First blog ever! Inspired by an email I received today. I’ve often thought about whether I’d be any good at writing a blog but I guess you’ll be the judge of that now.
So anyway, today I was copied into this email at work, from our Principal Social Worker asking for contributions towards an e-book for World Social Work Day #WSWD2018 which you can download here – https://adultpswnetwork.wordpress.com/
Normally, I don’t reply to these sorts of things as they usually ask for something good that you’ve done and I, like many others in my profession, am not great talking about myself, and get embarrassed when asked to celebrate my achievements… But, today wasn’t asking for this, it was asking ‘why’….It asked for social workers to give an 100 word account of ‘why social work’. Obviously, my first thought was “only 100 words.. this will be tough.. I’ll need at least a 1000”!!! But none the less, I did it and pressed the send button.
Since doing that 100 word paragraph about ‘Why’ social work was, and is, my chosen career my ‘reflection cogs’ in my ‘social work brain’, started to churn. I thought about lots of things but the one that got most of my thoughts on my hours drive home was ‘Why does anyone choose the profession or career path they have?’
My reason for choosing social work is because it fits with my personal values and I feel I’ve always had the ‘nack’ for getting to know people and connecting with them. I have the ability to be empathetic. I think all of us, who choose to go into certain careers, do it for the reason that it suits ‘us’ and who we are as individuals – ok, maybe not all the time, but i think this will be mainly true of those of us who like our careers. What makes us ‘individuals’ with those different values, beliefs, goals etc is made up from our influencs as we grow up, be it our parents, siblings, friends, celebrities etc. … (Gosh this gets me thinking back to my studies at college of Freud and his concept of the ID, Ego and Super-Ego… it’s really interesting stuff.)
Anyway… once I’d thought about me, my influences, who I am as a person and that word ‘Why?’ I started to think about the options available for career paths, and how many are available to people now a days.
I could have chosen any career I wanted (except anything which required hand eye coordinating, I’m a bit clumsy in that area). But seriously, options were open to me when I left school. Young people sometimes struggle these days to choose a career as there are so many choices but ultimately they are either motivated by the wage or their passion, or sometimes both. I went with passion, obviously ;).
My reflections led on to, more importantly, the community of people who me and the team I work within serve. These individuals are diagnosed with a learning disability and/or ASD. I thought about options available to these individuals when they leave school and although I know I knew the answer to this, it saddened me because I actually hadn’t given it as much in-depth thought before as I had today. What are the options? Really?
If we sat down and asked these individuals ‘why’ they attend a certain day provision for example, do you think they’d say, it was always their passion, dream, goal?? I doubt it in the majority.
People with learning disabilities and/or ASD will have their own life experiences, dream, goals, interests, careers plans and map for their lives, except for them, they’re not overwhelmed with choices. I started to think about what we really do as social workers and commissioners of ‘services’ to expand choices to change this, the answer, at the moment..sadly, probably not enough! Although ‘services’ should be needs led and not service led, I don’t feel we are there yet, but we try and convince ourselves that we are. The conversation we have with these members of our community should be more about HOW we enable them to work towards achieving their life choices, not giving them the options of what’s available. Those of us who do not have the same limits to choices would be able to leave a job we did not like or want to do and would not be coerced into staying in any career because it’s ‘something to do’ and if we were, we’d be miserable. But we expect those equally important members of our community to do so, because hey, it’s better than nothing right??… Well I say.. wrong! There needs to be more choices, challenging colleges to be more inclusive, commissioning support to enable someone to access courses, careers, interests they have as much as possible. There are going to be times when we all can’t have our dream jobs, experiences, fulfil our life goals but hey, there’s nothing to stop us from keeping trying, doing something similar. Life is all about ups and downs and trying different things, experiencing different challenges.
I have learned a lot from the people i have been privilaged to work with. People with learning disabilities and/or ASD have so much to offer to society. If their dream is to become a librarian, let’s commission with local libraries to provide work experience.. talk to colleges about making the course more accessible. If someone wants to be a DJ, let’s talk to local DJ’ s about them taking on an apprentice. Local photographers. I could go on, but you get the idea.
Just think about it, would you sit in a room all day, up to 5 days a week doing arts and crafts for example, if you didn’t want to? How would you feel if there was no other real options. Frustrated right?
So why as professionals are we so confused when someone who has been relatively ‘settled’ in a ‘day provision’ for 10+ years suddenly displaying or communicating unhappiness. It’s not rocket science, it’s human nature.
Let’s do more. I’m up for it, are you?