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Name: Phil Spencer
Location: London
Cohort: 2015

Before Frontline, I worked in the charity sector in developing countries but found it frustrating. I realised the best way to help people is through meaningful, personal relationships and social work would give me this opportunity to work directly with people.

Since joining Frontline I have realised the work is very different to what I expected and social work is a very wide-ranging field. In Year 1, I worked with a handful of families in different circumstances. These included issues of neglect, adult and child mental health difficulties, young carers, and children who were being sexually exploited. In Year 2, I moved from a child protection team to a youth offending team. Now I work with children within the criminal justice system and their families to reduce reoffending and manage their risk to themselves and others.

I find that being a social worker is an immense privilege, because it puts you directly in a relationship with some of the most vulnerable people in our society. It gives you an opportunity to help others, but it is a lot of responsibility.

In my first year I worked intensively with a family on a child protection plan. Throughout the year there were numerous crises between the mother and eldest daughter: physical and verbal abuse, running away, stealing from the mother, as well as two overdoses by the young person. When I left the team the case was about to close, but I was unsure the family were ready.

Six months later, I was contacted by the young person. She told me how much growing up she had done. She now had a part time job, was in college and her relationship with her mother was much improved. She thanked me for my help and asked for a reference to do some work experience with a charity helping women who suffered domestic abuse – she said she wanted to help others the way they had helped her mother.

It is hard, but it is a privilege doing this job. You will have challenging days, but you will also have those moments when all your work appears to have paid off. You realise it’s all worth it, because you can see things are better for a young person than when you first met them, and you know you made a difference.