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Swansea Working Conditions and Wellbeing Toolkit Pilot

Firstly, all of us involved in the pilot of BASW’s Working Conditions and Wellbeing Toolkit would like to send our sincerest thanks and pay gratitude to staff in Swansea Council for all you have done during this pandemic to provide support, care and love to those most in need. Our collective responsibility is to provide you, the dedicated workforce with the same degree of support, care, and love to help sustain you through these difficult times.

During the last couple of months, the pilot steering group has been working on our project plan and methodology. We are very excited that we now have volunteers from all of the cohorts of staff (huge thanks to the volunteers) we identified to take part in the facilitated sessions (on a remote platform) throughout the life of the project. The cohorts of staff are a mix of managers, social workers, and family support/social care workers.

Phase 1 sessions begin in early October and will run until December 2020 involving individual cohorts of staff. Once the first round of sessions is complete, we will pause, reflect, and analyse the responses. At this stage, we will share these reflections with participants and the senior leadership team at Swansea Council. Phase 2 sessions, where we bring the individual staff cohorts together, to learn from one another and develop shared solutions to supporting emotional wellbeing, will begin in January 2021.

We are very pleased to be partnering with Nick Andrews from Swansea University’s Developing Evidence Enriched Practice (DEEP) Programme in undertaking this pilot project. Some information about the DEEP programme, and how the methodology supports it, is below.

The Welsh Government funded Developing Evidence Enriched Practice (DEEP) programme based in Swansea University is focused on making the world of social work and social care a better place, through using diverse types of 'evidence' (research, lived experience of service users and carers, practitioner and organisational knowledge) in learning and development. Central to this work is assisting local authorities and other organisations to develop an 'enriched environment of care and learning' though supporting the emotional wellbeing of practitioners and the people they work with, and collective approaches to learning 'on the job' using storytelling and dialogue-learning techniques. These techniques nurture relationship-building, learning and development that is led by the people involved, and not imposed on them.

We are also excited to have the involvement of Sian Jones, an early career social work researcher undertaking her PhD on vicarious trauma in social workers. Sian is ‘Very happy to be working alongside BASW Cymru and Swansea City Council as they undertake their wellbeing pilot which provides an exciting case study on the role of the wellbeing toolkit in relation to vicarious trauma.’

Sian Jones is a qualified social worker and PhD Candidate at Swansea University’s College of Human and Health Sciences. She is interested in the wellbeing of social workers and their colleagues and is currently undertaking some research on vicarious trauma. This is a well-researched topic in relation to other caring professionals in many countries, but relatively little is known in relation to social workers in the United Kingdom.

The existing research suggests that when caring professionals are exposed to the trauma of others they may experience symptoms such as difficulty in sleeping or intrusive thoughts, as well as changes in the way that they view others and the world around them. They may, for example, view places as unsafe or people as untrustworthy and this can impact upon their relationships with others in their professional and personal lives.

Whole teams may be affected by the traumatic content of some cases, so whatever your role in a social work team, you can make a really valuable contribution to our understanding of vicarious trauma. If you would like to participate, you may do so by following the link below to a series of questionnaires which take approximately twenty minutes to complete on average. You will also be invited to participate in an interview, but there is no obligation to do so.

If you are a social worker or have any  other role in a social  work team and whether you  feel that  you  are affected by  the traumatic content of social  work  cases or not,  you  can contribute  to  a valuable evidence base from which  to champion the support needs of social  workers and their colleagues.

We will update you on progress once phase 1 of the project is completed.

Stay safe and well

Allison Hulmes, Nick Andrews and Sian Jones