This month I took part in a couple of Free To Live’s role play interview sessions with student social workers at Bradford College, the second year in which we’ve partnered with the college. Using our experiences we tested social worker hopefuls by seeing how they react to real situations within a controlled environment: a teaser for the next part of their working lives if you will. It’s an innovative service user led participation approach which is fast becoming a more readily adopted tactic by such courses and the Free to Live group are an ideal resource of (good and bad) experiences to tap into.
This year I kept the same role play scenario as last year, a review of my 24/7 care plan, but with a twist to reflect what’s currently going on. Extreme high care needs such as mine are mostly being accommodated. It’s one of two choices: 24 hour care or nothing. There is no middle ground, no margin of error, no room for manoeuvre. In that way, despite having high needs, my care package is relatively straight forward to understand even for a relative newcomer. The problem for Social Care presently is the bit in the middle; someone who doesn’t always need care, 20 hours or 3 nights a week, or who’s needs aren’t physically as obvious or prone to change quickly.
So I threw in a curve ball to see what would happen. Based on a current process I’m going through, I informed the interviewees that as part of claiming benefits I was being moved onto Employment Support Allowance. I had a blank copy of the questionnaire with me and essentially waited to see what their reaction was. Whilst the two are separate processes, common crucial care needs exist in both; unpredictable spasms and proneness to Autonomic Dysreflexia. These are the reasons why I need both 24 hour care and to work for myself.
I wasn’t expecting miracles, someone to have all the answers and the form filled out in 10 minutes. Half got it right and said that they couldn’t deal with it straight away but that they’d take it away, ask questions and then help me fill the form in at another meeting. The other half unfortunately struggled with a variety of results. It may sound harsh, but if they can’t develop the right strategies in a one off controlled environment such as this or learn from the experience quickly then they’re going to struggle with this as a chosen career, particularly when dealing with multiple cases far more complicated than mine.
A social worker has to gather information, give users confidence that they understand their situation and can effectively present to decision panels. They will rarely know everything, so have to be prepared to be open-minded to learn and ask questions where needed. Hopefully these interviews will give them a valuable insight and help them identify areas to improve as they go forwards.