Siobhan Maclean is a social worker, she is also the head of the company which published the book of the project. At the start of the Covid 19 lockdown in the UK, Siobhan reached out on social media to ask if any students could help her set up some webinars to help students to stay connected to their studies during the lockdown. The webinars have been very popular with students and practitioners at every stage of their career. Mark was invited to present the project at one of the weekly webinars in August 2020. In preparation for the session we asked people to nominate an item they thought represented social work to them. The following items were suggested.
Siobhan Maclean has been a social worker for 30 years.
I chose a picnic basket to represent social work for many reasons. I grew up in a very working class background with significant poverty. To me, a picnic basket was very middle class and aspirational. I have always wanted to be a social worker and that has never changed. I still, though, see social work as having problems with class issues. It sometimes seems to me that middle class standards are drawn on in social work and it sometimes feels as though social work is being ‘done to’ working class families.
A picnic is all about diversity of food, and a picnic basket usually contains lots of different bite sized items. I have experienced many different forms of social work but have always found it satisfying. Of course, we are currently seeing huge issues with food insecurity in the UK and this also links to the food in the basket, connecting us back into poverty and class.
The weave of the picnic basket represents the strength that can be achieved when we weave things together. The word together also links to how we eat a picnic – picnics are generally eaten with those we love and care about and I wish that there was more love in social work, caring about people is such an important aspect of what we do.
This particular picnic basket was sent to me by the social work student connect team at a time when I was feeling down. I was isolated during lockdown and this arrived one day by special delivery. It contained a message and a gift (many of them handmade) from each team member. I will treasure what they sent me always and in that moment I experienced the real meaning of professional kindness which is so important in our profession. The team refer to it as the ‘pamper hamper’ and some of the gifts were related to self-care, which is also an important reminder of the need for self-care in our professional lives.
The picnic basket they sent me (the one in the picture) had lots of ribbons attached to it as a sign of celebration. I now keep it in my office and think of it as a celebration of the future of social work. Picnics are always best in the sunshine, and the future of social work, with these students and the many students and newly qualified social workers who have joined us for our weekly webinars looks very bright!
If you would like to watch the YouTube recording of this webinar, please use this link for access: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g5LXcyLlG_k