A Day in the Life of a Social Worker: Kim Simpson
This week (27 April 2020) I spoke with Kim Simpson, a registered social worker working in the disability space. Kim lives in Waikato with her husband and two daughters. In her free time she enjoys walking, cycling, and going to the gym as well as gardening, spinning, and felting. Kim speaks about her work as a social worker and how the COVID-19 national lockdown has impacted this. Kim is currently working from home and is unable to do any face to face visits. She has found sticking to her usual work routine important in establishing a clear boundary between her work and home life.
Working at Community Living for the last 11 years, Kim has held a variety of roles. Her current position as a Disability Liaison Professional sees her work with whānau that has a child under the age of 18 in the home and an immediate family member that lives with some form of disability or mental health issues. Alongside this full-time work, Kim also holds a postgraduate diploma in supervision and externally provides these services. She is also undertaking her masters in social work and is currently writing her thesis.
Kim’s work sees her working alongside whānau, caregivers, and tamariki to ensure that where possible they have the support and resources that enable them to move forward. Working with and navigating the intricacies of disabilities or mental health is often challenging and complex in ordinary times. Kim highlights that the “additional emerging issues coming to light through this COVID-19 period amplifies ‘ordinary times’ to extraordinary times”. Kim has observed heightened levels of stress, anxiety, relationship and financial difficulties, and feelings of isolation. Compounding this is a lack of available tangible resources such as respite, specialist assessments, school, and childcare services.
As a social worker, challenges faced during this time have included managing family violence and relationship difficulties from afar. Collaboration with other agencies and professionals has in some instances facilitated the sharing of such monitoring and support. Kim is maintaining regular contact with the families she works with either by phone or texting and occasionally Zoom. She notes the importance of phone conversations or texting as forms of communication because unlike Zoom they do not require internet access which often the families she works with do not have. These conversations have been showing parents and caregivers trying to maintain positivity and resilience, spending time being creative at home, baking, taking walks, planting seeds, being flexible, and understanding they are having to do this physically alone and reaching a level of acceptance of this.
Despite the logistical challenges of not having postal or printing resources, Kim has “made up resource packs covering a variety of areas, such well-being, activities at home for children, free contact numbers for mental health and behavioural support, colouring in sheets, scavenger hunts, 30 days of Lego activities, unplugged activities, colouring pencils, and fancy coffee/tea sachets for the parents/caregivers”.
During this time Kim has continued to have external supervision which she has found extremely useful in helping her reflect and comprehend the challenges that her clients are facing. Being the only social worker in her organisation, she has found the online Zoom meetings, facilitated by ANZASW, a particularly valuable resource as a way of connecting with fellow social workers who also are navigating these ever-changing and challenging times. Alongside these meetings, she has regular virtual coffees with colleagues from a wider children’s service that she is part of.
ANZASW would like to acknowledge Kim, along with all fellow social workers, for doing such an incredible job in supporting those most vulnerable in our communities during these unprecedented and uncertain times.
ANZASW will be featuring social workers and their work regularly from now on. If you or someone you know has a story to tell and would be interested in being featured, please contact Rosa Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org