DVD launch puts service users centre stage

Service users across Europe want their social workers to be good listeners, empathetic and politically motivated, a DVD launched to mark World Social Work Day in Northern Ireland has suggested.

The film, International Messages on Service User and Carer Involvement, featured comments from service users in Spain, Slovenia and Northern Ireland, revealing similar demands in each country.

Launched at the Northern Ireland Association of Social Workers’ World Social Work Day event on 19 March, the film showed student practitioners in each country asking the same six questions of service users. Responding to a question about the most important qualities a social worker needs to have, a Spanish service user told the student: “Not to feel judged, not being judged. I would also need to be spoken to with words I can understand.”

A second Spanish woman service user said: Being polite – taking you into the office and not seeing you in the hallway or just on the phone.”

Introduced by Joe Duffy, Lecturer in Social Work at Queen’s University, Belfast, the film featured a range of service users, including a young disabled man in Slovenia who described what he wanted from social workers: “That they accept us like we are, that they trust us and we trust them.”

An older man in Northern Ireland with mental health issues said: “If they’re there for half an hour with me, spend it with me – don’t have mobile phones going off or have to rush off to another job.”

The film will be published on BASW’s/NIASW’s website on 14 April after receiving initial launches in each of the three countries involved in the DVD’s production.

Puppets and lullabies

The NIASW World Social Work Day event also featured a demonstration of the therapeutic effects of puppets and lullabies. The presentation by Norwegian social workers from Oslo Akershus, University College of Applied Sciences, proved a notable hit.

The team, Jan Storo, Svein Fuglestad and Elisabeth Gronning, demonstrated how common life issues, such as establishing a bedtime routine, settling in to a new school or, less commonly, dealing with reception into foster care or bereavement can be aided by the use of puppets and lullabies. Using the puppet performances and lullaby songs the group explored how the two approaches can help in managing children’s perceptions and experiences of small and large transitions.

The event also featured a presentation by staff and students from Queen’s University Belfast, following their exchange visit to Pune in India, where they gained insight into markedly different social and professional issues than they are used to in Northern Ireland.