The Welfare State in the UK is made up of lots of different interlocking systems, aiming to ensure everyone has what they need to make it from cradle to grave with the minimum of suffering at least, and happy, healthy and hearty at best. The NHS exists to take care of the nation’s health, both reactively as people are arrive at A&E units and doctor’s surgeries with illnesses and injuries, and actively with immunisations and public health campaigns.
The social services help to intervene with people who have trouble engaging with society (as you might guess from the name) due to, for example, drug addiction, criminal convictions or difficult childhoods. Again, interventions here can be reactive, with people referred to social services, or proactive with social workers seeking out ‘at risk’ children and engaging with them to help prevent issues in the future. As in so many walks of life, prevention is better than cure.
There are many more cogs to the system (like the welfare and benefits available for those unable to find work or too ill to work) but today we’re focusing on those two big entities and asking how health and social care jobs can interact.
The major point of interaction, and the one people are most aware of, is people working for the NHS referring (or indeed reporting) people coming in with injuries to social services. The dramatic example that comes up in pop culture is of the child with suspicious injuries identified by an A&E doctor reported to social services so they can be helped. That doesn’t mean it’s always so dramatic, nor so confrontational. An older person coming to their GP with what feels to them like a routine complaint may reveal that they’ve been struggling in ways they didn’t even recognise and allow the GP to connect them with services that could help.
On the other side of the equation, one of the biggest responsibilities of social workers, especially those working with adults, is creating a stable and secure framework and routine for living, ensuring they avoid triggers for difficult behaviour that may have derailed their progress in the past – helping them look for work rather than resort to petty crime to break a cycle of incarceration is a big part of that.
Another important part of the system is making sure they are attending appointments with doctors if they have any kind of underlying condition, and making sure they understand and stick to medication regimes. A steady hand helping them to work with the NHS can be a small thing that makes a huge difference, so the cooperation between the two services is of huge importance.