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From social media to social work

There are two weeks between the end of the Frontline summer institute and the start of my local authority placement, so I am writing this with a mixture of nervousness and excitement. I have had some time to reflect on what I learnt over the five weeks at the summer institute, start preparations for some upcoming assignments and most importantly take a short holiday!

Over the next year I will be working as part of a long-term family support and child protection team in an inner London borough. I will also be studying towards the King’s Advocate Award, part of a widening participation programme run by King’s College London to improve diversity in higher education. I think these additional opportunities are important so that we can learn from teachers and other professionals, who we are likely to be working with closely as social workers.

I studied English literature and politics at university. After I graduated in 2015, I started working in some of the typical industries you might expect, such as media and marketing. However, last year I started volunteering as a mentor with Chance UK, a children’s charity that works with children in London with behavioural difficulties.

When I was first matched with my mentee, I read through school reports. Fast forward to our first meeting and I had a hard time believing some of it was true. The experience made me appreciate the value of direct work with children and the importance of respecting a child’s wishes. Around this time, I decided I would apply to Frontline.

In the meantime, I moved from the private sector to work in the digital team at a mental health charity. It was a privilege to work alongside other campaigners and I’m particularly proud of the work we were doing on social media. However, I did not have so much opportunity to work directly with people.

One of the greatest appeals of Frontline was its focus on studying as you work. Having just completed the summer institute, I’m even more convinced of this. I have a lot to learn about social work, but I don’t think all of that can be absorbed in a seminar. And that’s certainly meant with no disrespect to any of the great lecturers on the course!

In my previous job, I played a part in trying to diversify our volunteers. The summer institute also made me quickly realise how important it is that local children’s services reflect the people they serve. I know there is a way to go to make sure the profession fully represents the people that use its services. In the meantime, I’m proud to be part of the most diverse Frontline cohort yet.

I realise the programme will be tough at times, but the social workers I spoke to when I started my application, and during the summer institute, have been nothing but enthusiastic about what they do. Keeping that motivation in mind over the next two years will be the most important thing.