I worked with people who all have different experiences, knowledge and values, and comparing these with my own has been humbling and enriching.
Why did you choose to study Social Work?
To be honest, I took a few online career quizzes during my undergraduate and they all said I should be a social worker. I applied to some social work apprenticeship schemes during my final year in late 2019, but I was put on a waiting list due to the pandemic reducing cohort sizes. After working in specialist education and youth work settings in the interim, I decided to pursue the masters (MA). I wanted to keep my options open rather than limit them to a traditional social work role, and felt that the MA would provide research opportunities in social sciences as well as the practical experience on placement.
What would you say are the biggest challenges on the course?
Like most degrees, I think financial difficulties can be prominent. The MA is 2 years and includes a 5-month placement in each year. This means the majority of students either have to manage with minimal income during placement, or they have to work weekends as well as their weekdays on placement (or both!).
How are you supported in overcoming these challenges?
For home students, the financial difficulties can be mitigated by an NHS bursary which partly covers the course fees and provides a maintenance grant. Course leaders are receptive of students' concerns about the period of unpaid placement, and have pushed all the local authorities that students are placed in to start reimbursing students for travel costs. During the academic period of the course, lectures are condensed into two days of university, which means students are still able to work some weekdays if necessary.
Can you tell us a bit about your placement and your experience of doing it?
My first placement was in an Early Help team. This was a non-statutory service, a service not provided by the Government, so I was given my own caseload of families who were accepting support below the level of statutory social care. Through practice and shadowing other services, I was able to appreciate how many services are available to support adults and children. My second placement is in a long-term children's team, working with families with Child Protection or Child in Need plans. This has challenged me to underpin my practice with statutory frameworks, expanding on my learning from first placement and in Law modules taught in university.
What do you enjoy most about the course?
Easily, the opportunities to learn from the experiences of classmates, lecturers and people that we work with on placement. My coursemates and families I have worked with all have different experiences, knowledge and values, and comparing these with my own has been humbling and enriching.
What advice would you give to someone thinking about studying Social Work?
Introspection will help you throughout the course. Critical reflection is a significant part of placements and university modules; it requires an awareness of how your own values and experiences shape your perception of a given experience. If you can verbalise this you've basically done half the work!
Similarly, let your own interests and identity influence your areas of research. I found writing my Dissertation and Human Growth and Development assignments much more rewarding having established clarity on topics that were important and fascinating to me, rather than just wanting to meet the deadline and get a good grade.
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