A free peer support service has been launched for social workers across Scotland, as practitioners across the country continue to feel the immense strain of working during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Social Work Professional Support Service offers social workers a space to talk and think through any personal or professional issues they may be facing, with a trained volunteer coach who is also a social worker. Social workers who want to support their peers can also volunteer to become coaches themselves, and receive training in coaching and mentoring.
News of the launch comes as stark findings from a health and wellbeing survey by the Social Workers’ Benevolent Trust finds an overwhelming number of social workers are struggling with their mental health. Three quarters of respondents describe themselves as emotionally and mentally exhausted. Of these, 17 per cent say they are struggling to cope and 58.7 per cent ‘just about coping’. 70 per cent say they have worried about their mental health, while one in five had to take time off work with stress.
As a result of the pressure of working during the pandemic nearly a quarter – 24 per cent – have sought professional help for their mental health. Nearly one in ten – 8.5 per cent – have tested positive for Covid-19 themselves and 15.6 per cent have lost a family member or relative due to the virus.
The Social Work Professional Support is being funded by the Scottish Government and delivered by the Scottish Association of Social Work, in partnership with Strengthening Practice, a relational social care training company with a proven history in coaching and support.
On the launch of the service, Alison Bavidge, National Director of the Scottish Association of Social Work, said:
“The Social Work Professional Support Service is designed by and for social workers to support, and be supported by colleagues from the profession. Social workers across the country have worked so hard to support vulnerable families, individuals, and communities throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The impact of this has been deeply felt, and the need for a service like this, that offers a space to think and talk, is reinforced by the findings outlined in the in the Social Workers’ Benevolent Trust survey.”
Iona Colvin, Chief Social Work Adviser to the Scottish Government said:
“The Scottish Government is delighted to fund this vital service to social workers across the country. The service offers an essential space for social workers at any stage of their career to talk and think through issues, with a fellow social worker who understands the challenges faced by the social work community. We hope that this will help to fill a gap for social workers across Scotland, as we continue to navigate our way through and out of the pandemic.”
Social workers can sign up for support online, or to support their colleagues by volunteering to become a coach, by visiting https://www.basw.co.uk/social-work-professional-support-service