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Joanne Roney: Social workers should be celebrated

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It is often said that social work is a thankless job.

No one, least of all me, is under any illusions about the tremendous challenges and pressures involved. When social workers are featured in the media, or as characters in TV series, it is all too often with a negative spin.

We hear much less about the incredible positive difference social workers can and do make to the lives of vulnerable and troubled people, and the real rewards this brings to those working in the field.

And although families who have been supported by social workers are often appreciative of the guidance they have received, it is even rarer that we hear them thanked.

Here at Manchester City Council – in common I know with colleagues up and down the land – we are trying to change all that.

Indeed, a heartwarming short film we produced and issued on World Social Work Day last month gave literal voice to that appreciation.

The film – produced as part of a recruitment drive by the council to attract both newly qualified and experienced social workers to the city – shows individual team members reading a genuine part of one of the many thank you messages sent to the city’s social workers over the past year.

These letters shine a light on the range of support provided, and the difference made to some of the most vulnerable children and families in the city every day.

Thank yous include lines such as: “You helped me to see that I have strengths, as well as weaknesses”; “You helped us put love and laughter back in our home”; “Life has been hard for a long time – my son’s condition isn’t easy but what made it worse is that people didn’t take the time to understand”; “You believed in me as a parent and helped me see I was worth more than I gave myself credit for”; “Thank you for being down-to-earth and non-threatening, and for being transparent about your role with us… You are exactly how a social worker should be; calm, relaxed and without any air of superiority”.

Our social workers also had a crucial role to play in the aftermath of last year’s Manchester Arena attack. And the work of our children’s services department with city schools in the wake of those terrible events was also recognised in the recent Kerslake Review into the response.

There’s more we can all do to promote careers in this important role. I want to put on record my own appreciation of the work our social work teams do and their contribution to the life of our city.

Thank you is a small phrase, but it is one with a huge amount of meaning behind it.

Joanne Roney, chief executive, Manchester City Council

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