March is Social Work month! What better way to honour the month than to link it to an initiative that began on March 1st! Marigolds on Social Media and Marigold Ambassadors. Those in the helping professions often create initiatives and campaigns to raise awareness of issues or topics that are often ‘hidden’ out of view. Loss and grief are two of these.
Why do I bring up Social Work month? Because I have a Master of Social Work degree and consider myself to be a social worker. In Quebec, I am not allowed to use this term as I am not part of the Social Work Order. Unfortunately, as an import as I call myself from the states, I do not have the French language skills to take the exam here in Quebec. Upon further research-all Quebec cares about is I have the degree and I can speak and write in French. What about the anglophone (English) community?
Being a part of the order means I can officially call myself a Social Worker, use the t.s. after my name, I can give receipts, and I have to fork over $649 Canadian a year for this privilege. Liability Insurance is an additional $70 a year. I get little in return except a newsletter a few times a year, and an annual magazine… not worth it to me. That $700 plus can be better spent elsewhere.
I am a case manager with older adults and I love what I do. I write on the side and am a twice published author with two more book projects in the works to continue the discussion about loss and grief and begin one on digital world and youth. I started an initiative to focus on loss and grief and raise awareness of topics many do not want to discuss, but that affect us all, Marigolds on Social Media.
Social Workers are part of the ‘tapestry of life’ and often we are the ones called and accessed in many situations. We are in all segments and socioeconomic classes of society and work with youth, adults, older adults, families, schools, youth protection, work environments, hospitals, and more. Our work environments are non-profit and for profit.
We study in university and obtain a bachelor’s degree minimum, although most employers want an individual with a master’s degree now. We do a few internships with various populations and we are often valued for our work, as we should be.
Compared to other helping professions we are often underpaid though; psychologists, marriage and family therapists, counselors, etc. all earn more than us. We choose social work for its versatility, because we believe in our profession, we want to make a difference and for the most part it is not about the money for us. We need enough to live on, to pay the basics plus, but we should be paid in accordance to our degrees and our years of work experience no matter what.
I have been out of university since 1997 and I am still paying back my university loans. That says a lot. I went to school at the University at Albany and just tuition was ten thousand a year. My MSW degree was a two-year program so just tuition was twenty thousand U.S. not including books or anything else. I had to rent an apartment, buy food, have a car, etc. The loans added up. As a mom with kids-the money only goes so far now-a-days and expenses rise each year in Montreal as I am sure they do everywhere. Food gets more expensive, transportation gets more expensive, housing gets more expensive-you get the idea. Even public high schools here in Montreal have a tuition fee, additional costs related to activities, and require uniforms which are expensive.
If I was at the University at Albany currently, one year of tuition is over fifteen thousand dollars so a two-year degree is over thirty thousand USD.
But as a ‘social worker’ (again, I cannot officially call myself this), so I use the term helping professional or case manager; I get what my clients are talking about when it comes to living on old age pension that does not rise with the cost of inflation.It is not easy. It requires creative ways to reduce spending and save money on needed and necessary items. Coupons, sales, store brand vs. name brand, shop online vs. in store and more. Not much can be done about the cost of housing. Apartments are what they are and the average rent in any area is what it is. Medications can be expensive and depend on where you live. So, generic brand vs. name brand, check with your pharmacy and compare prices, order online vs. at the pharmacy, see if your doctor has any samples and the most important questions to ask are, “Do I need to take this medication?” “What am I taking it for?” ” What are the side effects?” And, “Is there another way to reduce cholesterol, sugar levels, pain?”
If I can make changes in my diet, take daily walks instead of a medication, get monthly massages to reduce stress, count me in! I always ask, “Is this medication necessary that you are prescribing” and “Will I die if I do not take it?” I question my doctors, but I still respect them and their recommendations.
Happy Social Work month!