Tommy Gale talks about his journey to becoming a social worker and the Frontline programme.
Becoming a social worker wasn’t something that was really on my radar; I studied Politics and International Relations at Cambridge University so was much more interested in public policy. But during my time there I noticed the huge disparity in terms of people’s experiences of the application process and support they got – I realised that this support often made the difference between students getting in or not, regardless of how clever they are.
I’ve previously worked in public policy, but found that I felt very detached from the people the policies were being designed to help, and wanted to have more of an understanding about the challenges they faced on a day-to-day basis. Social work was a way for me to be able to get closer to this and make a real impact. I work with teenagers that are so bright, but because of their circumstances they’re using their intelligence to run successful drugs businesses in their local area. Given the chance, they 100% have the potential to go to top universities and be really successful. It’s not because of a lack of intelligence, but a lack of access and support.
“The learning experience is intense, but you really do learn so quickly”
Through my training on the Frontline programme, I get to do something to try and tackle this. There is a real focus on systemic practice throughout the training, which teaches that these issues (as with any issues a family faces) need to be looked at in the wider context of the child and what is going on for them. It also teaches you how to deal with these types of highly complex situations. The learning experience is intense, but you really do learn so quickly from the way it’s done. Summer Institute gives you the theoretical and wider knowledge you need, and then having practical experience from the get go with your local authority is really effective.
My consultant social worker was brilliant and made a massive difference - having someone who knows you and your cases is invaluable, as you always have that one person to discuss how you’re finding it and how your learning is going. We have a reduced case load in our first year, which I think families really benefit from because you can spend more time with them. Working in a unit is another unique thing about the Frontline programme -we all helped out in each other’s cases and spoke about what we would do, as well as chat with each other on a personal level. We’re all good friends now and developed a really strong bond with each other – we still ask each other for help and chat, which is very meaningful.