Social Work was intellectually and emotionally demanding and I couldn't have survived the course if I hadn't been given the right teaching and support

Social work graduate Rebecca Joy Novell
Rebecca Joy Novell
MA Social Work
Since graduating Rebecca has been a Transitional Housing Service Worker for a homeless charity.
Social work graduate Rebecca Joy Novell

What was the best or most useful thing you learnt from the MA in Social Work at Sheffield?

The best thing about the course was undoubtedly the supervision I received from lecturers, supervisors and practice educators. I was able to ask any question I wanted, as many times as I wanted and felt very supported. Social Work was intellectually and emotionally demanding, and I could not have survived the course if I hadn't been given the right teaching and support to manage the challenges. I still pester lecturers to this day and they are always extremely helpful and patient.

What has your career path been since graduation?

Since Graduating I have been a Transitional Housing Service Worker for a homeless charity. My role was to support young people leaving care and custody going into accommodation. Whilst I was in the voluntary sector and not in a 'traditional' Social Work role, I was lucky enough to be able to undertake the Assessed and Supported Year in Employment. My new role will be with the Integrated Gangs Unit in Westminster, working with 10 to 24-year-olds who are affected by Gangs.

I began blogging during my Masters course as I found there was so much in Social Work I wanted to talk about... and there is only so much your family and friends can listen to without wanting to kill you. So I began blogging about issues that troubled or interested me and it spiraled from there! Someone from the Guardian saw my Blog on Twitter and asked if I wanted to contribute to the Social Care Network. I began writing more and more and eventually plucked up the courage to contact Critical Publishing with my idea, who liked what I had written. And nine months later I have a finished book!

Where do you see yourself in the future?

There is a lot about Social Work that annoys me, particularly in the field of Youth Justice, which is my main passion. I think it is an extremely important profession but there are things I hope to change. I want Youth Justice to become more welfare-based and I want the criminal age of responsibility to be raised from ten-years-old. I know that I will have to go into policy to make those changes but I hope to do so whilst maintaining my identity and skills as a social worker. I like to dream big.

What piece of advice would you offer new MA Social Work students in the Department of Sociological Studies?

Be kind to yourself. Don't think you can cope with everything that is thrown at you. Some of the people you work with will have experienced things so horrific that it will knock you sideways. Allow yourself to be upset by it and ask for help and supervision. Take time to recover. Turn off your mobile after work. And this will sound cheesy but my Mum said it to me recently and I think it's important: try to find the beauty in everyday things. Social Work deals with the extremes of human misery and it is easy to develop a negative view of the world. You need to stay positive for your service users, your family and yourself.

Four students laughing while sat at a bench, outside the Students' Union

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