NUMBER 937 • 4 APRIL • the future for social care
What marks social care out from the other ways of professional ‘helping’ or ‘intervening’ (psychiatric nursing and social work as examples) is the use of ‘self as an everyday tool with our service users in their own life space (Garfat & McElwee, 2004). In my residential practicum staff both, male and female, bring to their work unique skills and traits which belong only to themselves. As educators, we can highlight certain areas of study and research and even ‘ways of doing’, but we cannot teach what the individual knows to be true – self is all, self is everything. What we can do is to work on ‘self’ through the lens of theory and practice whilst being imaginative with, and for, our students. Readers need hardly be reminded that students can now stay at home and spend hours usefully surfing sites such as CYC-Net, so educators will, increasingly, need to entice students to come to their classes. Herein, will be a major challenge for the future.
A Challenging Environment
Social care provision is more and more complex and the training and education we provide should be both visionary and practical. It is my belief that social care will soon come to be regarded as a profession (no longer a discipline) that is a genuine and valued part of a larger field, direct care human services across the life span and across Fpractice settings. At the same time, specializations within social care will continue to develop at an unprecedented Late. Perhaps the most important thing for us, as an Association to remember, is that we exist only so long as we have programmes of study and students/practitioners/supervisors willing to embark on these programmes. It is already clear to its that the traditional base of eighteen year olds is dwindling and those in practice without formal qualifications and mature students will increasingly be our students of the next decade as they create and sustain portfolios of learning. We must produce effective practitioners who can work at different levels and in diverse environments – ones who have, at least, some sense of ‘doing’ social care when they graduate. Whilst it remains the primary task of employers to train graduates in specific environments when in a job, a continual theme from the field is that the colleges must work harder at getting a better balance between training and education. I have heard this so many times in the field that we, as educators, need to accept its legitimacy as a comment.
In a very recent column on the CYC-Net, Heather Modlin, noted that over a period of fifteen years in the field she had worked with hundreds of social practitioners and she comments; “I have observed what works, and what doesn’t work. From my experience, I have determined that those youth care workers who are most effective, who promote the most learning, develop the strongest relationships, and facilitate the best outcomes, are those who understand that child and youth care work is about balance. It’s about balancing firmness with flexibility; caring and support with accountability; praise and encouragement with honest, respectful, challenging feedback, and empathy and understanding with realistic, growth-oriented expectations” (Modlin, 2004:1). Therefore, we have it from the floor, so to speak. An experienced manager is telling us what works. These are the areas we must concentrate on as we refine and develop our course content and delivery styles.
NIALL C. McELWEE
McElwee, N. (2004), Keynote address: Some reflections on the Irish Association of Social Care Educators. Irish Journal of Applied Social Studies,5(1&2)pp.52-53