Frontline fellow, Rahim


Frontline programme participant, London

Before starting the programme, my knowledge of the profession was pretty limited and didn’t really have any interest in finding out more. After chatting to some of the Frontline staff at a careers fair, I was shocked by the statistics they told me about – how unlikely it is for a care leaver to go to uni, the number who end up in prison and so on. I applied to be a brand manager, and the more I learned, the more I realised I wanted to apply for the programme.

My family had very mixed reactions to this. Social work isn’t a career in Bangladesh, and some of my family members associated it with a career for women, not men. I was determined to prove them wrong.

No two days as a social worker are the same – the job is so broad and is almost like several rolled into one. The cases I’ve worked on are so varied and require skills I never expected to be involved: creativity, curiosity, self-reflection, and leadership. Leadership is a particularly interesting one – when people hear the word leadership, they think of managers and leading the way forward. Since starting my training with Frontline I’ve realised that leadership is more about empowering others to bring about lasting change. Sometimes leadership can be something as little as sharing something you’ve learnt, or looking at something from a different angle to bring about a solution.

No two days as a social worker are the same – the job is so broad and is almost like several rolled into one.

One of my first cases is a great example of this. One mother of five that I am working with has had social services involvement ever since she herself was born. When I got first got this case I was really worried. This is someone who has faced domestic violence, gang violence, who has been in care herself. There were concerns about the mother’s mental health and the children weren’t going to school. Much more experienced social workers told me that it was a very tricky case. As a student social worker at the time, I struggled to see what impact I could possibly have in a situation where social workers had tried for 25 years.

Through our conversations I discovered that, while her past trauma was certainly affecting her mental state, there was also a more immediate factor. For the past six or so years she had been living with constant disturbances by a neighbour. In the last few months there had been multiple police call outs. He played loud music all night at least once a week and had racially abused her children. On one of my visits he even racially abused me, which showed me what this mother and her children were going through on a daily basis. She already suffered from depression and anxiety, and the sleep deprivation she was experiencing because of the neighbour’s disturbances was exacerbating these. The housing authority had told her and previous social workers that there was nothing they could do to help – she would have to move. This would mean making herself and her five children intentionally homeless.

Rather than focusing on moving the mother, I asked why we couldn’t focus on the individual causing the disturbances to the family and the neighbourhood. I worked with the mother and the housing association to get a full injunction, so that if the neighbour continues with his antisocial behaviour the housing association can take him to court and repossess his property. Since then, the neighbour hasn’t caused a single disturbance. The children’s school attendance has rapidly improved and the mother’s mood is much better having sought mental health support.

There was me thinking, when I first got the case, what impact could I possibly have? But by simply approaching the issue from a different perspective and creating some small changes, the benefit has been huge. Working with this family has really taught me that no matter how difficult the situation seems, change is possible with time, perseverance and curiosity.

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