This is a guest post
We are three senior social workers who work for Kent County Council. We have in excess of fifty years experience within our profession. We have come to the Shepway Vox Team as our words and evidence presented to Kent County Council has fallen on deaf ears. Given what has very recently happened to little Arthur Labinjo-Hughes [6, RIP], we think the timing is apt and right to make, known our concerns we have raised.
We accept this may be hard for many of our colleagues to hear, but as Shakespeare says: “truth will out.”
In the last five years alone, all three of us have seen a marked increase of fellow social worker colleagues at Kent County Council [KCC] coming to depend on; and use, alcohol to function between 9am & 5pm to do their day job. This evidence was collected from a variety of open sources.
Since working from home has become the norm, the number of our KCC social worker colleagues now reliant daily on alcohol, significantly above the safe recommended NHS levels, is currently running at up to 25%, of all KCC social workers.
We’ve arrived at this figure from public and private sources, as mentioned above. These social workers so heavily reliant on a significant daily consumption of alcohol, jeopardize the hard work of decent social workers who have no love for the bottle, but do have a love for their job; and respect for the best interests of the children and adults they care for.
They escape any form of drug or alcohol testing, and jeopardize the work that we all do. We personally would welcome random drug and alcohol testing to be introduced across KCC and local government.
It’s an unequivocal fact, there is a growing number of KCC Social Workers addicted to; and reliant on, alcohol on a daily basis; which has had to at least one known negative professional consequence, and more of our colleagues are working when too distressed to be effective, or make good choices for their clients, more often than not children.
KCC social worker‘s who are reliant on a significant daily consumption of alcohol well above the safe recommended NHS levels, has resulted in diminished work performance for many [but not all], which has negative implications and impacts for both the social workers and their clients.
Of course, the social workers at KCC who are in love with the bottle more than their work, allow all their decisions to be called into dispute. This does not just jeopardize the hard work of honest and non-alcoholic social workers, it jeopardizes the whole KCC Social Work department reputation, both adult and child.
If we were being cared for by a KCC social worker right now, we’d call into dispute the decisions made by the social worker as there is approximately a one in four chance that the social worker in charge of a case is drinking well beyond the safe recommended NHS limits on a daily basis. Any decisions they made were, more likely than not made while under the influence of alcohol.
Also let’s not forget a Survey of the Alcoholic Social Worker states:
This paper presents data on 50 alcoholic social workers who had successfully stopped drinking for one year or more. In spite of the fact that these social workers were in many cases visibly in trouble with 63 arrests, 120 inpatient admissions, 13 suicide attempts, and a high reported incidence of addictions to other drugs, they found that colleagues and superiors as well as professionals from whom they sought individual treatment were extremely reluctant to confront the alcoholism problem directly.
One also has to ask, how are KCC safeguarding the children in their care, when up to one in four of their social workers drinks alcohol excessively?
How are they allowed to continue making decisions, write reports, give presentations and be charged with the looking after “the best interests of the child, or adult? “
Many might see us as singling out our colleagues, but ever since Covid began alcohol use by those working from home; which a vast majority of social workers are, have turned to drink.
In May 2020, Personnel Today led with a story “One in four turns to alcohol to cope with work pressure, especially when working from home.”
In Oct 2020, the BBC ran the story – “Alcoholism in the time of coronavirus.”
In July 2021, Public Health England ran the headline – “Alcoholic liver deaths increased by 21% during year of the pandemic”
With Christmas just around the corner, what more carnage will continued to be done in the name of “the best interests of the children ;and adults“, cared for by KCC social workers, who need a significant daily consumption of alcohol, well above the NHS safe recommended levels, to function.
There are many definitions of “alcoholism” and “alcoholic,” most of which have these four characteristics in common:
Physical compulsion or need: Without a drink, withdrawal symptoms appear; you have an inability to stop or cut down on drinking.
Mental obsession: You lack control and have abnormal cravings or feeling of irritability in the absence of alcohol.
Negative impact: Drinking causes or contributes to problems with relationships, jobs, and finances.
Lying, hiding or downplaying: You’re dishonest with yourself and others about how much and how often you drink.
