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New drama shows the political and personal in social work

While Channel 4’s Kiri placed a social worker at the heart of a whodunnit, Left My Desk finds drama in the day-to-day of social work itself.

The play follows Becca, a social worker in a children’s services department in the north of England. Billed as a show exploring the crisis in social care, the play’s power comes in making the political personal.

We see Becca fighting for the children and families she works with (many of whom have been written off by plenty of others) to find small wins that she knows could have a big impact on their lives. But she’s doing it all in a system that has been hit hard by austerity and is creaking at the seams. As the play goes on, we start to see the toll this takes on Becca at work and home.

There are a good few social workers in the audience tonight. You can hear whispers of recognition whenever Becca and her colleagues are bemoaning ludicrous bureaucratic demands or struggling to find a desk, a parking space or a meeting room in their cramped open plan local authority office.

Playwright Olivia Hirst has captured this world well and delivered a gripping, entertaining hour that shows the humanity at the heart of social work and the dangers posed by constantly demanding ‘more for less’ from the frontline. This poignant and powerful story shows what’s at stake in social work, without forgetting those moments that make people want to do the job in the first place.

Andy McNicoll

Left My Desk is showing at the HOME Theatre in Manchester on Friday 6th July as part of the Incoming Festival. An interview with the team behind the show will appear in the next issue of PSW magazine.