Inspire Me to be a... Social Worker
In the 'Inspire Me' blog series, we interview people in different careers so you can get an insight into their role, and see if it is something you might like to do too.
This week, we spoke to Alice, a Social Worker:
What is your job title?
What does your job involve?
Helping children and families when there are concerns about children and young people being at risk of harm, helping children and families when separated parents can't agree on the arrangements for their children, and supervising the work of other social workers in my team, offering support, training, oversight and guidance
What made you decide to do this role?
I've always wanted to make a difference in my work. I have been in social work of some form or another with children for 17 years and although it can be very hard, it is very rewarding. I have moved on to supervising other social workers to share my experience and learning, and to ensure we do our best for children at all times.
How did you get into the role? e.g. training, work experience, volunteering…
I fell into social work initially after doing a degree in English then travelling the world, working with charities and non governmental organisations linked to helping children. This set me thinking about my career: all I knew was I wanted to help people. When I returned to the UK I got an agency temp job to pay my rent. This (randomly) was as an administrator for Children's Services in child protection - it opened my eyes to a new world! The passion and commitment of the social workers there was inspirational. i knew then I wanted to do that too.
I managed to get a job as a Social Work Assistant in child protection which is still one of my favorite jobs so far - it was really hands on! From there, I moved to working with asylum-seeking families - helping them settle and access services and make links in their temporary new home. These were often traumatised children and families fleeing war and famine so this was very challenging.
Then I did a masters degree in social work whilst working as a Child Protection Family Support Worker in a family assessment centre, in the community and in a local Sure Start Children's Centre over the 2 years my degree took. When i qualified as a social worker, I then supervised the work of foster carers who looked after children, and then went back to child protection in various areas for a number of years.
My current organisation requires a high level of experience as a social worker, so i joined them after 10 years of work experience. I have been there 7 years, and took on a supervisory role 2 years ago.
What’s the best thing about the role?
So many things, it's hard to chose one! I love making a positive difference to children's lives everyday - whether through my own work, or helping others in my team to do so. There's always something new to learn, and every child, family and situation is different, so every day is different and brings a new challenge.
I love knowing a child is safer or happier because of my work. I also love knowing I've helped a social worker in my team to learn, grow and make good decisions for children.
What’s the worst thing about the role?
It can be very emotionally challenging - in fact is so most days. Sometimes there isn't a right answer and some of the decisions we have to make can be very hard and upsetting for everyone.
There's never a quiet day - which can be both a positive and a negative!
You can never know enough or do enough. It can be hard to accept that and take a step back when you have to.
What advice do you have for someone wanting to do the same role?
The more experience of social care and working with families you can have, the better - especially before you start down the path of training. You need to know if social work is for you before you commit to the degree. Volunteer as much as you can in as many areas you can, and learn about the various options for work in children's social care.
Be prepared for it to be a constant emotional roller-coaster - you never get used to the challenges, the highs and the lows. Make sure you have supportive family, friends and loved ones and a strong self care ethic.
Social work is not a job, it's a life choice!
Are there any Brightsparks courses that you think would be useful to someone wanting to do the role?
All those courses look great for thinking about getting into social work. So I'd recommend all of them!