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Social Work Watch – inside an average day in social work: How social work staff support and protect people, against all the odds

The 29th April was an ordinary Tuesday in social work1. Except that at the end of their day, 1140 social work staff from across the UK took part in Social Work Watch, a joint initiative by UNISON and Community Care2. They took the time to complete a survey about their work at the end of a day which for many was exhausting, challenging and stressful.

We can now reveal a comprehensive picture of the diversity of social work: the onerous responsibilities; the challenges and rewards; the dilemmas and pressures; the impact of austerity cuts; the lengths many go to protect and support people; and the diverse ways practitioners touch the lives of children and adults going through difficult times.

Too often this work is hidden from public view, while social work staff grapple with complex problems and look out for people that no-one else wants to know about. The stories respondents provided gave a strong sense of how, for many people, it is only the social work practitioner who stands between them and physical or mental harm, crisis or despair.

This report has been written by UNISON. Working with Community Care we will do our best to bring these findings to a wide audience to increase understanding and support for social work. The recommendations we set out on page 21 are aimed at employers and government. We believe urgent action is needed to help social workers carry on doing a difficult, but absolutely essential, job.