Social Workers’ Experiences of Working in Children's Services: a Grounded Theory Study
Children’s Services in England are the frontline services supporting the protection of vulnerable children and families. Surprisingly, there is minimal literature attending to the experiences of the social work profession, despite the work environment being characterised by high risk, large caseloads, and inadequate resources (Antonopoulou et al., 2017; Hussein, 2018; Littlechild et al., 2016). The current study aimed to address this, by exploring workers' perspectives on the social policy and agency processes that shape their experiences of working in child protection services. The study employed a qualitative constructivist grounded theory methodology. Seventeen qualified social workers and managers were recruited, each with their own level of experience working in child protection. Findings showed that social workers experienced their work as working within an oppressive system, with this filtering into the work they do with families. When balancing the unrealistic demands placed on them, participants co-constructed struggling to restore balance and hope. There was a craving for relationality from the system, with peer support being a main source of survival at work. Finally, participants envisaged a new system of embedded action, which included increased collaborative working, embedded reflexivity in practice, management being more connected to the groundwork, and targeted work to fight societal stigma of social work. Findings highlighted important implications for the social care profession, local authority organisations and the government, with a promotion of radical relationality at the core of recommendations.
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