• by Siobhan Maclean
  • 15th Apr 2020

Social Work Connect: connecting more than I anticipated

Watching what is unfolding around us in this pandemic, I felt frustrated at not being able to ‘do’ anything. Since I had a stroke 7 years ago, I have some underlying health issues which mean that I need to isolate at home. My usual work as an independent is focused on providing training and speaking at conferences and generally supporting students, newly qualified workers and practice educators. I often say to people that as social workers working in a relationship-based way we don’t always need to ‘do’ something, sometimes just being with someone is doing the most important thing at that time. The irony that I went into self-isolation on World Social Work Day, the theme of which is promoting the importance of human relationships was not lost on me, but how could I be ‘with’ those students, newly qualified workers and others that I ordinarily work with during this pandemic? How could I continue to promote the importance of human relationships?

I developed socialworkconnect.com just over a year ago. A number of local authorities wanted to provide all their staff with access to the social work theory app but this was a technically logistical problem, so I developed the secure website as an alternative. Incorporating the app, but with some additional material, it was designed to support social workers to keep their practice connected with theory and reflection. So, I reflected that offering this to students until September to help them keep connected with their learning during the pandemic might be useful. What I had not anticipated was the sheer number of students who would contact me! Students from all over the world have been contacting me telling me about lockdown and its impact on their learning in their country. Although, because of the sheer volume I haven’t been able to send many personal responses I have enjoyed the feeling of connection that reading the emails has brought.

Reading these emails, I have learnt a few things, that students (and all of us) may want to reflect on:

· A please or thankyou goes a long way. I have been amazed by the number of people who have not used those simple but vital words!

· I have noticed how quickly I have developed an impression of someone from reading their email. Skilled communication is an important aspect of social work and that should extend into every area of communication.

· Don’t just think about how you compose emails, think about your email address too. Some people have simply asked for a licence to the website without clarifying that they are a student or where they study. Of course if the email comes from a gov.uk or ac.uk email things are fairly clear, but if you are sending an email from dippydora@hotmail which says “can I have the free stuff now?” then you might want to reflect on your learning around professionalism.

Creating the licences for social work connect does take a short while and with the volume of requests that have been coming in, I needed some help. Fortunately, my daughter is home from University and preparing for her online exams at the moment. She has been such a help and has, in fact, enjoyed reading some of the emails from students in a similar position to her (although she is studying engineering) so the connections are extending further than I anticipated there too. The two of us are enjoying seeing tweets from people using it too.

We have created twice the number of licence invitations than have been used, so if you are not going to activate the licence please don’t request it. It’s a waste of all of our time. We do know that some people haven’t been receiving the email to activate the licence, this may be due to the amount of traffic through the system, but if you have checked your spam box and you still haven’t received your licence activation email then let us know.

October this year marks 25 years since I became independent. I was planning a celebration event in October providing a day of training and learning for students and social workers. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to do that now, for one thing after several months of no income I won’t have the funds! So maybe offering socialworkconnect.com has given me the opportunity to give back something to the profession which I love.