Changing narratives: Thinking beyond what is immediately plain to see
Emily was in the very first Frontline programme cohort in 2014 and currently occupies the role of team leader in a referral and assessment team at her local authority’s children services.
Emily is a kindly presence who embodies what it means to be a committed social worker. Nine years strong into the profession, her dedication to improving the lives of children and families, as well as future social workers, is unwavering.
I probably knew I would always want to work in a profession that involved relationship building and helping people, but I never considered social work at the early stages of my career path. I did different degrees at university that were not social work related. I ended up working in the private sector for a while before realising that I wasn’t driven by making money for people. I always enjoyed voluntary work and being part of community-based projects. So, I left the private sector and started working for a national children’s charity which I really enjoyed. I started to think, what if I could qualify and make a career out of this? By chance, somebody mentioned social work to me, so I investigated it. I came across the Frontline programme which had just launched and thought I’d give it a go. It completely changed my life professionally and personally.
The work we do requires quite challenging conversations as we’re often meeting families at some of their most difficult points, especially in high-risk cases where we have to protect the children. Having the Frontline programme’s systemic principles of being open minded, curious, and kind means you can have difficult conversations in an empathetic way.
The difference it makes has meant that I’ve been able to forge relationships with parents despite the difficulties of the situation.
I’ve always felt quite committed to the profession; I’ve always wanted to keep going despite how hard it can get. I think it’s a lot down to where you work as well. I’m in a very supportive local authority who have helped me progress in my career, and I think that really makes a huge difference. I strive to work in a way that helps newly qualified social workers feel supported and able to stay in this career and feel happy about that decision. Frontline also really supported us to think more about social graces, especially when we consider families – thinking beyond what is immediately plain to see.
Looking forward, I’d like to see a change in the perception of social work, the stigma attached to it on a personal level and in the media. I think we’ve had some tragic cases come to light through mainstream media and unfortunately, that very much paints the picture for people who don’t know much about social work. Of course, we have to acknowledge when tragedies happen and learn from them. But I also would love to see some good news. I’m currently trying to implement that on a micro level in my team, where at meetings we talk about success stories from workers about something that’s gone well on a case that week. I hope that in ten years’ time we’ll be seeing more positive stories associated with what a social worker does.
It’s important that families know that there are many happy endings and success stories when working with a social worker.
I would love for children and families in circumstances where a social worker comes into their lives to know that we’re here to help.