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Enthusiasm Crushed

February 10, 2010

The Prince’s Trust recently said thousands of potential mechanics, social workers and entrepreneurs could also be lost if young people could not fulfil their career ambitions.

We’ve all met those keen and bright young people who want to become social workers. They want to help others and make a difference. They are fired by altruism, curiosity about the lives of others, the wish to meet people and they want to avoid being stuck in an office just pushing buttons. But, what happens?

In a previous post I quoted a colleage who thought that there ought to be research done into why so many social workers leave the profession. Well, there is an excellent piece of research by Christine Eborall & Kay Garmeson (2001) on the recruitment and retention of social workers and social care staff. About the reasons for difficulty in retaining social workers they conclude:

Most social workers are highly committed to their work, and are motivated firstly by their contact with users and feeling that they are making a real difference to people’s lives, and secondly by working in a skilled team and learning from others. However, if there are staff shortages, excessive workloads, reliance on temporary/inexperienced staff, bureaucratic procedures and poor management, they feel unable to do a good job, and hence lose job satisfaction. A vicious circle of staffing frustration and increasing pressure can set in. As the workforce is stretched, levels of stress and emotional exhaustion increase and there is increased opportunity for error and mis-judgment, leading to fear that things may go wrong. The increasing amounts of violence, threats and verbal abuse from users and/or their families are also harder to take.

Sounds spot on to me. As that research was done for the Department of Health nine years ago why is it that the position now is just as bad if not worse than it was then? Why are we wasting the energy, ability and motivation of young recruits and forcing them out of a useful and potentially highly rewarding profession?

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