The Unsung Heroes in Social Work
Following the recent article on Gabriel Fernandez, we received this article. The writer preferred to stay anonymous.
If you are reading this, the chances are that you are thinking about a career in social work, or you already are a social worker. With all my heart, I applaud you. I owe my life to you, in a very real sense. Because of my experience I, too, trained to be a social worker. And although it hasn’t always been plain sailing (you know what I mean…) the joys have well outweighed the sacrifices.
In the recent election there were passionate calls to save the NHS. Likewise, the police service was centre stage in the election pledges of the main political parties. I wasn’t surprised that, as always, social services hardly received a footnote. Why is this?
Social services are at the heart of a just society. They are there when people have nowhere else to turn. They help children get the best possible start in life and allow the elderly to rest in the knowledge that someone is looking out for them. We help those with suicidal thoughts. We ensure the disabled can lead a dignified life. And we can turn around the lives of those like me, who were on the brink of losing everything.
A few years ago, I was in an abusive relationship. The hardest ones to get out of. My partner was manipulating every aspect of my life. He wanted to know where I was at all times and turned violent when I wanted a little more space. He had my mobile phone hacked and wouldn’t let me see my friends.
Some part of me found this possessiveness endearing. He was kind of making up for the lack of attention my parents had given me as a child. Or maybe he was just completing a cycle: my father had also been abusive. But that’s a different story.
I became pregnant, and that should have been the time when I put my foot down. But the abuse continued and even intensified. When I was 25 weeks pregnant, he went into a drunken rage and fractured my skull. The doctors said I was lucky to be alive. I lied to the hospital and said that I had fallen. But a similar incident a couple of weeks later saw me talking to a social worker. She was obviously concerned about my pregnancy, but I denied everything.
Then, when my child was 4 months old, he too was admitted to hospital due to a ‘fall’. This time my social worker was a little more direct with me. I have to admit that I was defensive. At the back of my mind I thought they wanted to take my little boy away. But they didn’t, and instead arrested my partner. Safeguarding procedures and a restraining order were put in place.
At the time it felt like my life was coming to an end. But my social worker helped to see that it was just beginning. I met other people in similar situations, heard their stories, and saw a therapist who helped me sift through the broken fragments of my life. I slept soundly for the first time in years.
I had never considered a career in social work, let alone children’s social work. For me, as for most people, social workers were somewhat demonised. They tore apart families, sticking their noses into other people’s lives. But my experience showed me it was otherwise. If it weren’t for social services, I may not be alive to write this article today.
My son is now in school, and I have dedicated my life to helping others who need a helping hand. No-one sings my praises on social media. There are no flagship election pledges in my name. But I hold my head up high every day as I work tirelessly for the most disadvantaged and vulnerable members of our society. I know where they come from and I won’t let them down.