Tag Archives: social workers

Review: The Practical Well-being Programme: Activities and Exercises by Penny Moon

Mike Wright reviews this important book for CPEA Ltd – social care, children’s services and management associates

For Penny Moon, ‘The Practical Well-being Programme’ is a book that ‘introduces readers to the underlying principles and approaches associated with a holistic approach to well-being in educational and other social contexts’. To do so, Moon draws on the principles of ‘A Quiet Place’ – a ‘within schools’ programme of therapeutic support for pupils experiencing social, behavioural and/or emotional difficulties,’ applying them with the wider scope of tackling the issue of stress management, plus making them serve as a roadmap of approaches that encourage a greater sense of self-awareness and well-being.

The ‘A Quiet Place’ ethos was originally put into practice through the provision of an actual physical room where the environment was not only aesthetically designed to engender feelings of calm and well-being, but was also a place in which the environment was one of creative self-exploration for the individual as a means of accessing the ‘personal resources necessary for increased self-awareness and self-healing’.

The aim of this book, then, is to distil the essence of ‘A Quiet Place’ so that it may be applied broadly for those seeking to understand how to manage stress more effectively – whether as a means of support for ourselves or for others. In this sense, Moon’s work remains true to its aim through the use of clear language –and an insistence on experiential learning through the use of a variety of tools and resources (e.g. diagrams, activities, guided visualisations, YouTube links, etc.) made accessible to all ages, rather than resorting to a complex and esoteric theoretical approach to stress management that, could threaten to isolate her work’s applicability to a more limited field. Her move also ensures that the book remains versatile both in terms of how it may be used and also in terms of who may wish to use it, ranging from teachers, parents, employers, social workers, but also to individuals dealing with their own specific circumstances and issues regarding the management of stress.

The holistic approach adopted by the book also means that there is no direct a priori position taken on what constitutes the self: instead Moon deploys a model which encourages an exploration of how we interact with our environment in terms of emotion, mind, body and spirit. This approach allows for a free and unconditioned interpretation of the information in the book, and plus it provides for the creative space necessary for the development of self-awareness and self-healing. However despite each chapter being divided into two parts – that of information and background, followed by activities and exercises – it could be said that the book is lacking, or at least is vague, in structure. That’s a point acknowledged and intended by the writer, however; although this could at first be considered a weakness, when the aim and ethos of the work is brought back into perspective, it becomes apparent that this is actually the book’s main strength. That’s because a vague, ambiguous structure puts the emphasis on making the reader the source of their own development and understanding – and in providing them the freedom to creatively explore the material, rather than have it explained in a manner that may not reflect their experience. ‘The whole world says that my way is vast and resembles nothing. It is because it is vast that it resembles nothing. If it resembled anything, it would long before now, have become small.’ – Lao Tzu.

The book recognises that stress is something which is experienced as a result of the individual’s perception of their environment and situation, rather than being effected by a specific external cause. If the opposite were the case, stress management would be a far less complex issue, of course, as we would be able to locate the common cause and merely remove it from our environment. Therefore the book’s approach, which appears to be shapeless on its surface, reveals itself to be both a practical and considered approach in addressing a complex issue affecting so many in terms of their ability to function in society, and more fundamentally in terms of the effect on their general health and well-being.

This is an especially refreshing approach when considered in relation to today’s modern, fast-paced society, which seems to breed an attitude of intolerance towards delay and dysfunction. The approach adopted by Moon thus addresses the issue of stress without stigmatising those that experience it through imposing labels, or making stress a medical matter. The book also avoids placing any undue emphasis on stress being a social problem, rather than an issue deserving attention due to the mere fact of it impacting on the individual’s well-being. This attitude towards stress management, in terms of a reluctance to attach any judgement or stigma to the issue, therefore facilitates a climate of empathy and acceptance that promotes and supports the understanding necessary for both individual and social awareness and change.

