For National Care Leavers Week, we wanted to share the stories of some of the experts by experience who help us choose and train the next generation of social workers. Read on to find out why one young care leaver chose to support our work.
My personal experience of social workers is quite negative, but I’ve also had some really good ones. I’ve had lots of social workers in and out of my life. Some have only lasted a week, others a few months. They’ve never been a stable presence; people get the job and then they leave. When they leave, you’re left to your own devices without a regular contact. During these times, it feels like you can’t do anything, you’re stuck.
However, I’ve also experienced really great social workers. One in particular was really organised with me, which I appreciated. We’d have meetings where we’d always set goals. After these meetings, he’d call me during the week to see how I was progressing – he really cared. I could always reach him and if I ever had a problem, he’d always make contact with me. He seemed to be really engaged and wanted to make sure that I had a good experience in care. For example, he’d encourage me to get involved with other youth projects and organisations. I always felt that he saw me as a person and not just a case file.
This social worker had a big impact because I felt supported, like there was someone looking out for me and my best interests. To this day I still set goals of what I want to achieve during the week on a Monday.
A great social worker is someone that cares, who sees you as a human being. A social worker needs to be a good communicator; it’s so important for a child in care to know they have someone they can talk to. Social workers also need to keep any promises they make; it’s important to build that trust and not let people down.
When you’re growing up in care, social workers are your legal guardians who guide and support you. They’re the people who teach you the things you can’t learn in school, such as how to open a bank account. If you don’t have a bank account, you can never get paid. These things matter.
We need more great social workers because, for a child growing up in the system, there’s so much uncertainty. You don’t know where you’re going to live, how long you’re going to live in one place for, what school you’re going to go to. You need someone constant who will support you through these anxious times. Many people in care don’t go to university – they fall into crime and end up with depression and anxiety. We need good social workers who can help break this cycle.
Social work is more than just the job description. You’re on the frontline working with children everyday. Their actions have a huge impact on someone else’s life. That’s why I got involved with Frontline, working with them to get great people into the profession, I know I’m making a real difference.