Describing a typical day is pretty much impossible. It sounds like a cliché but really, no two days are the same in social work.
I normally like to get in early, to catch up on any reports or emails. We get regular emails from our Practice Tutor, so it’s impossible not to feel supported. Generally, in the morning, I’ll have a visit to a family at their home. Then I’ll come back and write the visit up. Later there could be a meeting at a school, or at the local authority offices.
Day-to-day we’re managed by a Consultant Social Worker, who not only teaches us how to do things, but is the first person to spot if something has upset us. Social work can put you in some quite vulnerable situations, and as a professional you can’t show how something has touched you at the time. It’s important to have someone to talk to about it afterwards. On some days I’ll have three visits, and I never really know what I’m going to find.
Sometimes you’ll think it’s going to be a routine visit, and then suddenly a child may open up to you and you need to take more time. Then you re-plan the rest of your day. You have to maintain a degree of flexibility. It’s really important to take time to find the best way to build a relationship with a child, to help them feel they can trust and open up to you.
So as part of that, I’ve spent time with children building dens, playing dragons and colouring in. Then later I’ll be in a meeting with other professionals, talking about some very serious concerns, and have felt tip pen on my fingers! The challenges you face daily as a trainee social worker can be quite different to any other role.
Even early on in your training you have a lot of responsibility. You have high level conversations with people in a variety of settings on a daily basis, and there’s a huge range of people you interact with as a social worker. I’ve worked with single parents and families of 11, parents that are vulnerable asylum seekers with no access to public funds, and wealthy international business owners. I’ve also worked with children and parents with learning disabilities, mental health conditions, drug and alcohol addictions, young people undergoing gender reassignment, as well as children who want to be doctors, police, teachers, builders, or to own hotels. Child protection has no boundaries like class, age or race.
Social work involves a lot of multi-agency working, so as part of my role I’ve worked with other agencies like Women’s Aid, as well as police gang units and drug abuse charities. Our case work has included child protection, children in need, and children looked after by the local authority, while our unit has cases in proceedings, is working with parents in residential assessment units and at the beginning of the adoption process. We work with so many different organisations, I don’t think you realise how many people there are working to safeguard children until you go into the profession.
In social work, you don’t have a second to be bored, because it is just so interesting. I’ve always felt absolutely privileged by the insight I’m given into the most personal and intimate worlds of the families I’ve worked with. As time goes on, and I see all the families who’ve moved on and all the children that we think are safer now, I can go home and think, ‘I did a good day at work today’.
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