This week sees the 2016 Cohort start their local authority placements. We caught up with Anna, a 2016 participant, to find out about how she’s found the programme so far, ahead of the start of her placement in the North West.
What were you doing before starting the Frontline programme?
I studied Psychology at Leeds University and graduated last year. After graduating, I worked in an orphanage in China, working with children with severe medical needs and physical disabilities. When I came back to the UK I also did a lot of mentoring work with young people, many of whom I still mentor now.
Had you considered a career in social work before?
I hadn’t really considered a career in social work before Frontline. Having studied psychology, I’ve always been interested in human behaviour. Growing up, my mum had also always been really passionate about working with vulnerable people and those on the fringes of society, and in in my year before entering university I worked with the Prince’s Trust teen programme. It was the marrying of these two passions that made me interested in Frontline.
What drew you to social work?
Social work appealed to me because of that idea of walking with people through all aspects of their lives. I could say I was introduced to social work through Frontline, and through their explaining to me what social workers actually do. When I went to the Assessment Centre, I saw how passionate they were about social work. I left that day thinking, ‘even if I don’t get onto Frontline, I want to be a social worker, this is what I want to do’.
How did you find shadowing social workers?
Having secured a place on the 2016 Cohort I spent time shadowing social workers earlier this year. It was interesting and exciting to see that people’s days are so different every day, because you really have to be responsive to what’s going on with the families that you’re working with.
What has the Summer Institute been like?
I’ve been really moved and impressed by the teaching staff at the Summer Institute. It’s nice to see people who are just so passionate about their work, and about helping us to become good social workers. The content and the teaching has been amazing.
There have been emotionally difficult times in terms of meeting people who have lived experience of the care system. I think it’s incredible that they bring them in to teach us. That’s actually one of the reasons I really wanted to join Frontline. The Assessment Centre involves an interview with a care leaver, and that really showed me that this is a programme that really cares about the people they’re serving, and that they’re working with. That was a huge thing for me.
What have you most enjoyed about the experience?
I really enjoyed the systemic teaching and techniques. It’s made me think a lot about how I communicate. There’s so much art involved, in terms of the language you use and how you use it to be reflective in your practice. That was really eye opening, to see how we can get other people to see the different perspectives of different people within a family.
Systemic thinking is something which I think I’ll take forward, that understanding that people are a part of the system, and their behaviour is part of the relationships that they’re part of. If you want to see change in an individual’s life we need to bring change to the system, so it can support that individual to make change that will be lasting.
However, the thing I’ve enjoyed most is learning from people who are genuinely passionate and who have experience in practice. Many of our Academic Tutors have worked in social work for a long time, and they believe so much in the impact of social work that they have left practice to teach, I find that really inspiring.
How are you feeling about starting your placement?
I’m feeling excited about putting the things that we’ve been taught at the Summer Institute into practice, as well as learning from the people that are in our local authority.
I was brought up in central Manchester and I’m really looking forward to being in Rochdale. We met one of the Heads of Service and I was excited to hear how much they value training people, how they have a really good mentoring system, and a Principal social worker focussed specifically on providing mentoring. That makes me feel really confident, knowing that the local authority is invested in training us.
What advice do you have for someone thinking about applying to Frontline?
Just go for it. If you’re passionate about people, and you want to see positive change in this world, I think it’s a great way to do that.
Applications are now open to join our 2017 Cohort. Click here to apply.
Interview by Aurora Horwood.