupboard door was made more important than being with the children (the core task). So, at the times when the children most needed you, you were too busy to be with them. Even in those days, it was possible to put rules, procedures, and “office” work between you and the people you were meant to be helping through real, personal relationships.
Our clients in social care bring with them the difficulties and dependencies that qualify them for our care. These are hard to face even when doing so is exactly what your job is. As human beings we fear and avoid death and illness, mental disturbance and emotional need, and extreme physical dependency, yet it is a social care worker’s job to be close to and make relationships with people who confront them with such needs. Without them we would have no jobs.
Individually, we have to work against the defensive reflexes we wheel out to avoid the anxiety engendered by our work, and doing this is in itself emotionally demanding.
Organisationally, at a local and national level, we collude with the systems that defend care homes, provider organisations, “improvement agencies”, and governments against the anxiety of the core task. We don’t even know that we’re doing it.
When complying with the requirements of the regulator dominates our work to the extent that it does now, and when so much time, money and effort are expended on this compliance, we should know that our sector is in trouble. This is the real crisis in social care.
– The CT Blog is written in a personal capacity – comments and opinions expressed are not necessarily endorsed or supported by Caring Times.