In summary, ‘The Practical Well-being Programme: Activities and Exercises’ serves not only to ‘introduce readers to the underlying principles and approaches associated with a holistic approach to well-being in educational and other social contexts,’ but also provides an accessible and pragmatic source of therapeutic support for personal development towards an increased level of self-awareness and self-healing. The book’s experiential and holistic approach, contained within a ‘light and breathing’ structure, also ensures that it is widely applicable to all ages and circumstances – making it an extremely versatile and useful tool for teachers, parents, social workers and individuals wishing to better understand and manage stress in order to achieve a greater sense of wellbeing.

Pause for a social care blog

Vic Citarella writes a non-blog

Making a commitment to writing a regular blog is an onerous and self-inflicted duty. There is so much to write about and so little time. Crafting rough ideas gets put off and blogs remain unwritten. Various prompts in Evernote, Google Tasks, and actual note books mount up. Every so often (today) these demand consolidation into one entity – an inventory of blog topics. It serves to postpone the real blog and replace it with the new task of making sense of the list.

Cataloguing the blogs-to-do is a discipline shared here and now:

• First making the abnormal normal – is this something about the engineering aspect of social work (can’t remember)
• Next the revolving doors of interim management – definitely a blog in that note
• Then one about Frontline for Adults – a possible blog that asks if a new cohort of social workers can be ready in time for the Care Bill when it becomes an Act? (There is more than one blog here. Possibilities include ones about speed and exclusivity but probably best left to others)
• Observed practice –  a blog querying what this might actually entail in residential care. (This is something that needs writing)
• On the list is the Ageing Workforce – there because people have been harping on about it forever. It was ever thus and perhaps not the prophet of doom portrayed is the potential thrust
• Blog about the Archive – no recollection what this might have been about
• Assessing for Practice – that somebody was doing this well warranted inclusion
• An old favourite is Call a Social Worker, a Social Worker – strike from the list as probably already written (check the archive – ah ha the archive)
• Learning Labs – a blog about using IT in social work. (Food for thought?)
• Micro-researchers – no idea how this got on the list (a visual blog?)
• The last one is itemised as Coventry has Form. The note to self (or social care) reminds not to be complacent, nor frozen and of the vitality of celebration. Places are characterised by the lasting effects of events – there are enduring implications for the workforce. (As the social care workforce is a favoured topic maybe this is the one that should be written?).

But not just now as there is work to do.

Social work goes into hospital

A couple of weeks back I was in and out of our local hospital on daily basis as my father was poorly. Learning to use the rear exit for easy access to the car park I noticed this sign which I snapped and tweeted, \’Hospital #socialwork – life in the NHS portakabin\’.

Whilst not trending as such it created two separate flurries of activity – considerably more than my normal response rate

Was it because social workers are amusingly ‘way out’ or because their offices are actually frequently located in a portakabin in the car park? Both interpretations brought about knowing chuckles from tweeters across the land.

It did strike me though that if we are to secure the benefits of integrated health and social care (as intended in the Care Bill) then social workers should be:

• located at the heart of hospitals not outside in temporary office accommodation in the car park

• included in the governance of hospitals at practice management level to advocate for patients, argue the corner of the profession and make the case for resources

• have access to the excellent support facilities of a hospital – administration, equipment and training budgets

Over the years I have been involved with hospital social workers in several major hospitals and they were always led by a ‘Principal’ grade located on site. My guess is that is no longer the case. Perhaps it would not be too ‘way out’ to reconsider professional leadership of hospital social work as one feature of the integration agenda that will help realise some of the benefits for the users of hospitals.

Social (Net) Workers

There can be few social care professionals not aware of the popularity of social networking technologies such as Linkedin, Twitter and Facebook – and some may even have put a toe in the social media water.

But how many recognise the enormous possibilities these technologies present to our sector? After all, they make available for all frontline social workers and social care managers the ability to have more relevant discussions with colleagues and with the communities they serve.

They offer a less intimidating, people friendly and very affordable way of engagement. As an antidote to loneliness and isolation – professional or personal – they offer a new and panoramic window to practitioner, manager and service user alike.

