Celebrating World Social Work Day 2024

Posted by Devon Partnership Trust in News, Social Work on 19th March, 2024

Anthony Vaughan headshot and World Social Work Day 2024 logo"Social workers do like a meeting, but that is to ensure that everyone’s voice and opinion are heard. And that can only be a good thing when we think about empowerment and anti-oppressive practice, which is considered to be world class."

Today, Tuesday 19 March 2024, we celebrate World Social Work Day and raise awareness of the invaluable work and achievements of our staff.

Social workers are a vibrant part of the many professions across our organisation. Often small in numbers, 
they are nonetheless a vital presence in most teams, bringing the systemic, strengths-based perspective of the profession to the care and support of the people we work with. They are actively involved in the new Community Mental Health Framework (CMHF), bringing their expertise and sharing the knowledge developed through outreach and partnership working with third sector organisations in their localities.

This year’s theme is ‘Buen Vivir: Shared Future for Transformative Change’, rooted in the Global Agenda, emphasising the need for social workers to adopt innovative, community-led approaches that are grounded in indigenous wisdom and harmonious coexistence with nature. The theme serves as a timely reminder of the transformative role social workers play in driving positive change and fostering communities that thrive on mutual respect and sustainability.

Throughout the week, we will share stories from three social workers, highlighting their experiences working in different teams and the journeys that led them to where they are today. They will explain what drew them to social work and what they value about the profession.

To kickstart our celebration, we spoke to Anthony Vaughan, Clinical Specialist:

Before joining Devon Partnership NHS Trust, I worked for various local authorities as a children and families social worker. I worked mainly with children where I was either assessing family needs or providing support to reduce the impact of significant harm to children. This included all aspects of child protection, including working with children for whom it wasn’t safe to remain at home and working with parents and carers to identify how to improve their parenting capacity. Fundamentally, all of my work involved building relationships with people and finding ways to create behaviour change for the benefit of everyone in the family.

What drew me to social work is that my mum is a social worker, and it would be fair to say that social justice was a big part of my upbringing. Social work is about advocating and being a voice for people in society and communities. I love how my work is rooted in human rights and how social work navigates the intricate details between individual choice and collective responsibility. Most of all, social work is about standing against oppression and systemic disadvantage of groups of people. Being able to stand up for people on a daily basis was what attracted me to this wonderful profession.

I love how varied my work is. Each week is different. One day I can be sitting in a strategic panel using my skills to influence and shape policy across different organisations, and the next day I am creating a safe space for clinicians to reflect during Safeguarding Supervision. As a result of that safe space, clinicians are able to make a difference for patients. My role utilises all of the traditionally ‘soft skills’ to have an impact on the care for some of the most vulnerable people in society who may feel like their voice isn’t heard within systems.

The biggest challenge for me and the team is twofold. Firstly, it can be difficult to bridge the gap between the individual team pressures and the impact this has on capacity and the expectations of the local authority. Trying to communicate across organisations can be a challenge when there are many misconceptions around what is possible within mental health services. Secondly, I try hard to enable clinicians to see that the work they do every day and the dedication they have for the patients they work with is already safeguarding work. Safeguarding work doesn’t always mean that more has to be done, just that the work they are doing needs to be seen as fundamentally safeguarding work because everyone is working hard to keep people safe.

The past year has been particularly positive. The teams I have worked with have all developed their understanding of safeguarding and are proactive in coming to me and the Safeguarding Team for advice and support. But I am most proud of the way I have been able to create systematic change by addressing the need for policy change which will ultimately prevent power being misused and raise awareness just how vulnerable some patients who use our services are.

No single profession holds the definitive perspective, and social work, as a profession, considers different perspectives before analysing the available information and drawing conclusions about next steps. I would like to see the value social work brings to quite often complex scenarios recognised more. Yes, social workers do like a meeting, but that is to ensure that everyone’s voice and opinion are heard. And that can only be a good thing when we think about empowerment and anti-oppressive practice, which is considered to be world class.