Casework was the core of my Social Work training. With the impending amalgamation of the pre-Seebohm care agencies into generic Social Services Departments we began as trainee Child Care Officers and emerged as fledgling Social Workers.
Casework was the art of relating in a meaningful way to our clients. we learned to understand what we ourselves brought to the relationship; how our own previous experiences affected our responses to other people; how, when, and why we spoke; the importance of non-verbal communication, including facial expression, body language, and silences. This active listening was balanced against the need for positive intervention into people’s lives.
We learned to assess and understand the significance of families’ socio-economic situations – in other words their position in society, how they obtained their income, their education and their history. Had they experienced previous contact with such an agency, and that what that had been would influence how they responded to us. Earlier I have mentioned a woman I knew in Kingston who I would later meet in another London Borough. She shrank from me yet denied ever having met me before. Clearly she feared that I would take her child.
Visiting lecturers came to teach us human growth and development; human function and disfunction, embracing physical medicine, and mental health and illness. There were sessions on sociology, on social history, and on law. Written examinations in all these subjects were required.
A recommended reading list had been distributed before our course began. required reading was to follow. In those days many colleagues never read another book after gaining their qualification. This, I believe, has now changed, with top-up training required for registration.
Close, regular, supervision was considered far more necessary than seems possible today. This was modelled by the placement and tutor elements of Croydon’s training. We were required to present to our tutor two process recordings a week. In the days before video recording of our client interviews we wrote up these sessions in detail with particular attention to the factors in the second paragraph above. The two fieldwork placements were closely monitored by our placement supervisors who were required to write final reports on our performance. Although my written examination results were a little disappointing to Wolf, I received distinctions in each of my practical placements. I hadn’t wished to do any more than pass the exams.
Although it was abandoned a year or two after my time as a student, we each undertook a one month residential care placement. Mine, in a Dr Barnado’s children’s home, gave me a much deeper insight into the life than had my visiting Jackie at Shirley Oaks.