Name: Phil Spencer
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.
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I definitely feel like I’m part of a positive movement to change social work – and I’m thankful to be part of it.
I don’t know any other career where you can work in such a collaborative way with a child and their family.
What I enjoy most is that social work is just so interesting. Families are unique and fascinating and no two will ever be the same.
Everyone has a different story, but we all share a passion for helping vulnerable children and families.
I really enjoy getting to know families and building useful relationships with them.
I work with children within the criminal justice system and their families to reduce reoffending and manage their risk to themselves and others.
A unit is essentially a small, tight-knit team, with an experienced leader.
The programme is incredibly diverse and that’s one of the great things about Frontline and being a social worker.
I really enjoy having the opportunity to really help people. It’s the feedback from families and young people that keeps me going.
Doing the Frontline programme has given me a passion I didn’t know I had and has opened up a world of opportunities.
This programme has taught me much about myself and has allowed me to develop my own style of being a social worker, bringing in my own personality.
What I enjoy most about being a social worker – is the growth that I see and experience. I see growth in individuals and in families and I see growth in myself.
Prior to starting Frontline, I enjoyed a stimulating career as a teacher for 35 years. Frontline presented me with the opportunity to work with these young people at the other end of the school day, in their home and family.
Sometimes social work is about hard-fought but small successes, which although small can be really rewarding when they represent a shift in a family’s thinking or behaviour.