In my final year at university, I looked at quite a range of different career options and graduate schemes, and social work wasn’t even something I’d considered.
After graduating I taught English and Social Sciences in Soweto, South Africa, and when I returned to the UK I thought I wanted to be a teacher. But when I saw Frontline, it sounded like no other graduate scheme. I soon realised that what I loved about teaching in South Africa was not the teaching but talking to students about their lives and their families. Acknowledging and understanding their lived experiences was profound and it was something that has stayed with me.
I wanted a job where I would wake up and want to go to work. Having done more research into social work and Frontline, it seemed that this could be a better fit for me. I wanted to be a part of Frontline because it sounded innovative and inspiring. The opportunity to gain a postgraduate diploma and a Masters while working full time in a local authority was also something that really interested me.
Now I’m on the programme and doing social work, it’s really opened doors to me. The work of a social worker is wide-ranging and involves working not only within the community but also liaising with other boroughs and international agencies. The programme has involved many different aspects so far, dealing with varying issues and levels of complexity.
When I go into work I don’t know what my day will involve, and that’s exciting as well as challenging. I enjoy the unpredictability and variety of the job and work across a lot of different settings, such as schools, community centres, families’ and foster carers’ homes and children’s centres. I also work with a range of agencies, from schools, health professionals, advocacy agencies and tribunals.
I don’t know any other career where you can work in such a collaborative way with a child and their family, and so many different organisations involved in a child’s life. We’re all working to achieve the common goal of ensuring the child’s safety, and to make sure they’re able to reach their full potential. Frontline has been a journey of discovery so far, working with a diverse range of families and professionals, and as it continues, I further my knowledge and experience.
Support comes in many forms on Frontline. There is the official support from my CSW and my Academic Tutor. Then there is the support from my fellow frontline participants, which is amazing. There are 12 of us in my local authority and it feels like having a family at work. There is always someone around to talk to when times are hard but likewise someone to tell when you’ve done something well. I feel that I’ve learnt so much more about myself and the strengths I hold.
Of course, the role of social workers is very tough, its stressful and challenging and at times I think it is easy to forget the good work that so many social workers do every day and the way they change children’s lives for the better. There are not enough examples of good social work practice in the media. My perception of social work has certainly changed by working amongst so many committed and inspiring people, who actively work towards improving children’s lives.
If I were to pick what I enjoy most about social work, it would be engaging with the families I work with and building relationships with them. For me, the families I work with are the people who keep me in this job.
My most rewarding experience so far was when, after months of working with a family and tackling different issues, a mother told me how much she felt supported by having me in her life. That was a special moment.