Pros: Brilliant and politically sensitive script, fantastic cast and great direction
Cons: Nothing to report
A joint research report from Community Care and UNISON from 2016 found that social workers are suffering increasing emotional distress and verbal abuse in their routine work as a consequence of staff shortages and budget cuts. According to the paper the vast majority (80%) reported that during a typical working day they suffered emotional distress, while 40% also described being verbally abused. These numbers represented an increase on responses to the same ‘Social Work Watch’ survey done in 2014.
In Left My Desk Becca (Rianna Dearden) is a committed 27-year-old social worker who despite her work overload and the difficult demands of the job keeps a positive attitude and earnestly does everything that’s required to help her clients. The cases she is working on include domestic violence, a young boy who starts hanging out with the ‘cooler’ guys who deal drugs, and a woman addicted to sniffing glue. Despite working in a supportive and close-knit team, the rottenness of the system and increased pressure affect her life much more than might be considered acceptable or healthy, overwhelming her to the point of breakdown.
Olivia Hirst’s play is a scathing critique of the situation in which social services and social workers find themselves today as a result of government cuts, continuous staff shortages and increased service demand. It has intelligent, moving and comical dialogue which is excellently delivered by a highly talented and agile cast. Although there’s no lack of food for thought, there’s one comment in the play that particularly stuck with me. Becca tells her husband that when she was little she would leave food that she didn’t like untouched until a fly would sit on it, so she could tell her mother that it wasn’t good anymore – the perfect excuse to get rid of something she didn’t like. Using that memory Becca explains that this is exactly what the government is doing with social services: leaving it on the table, untouched and neglected so it will reach the point when it is acceptable to say that they can be got rid of.
Left My Desk is an accurate and important picture of the crisis affecting social services across England. It shows us on stage what reports like the one above tell through figures and percentages. It defies the bad publicity which the gutter press poisons us with. Before Left My Desk was written, UNISON head of local government Heather Wakefield had said on social work that “this is a profession on the brink of burnout. Staff are working long hours without breaks and having to cope with unprecedented caseloads. Those in need are suffering because social workers have less time to go out and help them.” Left My Desk shows us exactly that.
Author: Olivia Hirst
Director: Lucy Wray
Producer: Lost Watch
Box Office: 020 7383 9034
Booking Link: http://www.newdiorama.com/whats-on/left-my-desk
Booking Until: This show has now completed its current run