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NIASW World Social Work Day: We need to archive the stories of social work as a legacy for the future

The importance of working together with service users to tell both good and bad stories of social work was a key theme of NIASW’s World Social Work Day conference at Titanic Belfast.

BASW Chief Executive Bridget Robb stated that part of the Association’s mission concerns the best way to talk about the work done by social workers.

“Because we have worked hard to close many large institutions, it’s hard for the public to picture where social work takes place. We work between the divides, of the big blocks of the hospital services, the prison services, the schools service. That can be a difficult message to get across”, Ms Robb said.

"I got some funny looks walking through the airport the other day. I'd come from an event and realised was wearing a badge saying ‘I love social work".

Ms Robb was pleased to see some local authorities such as Coventry City Council allowing access to the media so that social workers and service users can tell their stories. “Sometimes these stories are not straightforward and can be difficult to hear. We need to start telling the stories for ourselves and to benefit the people we work with. The more that we stay silent, the more they are invisible. We need to work together.”

Sandra Peake, Chief Executive of the WAVE Trauma centre echoed this view, citing a project where nurses told their stories of tending to people injured during the Troubles.

“We need to consider how far we’ve come and acknowledge the stories that are there”, Ms Peake said.

NIASW Chair Lesley McDowell shared her experience of social work during the Troubles in Northern Ireland, "As social workers we prided ourselves on working across all communities." Now we need to reflect on that time and look at the legacy and ways forward with other organisations, Ms McDowell said.

Secretary-general of the International Federation of Social Workers Rory Truell said it was not enough to say social workers are good people. “We need more sophisticated arguments about what we do and why it’s worth investing in our work".

“In the past our profession has always wanted to give the honour of the outcomes of our work to the people that we work with because we know that change does not come from us but with facilitating change and a process that comes from them, so we have always given away the acknowledgement to other people.”

NIASW is currently compiling stories of social work from service providers and service users across Northern Ireland.

To share your story, please email NIASW Manager Carolyn Ewart c.ewart@basw.co.uk