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Swansea Working Conditions and Wellbeing Toolkit Pilot

Progress so far...

For the past few months, we here at BASW Cymru have been working together with the City and County of Swansea child and family services around the essential topic of worker well-being. Partnering with Nick Andrews from Swansea University’s Developing Evidence Enriched Practice (DEEP) Programme and Sian Jones, an early career social work researcher undertaking her PhD on vicarious trauma in social workers has been important and rewarding.

It has been a privilege to work with dedicated and committed practitioners, even more so during the difficult and changing times we have been living in. Dedicated and committed – 2 essential qualities of being a social worker and working in social care. They are so important characteristics that social workers need and this is clearly evident through our sessions so far.

To date we have held 3 sessions, 1 with managers, another with social workers and the third with social care staff in different child and family settings. There are further sessions ahead.

What we have been focussing on clearly is well-being, but what we know is that well-being isn’t something that is static. What it means for me today might be very different by tomorrow. So, we have been starting our sessions asking all participants in one word to identify what well-being means for them at that particular time. We were then able to explore these words with participants. This gives each of us the opportunity to stop and reflect not only on these words, but on oursleves, on how we were feeling.  

The sessions have given us the opportunity to reflect – something that should be central to our profession, but at this Covid mad time, our usual ways of reflecting have gone out the window. The opportunities to do this in between travelling to meetings, or at the end of the day driving home have all but disappeared. So, we need to be more creative and kinder to ourselves and make time during the day (our working day!) to give us space to reflect. By so doing, we will be looking after our well-being as well as becoming more responsive, sensitive and empathetic practitioners.

So, we have explored and reflected on well-being, on our well-being; our peer’s well-being, our employees well-being. We briefly considered the 2 types of well-being - Hedonic – short term pleasures and Eudaimonic well-being long term satisfaction.

We have considered and explored 2 questions. What sustains us in our roles and how has the pandemic affected us. In the beginning of the year, we wouldn’t have even thought of exploring this second question. Life was different; Covid was just something that was happening in China. Not one of us could have imagined what has transpired over the last 8 months or so. During our time together we couldn’t have ignored Covid. As social workers we work in crisis situations constantly; our training and our practice should have equipped us to do this, but this current crisis that we are experiencing is totally outside all of our experiences. Some of the responses to these questions have been heart-warming and encouraging. Many participants seeing the positives in the new way we have had to adapt as well as honestly sharing the struggles they have (and continue to) experience.

A quote which resonates with me was shared during one of these sessions. It’s from a renowned psychiatrist and neurologist Victor Frankl, who was a holocaust survivor. He said, “Those who have a “why” to live for, can manage the how”. Purpose for each one of us is very important. In the context of our sessions, considering what it is that sustains us in our roles is inexorably linked to this sense of purpose we feel about our profession and the work that we do.

We are still at the early stages of our collaborative work, but the early indications are positive. Social workers and social care workers are passionate about their work and the children and families they support. Well-being is high on the agenda for The City and County of Swansea. The need to care for ourselves and each other is vital to our ability to provide the support needed for the most vulnerable in our society.

Meryl Williams

Professional Officer

BASW Cymru

meryl.williams@basw.co.uk