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Meaningful Relationships in Social Work

Social work is all about relationships. We are always encouraged to look at how we build relationships with people with lived experience in order to support them in the most effective way. 

For me, however, it is just as important to focus on the relationships with have with our colleagues at work. Throughout my career, and especially at the start, I have been lucky enough to work alongside some highly capable and supportive colleagues as well as being supervised by compassionate and insightful managers. 

This has been so important in enabling me to continue in this profession and to work effectively with those seeking my support. There have been those of whom I could bounce ideas when contemplating a knotty problem. These have been critical friends who brought alternative perspectives and knowledge and who have helped me to grow in my decision making. There have been those who had a particular area of expertise which they were always willing to share with their colleagues. There were those who encouraged me to undertake further development, without which I would not be in my current role. There were those who would just listen when I needed to vent about a particularly stressful situation and would notice when I was feeling low. There were also those who would just make me laugh. 

This may seem trivial but, in a profession which can often feel quite bleak, this is a wonderful antidote. All of these people, both past and present, have shaped me as a practitioner and have encouraged me to emulate their positive relationship building skills with the newly qualified social workers and students whom I support now. I would encourage everyone to consider how you build relationships not just with the citizens you serve but also with your colleagues, especially in the agile work environments of the modern social work office.

Margaret Stratton, Specialist Practitioner ASYE, Birmingham City Council Adult Social Care.

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