Grandiose v Insignificant 6

One lady, Mrs W., for example, poured out her troubles to the volunteer on the first visit. She had been referred by a neighbourhood worker who had some fears that she may become suicidal. The volunteer found her distressed, lonely and tearful. It appeared Mrs W had moved recently to Milton Keynes having lived for some time in Lancashire. She spoke to the volunteer about a close friend in Lancashire who had invited her to stay. She did not know what to do. On the second visit, the volunteer found the house empty. She left a note and called again. The welcome she received seemed stiff and Mrs W was more brightly dressed and apparently less depressed. Further visits were offered and whilst Mrs W did not refuse them she again mentioned her friend in Lancashire. When the volunteer called again, she learnt that Mrs W had indeed gone to Lancashire.

This also illustrates the chronic uncertainty about results and effectiveness which volunteers and social workers have to tolerate. This volunteer had to contend with the fear that she had done something wrong during the first visit, and yet Mrs W was apparently functioning more effectively at least, well enough to make the decision to go away. We have to draw conclusions as best we can. When social workers close cases, they are often asked to record some kind of prediction or assessment of the effectiveness of their work. To prophesy that the client will cope successfully is felt to be tempting fate and commonly the worker collapses into some vague disclaimers about his or her usefulness. To claim responsibility for change can seem presumptuous, but the alternative feels to be uselessness and ineffectiveness.


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