Recently a colleague’s partner phoned one of us. They were distraught. They’d decided to challenge their partner’s drinking. They’d found bottles hidden around the kitchen and elsewhere. They were in tears. Four years they hadn’t noticed. That is how well it was hidden. The partner felt guilt, lots of guilt.
What can they do they asked?
They were informed of the various Alcoholics Anonymous meetings which take place around Kent. Contact KCC Personnel and ask for all the help there is available for their partner who is a KCC social worker. Or one can Report a concern to Social Work England, who as of Nov 2021 had in excess of 2,000 open cases against Social Workers for reasons such as alcoholism, bullying, altering documentation etc. This equates to one in eight local authority social workers being investigated by Social Work England for fitness to practice reasons.
They contacted KCC Personnel, alas, their partner is still a practicing KCC social worker and KCC have done nothing to prevent this individual making decisions about clients in their care.
We’ve received a good number of these phone calls in the last five years from colleagues admitting their alcoholic issues, privately. We’ve also fielded calls from partners, spouses, many of who are professional people and listening to tears and rage, then gently, ever so gently signpost them to more appropriate channels of help.
KCC Personnel Department, headed up by Amanda Beer (pictured), does not, we suspect, want to hear about the issues and concerns we’ve raised. No doubt they’ll be denials all round.
There are no KCC specific policy documents for forced referrals to counselling services for those suspected of using excessive alcohol. Nor is there any necessity for random drug testing or alcohol testing for social workers [yes we’ve read our contracts] even though we work with the most vulnerable adults and children inside and outside of Kent. All three of us would personally welcome random drug and alcohol testing within the Adult & Child Social Work teams. We suspect many across the whole of KCC would no doubt welcome it as well.
Alas KCC Personnel will no doubt kick our justified concerns into the long grass. This will enable them and the alcoholic social workers having to deal with this growing issue. All the while the issue grows and clients (more often than not children) end up having decisions made about them by those under the influence of alcohol between 9am & 5pm, Monday to Friday. That is not the behaviour of a responsible corporate parent any of us should accept. Nor is the corporate parent safeguarding the children from their own employees.
Alcoholics, like all addicts fabricate. Self-delusion around a habit is a symptom of their condition. However, the aspect of dishonesty that is more subtle, and in some ways the most insidious, is the pervasive culture of delusion around the alcoholic they’re not that bad; they’ve cut down; it’ll get better. But it doesn’t get better, they don’t cut down and unfortunately they are bad.
Any addiction has as its main goal that of keeping people out of touch with their feelings and thoughts. When people do not know what they feel and think, they find it impossible to be honest with themselves and others. Addictions are defences. Addictions protect us from uncomfortable feelings.
Alcoholics follow their self-delusion by lying to those around them. When the alcoholic is allowed to do this when those around him/her fear confrontation it results in dishonest relationships and a dishonest family system. We’ve heard this so often from those who’ve contacted us.
Alcoholism is not a spectacular disease – it is stealthy and mundane. Alcoholism feeds on secrecy.
The KCC Social Worker department, adult or child is already in a precarious position. KCC must become more proactive in discovering our colleagues who are alcoholics. The must offer them help and if rejected, sack them.
KCC cannot do this alone. It means families who have social workers within them need to inform KCC personnel that they suspect their partner, their mum, or dad is alcoholic. Or by raising a concern with Social Work England.
Neslon Mandela said “The true character of a society is revealed in how it treats its children“. But when looked after KCC children lives are being significantly impacted by alcoholics, who are social workers, this cannot be good for the child or society.
It is in our opinion time for KCC to act and weed out these individuals who put childrens lives at risk, and harm the reputation of good social workers.
If you know or suspect a KCC Social Worker is or might be an alcoholic contact
Raise a Concern About a Social Worker – Social Work England
firstname.lastname@example.org – Corporate Director People & Communications
email@example.com – Corporate Director Children, Young People and Education
firstname.lastname@example.org – Corporate Director Adult Social Care & Health
The Shepway Vox Team
Dissent is NOT Crime
This post has been updated on 03/12/21, 07/12/21 and 13/12/21 to reflect additional information presented by the guest writers.