A Guest Blog
There is lots of movement of social workers within Local Authority and NHS employer organisations. Times change, different agendas and different prerogatives mean people move on.
A common question asked when a worker joins a team these days is whether you are an agency worker or permanent staff. I’m never quite sure when asked this whether being a ‘permanent member of staff’ is better or worse than an agency worker but the question always seems like a loaded question to me; loaded with value judgments about the person being questioned.
Currently we work with lots of permanent and agency staff. Many permanent staff are great, others or not. Many agency staff are great, others are not. When I was asked this week by a new member of our team whether I was agency or permanent it made me stop and think. Who do I actually work for?
The Council? They put the money in my bank on the 15th of every month. I have training through them, I am authorised as an AMHP by them and they provide me with the tools required (sometimes) to do the job they give me the money to do. But do I work for the Council? I don’t think so. At least I have never felt like I do.
I worked within the NHS for two years. Again the Council would put my money in the bank on the 15th of the month. The NHS would provide me with the tools to do the job but the Council authorised me as an AMHP. When I was asked to do admin by my NHS manager instead of spending time supporting people I would say ‘I don’t work for the NHS, I work for the Council’. And that’s how I felt…did I work for the NHS. No.
So who do I think I work for? I work for the people who pay me, and I mean really pay me. People, citizens who pay their taxes which in turns go to the government, which then goes to the Council who then pay me. So I work for local people…The Council as my employer is merely the agency, the middleman. We’re all agency workers. The Local Authority is a servant of local people not a master over them, we work for people. Social workers are servants not masters.
When the starting point is that the person you are going to see today is your boss, have that in your head, I wonder if that power imbalance shifts at all. My dad was a skip driver; I used to go to work with him every Saturday morning for the day. On Saturday he would get paid by his boss, my dad would always say thank you and shake his hand when his boss would pay him. One day I asked my dad why he always said thank you when he was merely getting paid for what he had done. ‘Because without him paying my wages where would we be?’
I wonder if the next person I see would be happy to pay me for the service I provided them?