Perhaps you can see a need to move forward here. What would be a good first step? Here are my top tips for starting to embrace these technologies.

  • Get together a social networking roadmap that will clearly identify social networking sites that could be usefully embraced by your team. Each site should have a realistic description of the benefits, current and future risks your employees could open you up to
  • Start with some form of survey or assessment of current social networking practices and if possible, future needs too. A policy that does not fit the actual circumstances of your organisation will be ignored – and thus do more harm than good
  • A Facebook ‘Page’ can be set up for your organisation, similar to a personal profile. People will ‘Like’ your ‘Page’ and this will show in their individual News feeds and will promote your organisation: you can import a database of names and invite people to join up and ‘Like’ you, so include your workforce, partners, influencers and so on. Think carefully about the information you post there. Don’t make it too text heavy, don’t use very formal language and try and use multi-media regularly to add interest
  • On Twitter, you need to follow people in order to have interesting tweets to comment on and to get the latest industry news. Mix it up – choose Twitterers from your personal and professional life. Check the profiles of people who are following others who you follow. Follow at least 30 people to get a lively home page. Then start posting your updates. Don\’t expect many to follow you immediately
  • One, perhaps often overlooked benefit of using Twitter, is how good an informational digest it provides. In that sense, it’s less about what you can bring to the conversation, but instead provides (very much like the RSS feeds of old) lots of very short snippets of news from a wide variety of sources. Some of the ‘news’ is not news as we would know it – and a lot of it can be extremely funny, moving and entertaining. Judge for yourself!
  • LinkedIn operates as the equivalent of business card system and it’s an ideal way to keep in touch with or do research on your peers, people you’ve met at events, key people in social work, and so on. As well as having your individual profile, note that your organisation may also have a presence. Such a profile can tell people a little more about the work you do and the value you add. It also links to the profiles of all your staff, providing another way for your clients, service users and job seekers to connect with you on a professional level
  • Be warned that Facebook and Twitter – and even LinkedIn – are not the place for safe, slick public sector communications. People want to hear what the Head of Social Services at X council thinks – but not the emasculated ‘official’ version – but the message that sounds like it’s from the heart. That’s what will engage people…
  • Don’t forget to offer frequent training regarding these technologies and the organisation\’s approach to social networking. Insist that employees think before they click, tweet or post! State unequivocally that employees must comply with all policies covering confidential information.

What\’s not to \’Like\’ about social media in the social care sector, in other words?

Vic Citarella’s twitter address is @cpeanose

The Full Story

It’s difficult to know where to begin with this story. As a newspaper reader does one start from an assumption that this is all true or untrue or a truth for somebody? As social workers we know that much of the story is unlikely – we tend to enter care proceedings too late rather than too soon; \”casual grounds\” are just not accepted and there are other significant players in the system (not least local authority lawyers). So if it were true there is either one pretty pointless conspiracy going on and/or we can expect some social workers and other professionals to be losing their jobs soon. However as a newspaper reader (and the Telegraph is a newspaper and Booker a credible writer of long standing) one cannot accept that they have printed a load of untruths. What would be the point of that at a time when the newspaper industry and journalism is at such a low ebb in the nations esteem? So I come to the conclusion that it is a truth for somebody – in this case probably a parent or relative – and all Booker has done is to floridly articulate that, used his skills to satisfy the preconceived appetites of his readers and ramped it up a bit with a campaigning slant – secrecy in the family courts system. There you have it. A one-sided story.

The challenge for social work, then, is to find a way, not to rebutt nor to tell another-sided story, but to tell a fuller story. One that remains newsworthy and has everybody\’s truth included. Booker concludes his item by criticising judges for not challenging what is before them. A full story would open the roles of journalists, social workers and other professionals to the judgement of public opinion as well as to that of the courts. The question remains, in our partisan media world, of who can write or voice such a full story. For social workers, how do they make their voice and their truth heard? The debate here is important as it is only through some form of collective action that we can get a fuller story before the public.