Lowenna : Social Worker, Hospital Discharge Team based at Kings College Hospital
I have been employed by Southwark directly in my current role since April 2018. Before that I worked in the hospital discharge team in both St Thomas’ Hospital and Kings as a locum social worker on my return to London after several years working in a variety of specialist social work and management roles in a different local authority.
I wanted to return to front line social work for work/life balance reasons and because I enjoy the direct contact with service users, their families and front-line multidisciplinary team working. I have been provided with ways to develop my career despite not wishing to progress into management roles by being given more complex cases to work with and I have been supported to gain qualifications as a practice educator, which is a role I really enjoy.
I qualified as a social worker in 1984 and have worked for other local authorities, in different settings and in front line, senior practitioner and management roles since then but I have been very happy in my current hospital discharge team role. We have a great team at the hospital. We are supportive of each other and we have a supportive management team as well. The work is fast paced and at times pressured but varied and interesting with real opportunities to make a positive contribution to the lives of the people we work for. It always feels good to know that someone has managed to get home from hospital safely and with the support they need in place. We work well as a team and with the hospital multidisciplinary teams to make that happen..
I first arrived in Southwark in the 1980s, as a bit of a wild child, rock’ n’ roller and lived on the Pullens Estate with my musician friends. My son was born in Southwark, at Guys Hospital, and I lived with him, not far from the Pullen Estate where I lived when first arriving in Southwark until he turned 8. After returning to my home of Cornwall and raising my son and daughter whilst working in a variety of social care jobs, spending my time writing and renovating an old derelict tumble down house, I returned to Southwark; having missed London and with my daughter having been accepted to attend a prestigious stage school here.
My first job on returning was at The Southwark Resource Centre. I started as a locum Senior Practitioner there, working with a small team that was focused on reviewing all the people who used the service. This was my first experience of Strengths Based Working albeit by another name as the aim was to support people who had formerly been accustomed to attending a local Day Centre type service to expand their horizons beyond the centre towards engaging more with universal services in the local community. It was challenging and involved supporting people to adjust to change and look beyond what could be more cynically viewed as attempts to cut services towards raising aspirations, confronting discriminatory attitudes and barriers and enabling people to maximise what they could achieve in their lives.
For the first time in years I felt energised and enthusiastic about work and life and I felt as if I had returned home from a long exile. South London had changed while I had been away but familiar reference points remained. The redevelopment of the Elephant and Castle was just beginning. The sky line was altered but The Pullens Estate was still there. Familiar shops and restaurants were still to be found on the Walworth Road. East Street market was still bustling and Arments Pie and Mash shop was still trading. My former neighbours were still there and welcomed me back as if I had never left.
The team at the SRC was warm and welcoming. They were supportive and patient with my attempts to get to grips with the Assessment and Care Management system in operation at the time and I suspect quietly amused by my obvious pain at times. They taught me a lot without my realising it because I was so busy learning. Every day produced a new drama but through it all my small team and I managed to review everyone who attended the centre and through this I was able to learn a lot about working in Adult Social Care in the area.
The project ended after 6 months and such is the life of a locum, it was time for me to move on to pastures new. I was offered a job with the hospital discharge team at Kings College Hospital but it would be a front line social work role without supervisory or management responsibility.
I didn’t realise when I started that I was about to begin the best job of my life. It was tough. On my first day I battled wind and rain to get up to the wards repeatedly to be confronted with a very problematic hospital discharge and finished the day cold, wet, bedraggled and frustrated but with a strange compulsion to head right back up there the following day. And so it continued, day after day with the best team of people I have ever worked with. No case was ever the same. No day was predictable and every day was busy. And I learned fast because I had to. People came and went, as they do in a busy hospital and I was so busy that I didn’t realise that more people were coming and settling into the team and locum posts were running out. It was time for me to leave.
