A Day in the Life of a Social Worker

Shona is a social worker working in our Aspire service in Doncaster – this is a day in her working life


As a qualified social worker working for a ‘private, voluntary and independent sector’ employer I am one of 4 social workers in our service which is made up of mental health nurses, general nurses and psycho-social practitioners from numerous backgrounds and specialisms; we are arguably as diverse as our client group.

Not only do I draw upon this expertise from our multi-disciplinary team in my work; but substance misuse casework requires all the knowledge and skills that us social workers are bread for – legal frameworks, systemic practice, strengths based assessment and person centred planning to name a few. My job also requires the foundations of any good social work practice; organisation, risk management, effective communication, dynamism and yes, you guessed it; reflection.

So for any of you out there who don’t see social work as having a place in substance misuse services, if you are new to this idea or don’t see the relevance of our specialism in adult social work and social care, I challenge you to read on and find more than a couple of similarities in our working days.

A day in the life of a substance misuse social worker goes like this…

06:30am – wake up from dream about clients and unfinished notes, remind self to buy lottery ticket. Get to the office for 08:00am to finish off a safeguarding children court report I need to submit that day.

09:00am – start a day of appointments and meetings off with a bang! See a service user who is accessing relapse prevention and self-esteem/psychosocial support from me following completion of our Structured Day Program. She is doing really well, a positive discharge and a great start to the day.

Share this positive start with my team who cheer but then remind me cynically that it’ll be sod’s law that the rest of my day isn’t as smooth… I agree with them.

09:30am – next appointment –  service user presents with recent relapse to high risk drug use, ‘snowballing crack and smack’ in femoral vein, recently made homeless, suicidal ideation, physical health concerns, sanctioned benefits. Complete session utilising a range of social work tools and interventions and come away worried about how I can enable this person to build in networks of support and changes in behaviour within allotted timescales of the service and soon enough to reduce the risks of harm.

10:00am – receive call from statutory Childrens Safeguarding Social Worker asking for an update on a mum of 3. I agree to write a chronology to evidence the pattern of disguised compliance we have been sharing concerns about as case is likely to go to PLO. I then call the Offender Manager to share updates on social services involvement as well as the services users compliance with Drug Rehabilitation Requirement (DRR).  Hang up and wonder how I’m going to find time to write this chronology.

11:00 – Run across the road to a three-way meeting with Mental Health services for a service user with severe anxiety whom I have referred for CBT and psychological support. Joint care planning done.

12:00 – attempt to eat lunch………….hear that a notoriously allusive service user is outside having a cigarette so take the chance to run down (the 3 flights of stairs from my office) and try to get them in to see me for a chat and to discuss getting them stable in treatment, secure a food parcel for them, call social worker for the family whilst with client and arrange a joint home visit for the following week.  Miss lunch.

13:00 – Attend Core Group for the family of a dad I am working with.

15:30 – a trusty colleague puts a much needed packet of hulahoops and a cup of tea on my desk. I take 5 minutes with our consultant psychiatrist to discuss a service user whom is currently on an acute mental health ward under the Mental Health Act and we review the changes in their needs and treatment plan.

15:35 – asked by a colleague to look over one of their cases to discuss complexity and how to support with safeguarding concerns. Update risk management plan with them, support a call to the referral and response team and talk through what can be expected from children’s services and what they need from us in a written referral.

Find a banana in handbag and eat it in record time while writing up notes and discuss my clients and day with colleagues, share ideas, despair and plans for our casework and discuss who is going to be sent home on bake off tonight.

16:15 – Corner the other social worker in our team to discuss services users whom are being discussed at this week’s MARAC (which she or I will attend).

16:45 – remember to return call to father in law of client who has called twice in two days. He spends 10 minutes shouting at me down the phone ‘that I don’t care and I should be ashamed of myself and everything I am doing is not good enough’.

17:00 – get the news that my application to residential rehab for a service user has been accepted, cheer, share news with colleagues and service user and feel that today has not been all bad.

If any social workers out there don’t feel they know much or enough about substance misuse, treatment services or the support and services in your locality get in touch! Come and shadow (if you can find the time) and get a flavour of what we do. (Bring a banana)


Author: S Bruno – Substance Misuse Social Worker

Published 22nd March 2017

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