Heading down to London on my way to this year’s Fellowship Annual Event, I was curious as to what the weekend would bring, as this was my first time attending a Fellowship event. Now, reflecting on the weekend, I feel privileged to have spent time in the company of such inspirational and engaging people, both fellows and guest speakers.
Thinking back to when I signed up to attend, I was at a particularly low point. Nationally, thousands of children are living in poverty, support services have been cut and local authorities are running with budget shortfalls.
I was exhausted with the daily grind, struggling to keep up with paperwork and feeling like no matter how hard I tried, my efforts were not making a difference to the lives of the children and families I was working with. Feeling disheartened and frustrated, and wanting to channel my energy into instigating wider organisational and societal change, I looked to the Fellowship as a place to start. I was excited to see the range of workshops on offer at the annual event on policy, innovation and practice.
I started to see this weekend as an opportunity to consider how I might translate small acts in my social work practice into social action and broader political change. I selected solely policy workshops: how best to respond to trauma and abuse at a national level, how we can turn social action into social change and how we can decrease burnout in social work. Sitting amongst such dedicated, experienced and motivated peers, sharing knowledge and ideas, I started to feel reinvigorated and hopeful for the future.
I heard social activist and former gang member, Karl Lokko, talk about the power of one conversation in starting his journey of change. Author and care leaver, Jenny Molloy, talked about how small acts of kindness and support from social workers helped her and her family survive through trauma. Barrister and broadcaster Hashi Mohamed discussed how children in adverse circumstances depend on the care and support of social workers. These speakers refocused my attention on the power of building authentic, interpersonal relationships with the children and families we work for.
For me, there was an energy and a buzz about the weekend. There was a feeling that collectively, we will be able to change the way we do things as a society and challenge oppression and discrimination. Both from the bottom-up and by striving to always improve our practice and the lives of the children and families we work with.
It can often feel that issues like tackling poverty, the housing crisis and the prevalence of domestic violence are out of our control. But we see the impact these issues have on children and families on a daily basis, so we are best placed to make sure that their voices are heard. We are uniquely placed to ensure their knowledge and experiences are shared to shape how we should respond to these issues at a national level.
It all starts with the motivation to create change. While it becomes exhausting trying to challenge the system every day, I was reminded that we must do this whenever we are able. We must take the opportunity to attend events like this to push for the change that is needed for the protection of children and vulnerable people in our society.