A couple of days ago I got an unexpected call from my Local Authority’s Adult Social Care Community Review Team (what a mouthful!) The woman I spoke to was very friendly and explained that she needed to visit me to review my personal budget, which is the funding I get that covers my support at home.
I know that reviewing this support is necessary but it’s so essential to my independence and wellbeing that the reviews always make me anxious – particularly in this climate of cuts. I didn’t have much time to worry about it this time though as we scheduled the review for today so we could fit it in before I go back to work next week.
My support was last reviewed in July 2016. Back then I found the process upsetting and stressful, but not because of the outcome but because of how the social worker spoke to me.
At that time I had to justify intimate details of my life, like how long it took for my evening meal to be prepared, or why I needed an extra fifteen minutes of personal care on a Saturday (so my hair can be washed or my nails trimmed in case you’re wondering!) I heard nothing after the visit, but my care package didn’t change so I saw no need to follow it up.
The visit today was very different and reminded me how transformative good social work can be. I’d never previously met the woman who came, but she instantly put me at ease and skilfully helped me talk about very personal aspects of my life. She was clued up on my case and took time to check in on how I was doing. She listened attentively and with empathy as I explained the issues I’m having with chronic pain and nausea, and the impact this is having on my work and wellbeing.
She didn’t shy away from the nitty-gritty of my care package but talked about it with respect, and seemed to understand the crucial role it plays in my life. We talked through everything that’s working or not working about my current package. I was able to discuss all sorts of issues that have been on my mind, ranging from those with national implications like the ruling last year on rates of pay for overnight carers, to more personal issues like the extra help I need at the moment to go to the toilet.
The social worker will now take a few weeks to write her report, find the answers to my questions, and calculate my new budget. I’ll have to wait to find out the outcome of the review, but whatever it is the process has certainly made me feel valued and cared about.
Of course, in an age where many services are under intense pressure and vital support systems are being dismantled, good practice can be hard to maintain. Many people have only a vague notion of what social workers do. Their views might come from press reports of high profile cases where things have gone wrong, or from hearing about the crisis in social care that the current Government has overseen. So this is a post in celebration of all the social workers who are battling to retain high quality practice and keep people safe in a challenging political and economic climate.
My personal budget is my life – every aspect of who I am and what I do is wrapped up in it. The woman who came today seemed to understand this, and for that I’m deeply appreciative.