The skills of social workers throughout the world are varied and demanding, but the last two years have made us all reassess our priorities – with greater emphasis for ourselves and those we work with, on the sheer need to survive in troubled times.
Unfortunately, we are now having to come to terms with the harsh reality that the adjustments have not come to an end with the loosening of the pandemic restrictions, but war in Europe and the ongoing disruption to global trade, means that price rises and shortages continue to hit us all hard.
So it is inevitable that more social work time will have to be spent just helping people to keep fed, with a place to live and keep warm.
This does mean knowing your locality – where are the foodbanks and how to access them, where are the shops which sell cheaper household items and food, where are the places people can go to keep warm if they cannot heat their homes, and how can you help people stay in their homes.
But – primarily – how can you encourage people to get early help when their debts start rising – and what to do if their debts are already out of control.
Organisations like the UK-wide Citizens Advice Bureaux, StepChange, Turn2Us, Christians Against Poverty, and many other local schemes, can help people renegotiate debt arrangements and advise on bankruptcy and other ways to reschedule debt.
In addition, the Charity Choice website makes searching for relevant charities a lot easier.
This should be an urgent priority for all social workers, whoever you are working with – but also for yourself.
Time and again we receive applications from social workers for assistance, who have not received debt advice – and got themselves into severe financial problems.
How can you effectively help others if you are not helping yourself?
Social work in hard times is about getting the basics right – working again from Maslow’s hierarchy of needs – for ourselves as well as those we are aiming to help.