I was offered a role in one of the community teams but by that time I was a confirmed front line hospital discharge team worker and I could not imagine working in any other setting. I continued as a locum practitioner working in hospital based roles in Lambeth and Hackney but never felt as comfortable and at home with working in those roles as I did when working in Southwark.
When a locum post became available at St Thomas’ Hospital working for the Southwark Hospital Discharge Social Work Team based there I immediately accepted it. I continued to work as a locum for a couple more years, reluctant to make the full commitment to permanent working but when an opportunity arose to apply for a permanent role at Kings I took it. It felt like going home.
I was working at St Thomas’ when the 2017 terrorist attack took place on Westminster Bridge and had arrived home from a day out with my daughter just before the London Bridge attack in 2019. I remember the appalling sense of loss when the Grenfell fire happened in 2017 and being at what felt like ground zero when the Pandemic happened and I saw the initial expressions on the faces of some of the consultants as the news began to filter through to them first and then to the rest of us. These years have been difficult and challenging for so many people and so many people have come together to help each other. Looking back, I could not have been in a better place to both give and receive support through it all.
There have been defining moments as well, the news of Brexit after the first vote results came through, the appalling murder of George Floyd in America and the refocus on Blacks lives Matter bringing my own white privilege into sharp and painful focus. Closer to home was the murder of Rhyhiem Aisnworth Barton who was shot near to where I live in 2018. It felt like such a tragic waste of a young life at the time and still does. Living where I live at the moment, it feels as if a lot of good things have been done but there is a lot of unfinished work to do.
I’ve been working at Kings in my permanent social worker role since 2018 and feel fully at home here now. I’m at an age and stage in my life where that transition between working and retirement is coming closer into view. My children have now grown and returned to Cornwall and I am proud to say I became a grandmother this year. Each birthday feels a bit more special now because I have a sense that there will be fewer of them to celebrate in the future than I have celebrated in the past.
This does not stop me from feeling like a full and valued member of the team I work with. I have been encouraged to continue to develop my career as much as I would have done had I been at the start of it. In the past couple of years I have completed PEPS, Practice Educator Professional Standards, 1 and 2, training at Goldsmiths University. At the time I recall enjoying the challenge of writing essays at the age of 60 and re-engaging in formal academic study, whilst supporting the next generation of social workers to start their careers.
I have had the privilege of working with three students now and two of them are working for Southwark, which speaks for the quality of the placements we are able to provide for them here. Working with students re-opens my social work eyes and I have learned so much from them and working as a Practice Educator. I’m looking forward to seeing who Goldsmith’s will send me this year!
So the best things about work in the hospital discharge team are my social work colleagues and the multidisciplinary teams in an Internationally renowned teaching, learning and research hub; the variety of work and sense of achievement every time I manage to support someone to get home from hospital safely; the challenge of working with people at points of crisis in their lives and supporting them to identify and achieve the outcomes that work best for them; The supportive managers from front line managers to the senior management team. In Southwark the people at the top of the organisation feel more approachable and “human” than anywhere else I have worked in the past; being part of London life again and so much of that is right here in Southwark. Life here is too good to tire of it.
MSc in Health and Social Care (1982) , BA in Sociology, CQSW/diploma in Applied social Studies
Best Interest Assessor Teeside University 2016
Practice Educator Professional Standards (Level 2) Goldsmith’s University 2021
Social Work England registered Social Worker and Practice Educator and BIA (Best Interest Assessor)
Lowenna is an experienced adult social care worker who chose a career at Southwark from which the Hospital Discharge Team has reaped many benefits.
Quality social care is underpinned by positive communication and relationships. Experienced social workers are the bedrock of delivery and their passion for independence and enabling quality of life is self-evident.
In Southwark our Hospital Discharge social care teams are committed to support each other, and bring resources together to help residents return home, and recover effectively.
Working in Hospital Discharge teams during covid has brought extraordinary pressure and challenges. The circumstances have also created opportunities to test new ways of working, some of which will become practice as we move into this next phase.
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