World Social Work Day: Engaging our supporters in our cause

17th March 2015

To mark World Social Work Day and to celebrate the incredible impact of social workers, we’ve teamed up with local authority children’s services teams to showcase their incredible work.

Nick Wilcock is just one of four high-profile individuals who have taken time this month to shadow Frontline units and experience the day-to-day pressures faced by qualified and trainee social workers. Nick is Deputy Chief Operating Officer of Credit Suisse in the EMEA region – the foundation funded by the bank is our newest supporter having provided essential funding for the programme in November 2014.

Credit Suisse sits just a few hundred yards from Tower Hamlets Town Hall – the central point for supporting some of the borough’s most vulnerable children who are at risk from abuse and neglect. Here, in this tale of two neighbours, Nick took up the opportunity to and learn more about the world of children’s social work. We spoke to him immediately after his shadowing experience.

Why it was important to shadow social workers
“I think social work is an opaque area for most people. Frontline is not like any other of our partnerships. I was keen to understand more about social work and the shadowing was a great insight. Before today I didn’t really have any pre-conceptions.”

“Businesses need to play a stronger role in society. We need more action, building real partnerships. In Tower Hamlets the social workers I met are our neighbours. It shouldn’t feel like ‘them and us.’ We already do a lot to support social projects, but you can always do more.”

“I’m just coming straight out from a home visit and that’s when you understand how difficult and challenging the job is. You see how, as a social worker, you can be front and centre of that person’s life and how they’re overcoming their problems. That’s been really powerful.”

Impressions of the Tower Hamlets – Frontline set-up
“I was incredibly impressed with the set-up at Tower Hamlets and the quality of the Frontline participants. I also noted how engaged Tower Hamlets management were.  The whole social work department felt like a team.”

“I could see the learning process, how the two Consultant Social Workers, and of course the Frontline participants, are collaborating. There are real challenges for the participants – it’s not just about home visits, it’s about the other aspects of the on-the-job training and the university work they do. They have to keep all those things in balance which is really challenging.”

Most impactful moments
“I learnt a lot about techniques and dialogue and how you encourage conversation – an essential skill for an aspiring social worker in order to build trust and elicit facts and information from the families they support. The discussion between the Consultant Social Worker and Frontline participant was interesting, it would be very easy for the Consultant to dominate the conversation but they were very confident in allowing the participant to take the lead. There seemed to be a good balance between observation and active learning.”

“I also learnt some valuable lessons to take back to the City. I had a really interesting chat with a manager and some of the challenges we face are very similar – ensuring managers feel connected with day-to-day activities is an example and Tower Hamlets seemed to be successful in this.”

The most challenging aspect of social work
“I think the hardest part of a social workers job is dealing with the emotion – and to be able to work in an environment where things can go wrong takes something quite unique. It must be incredibly difficult to balance the need to pull back away from work and yet remain emotionally engaged.”

“I’d love to shadow again, but I think it’s even more important that more people experience Frontline’s efforts. People need experiences like mine to realise how it all works. I’m also very grateful to the team at Tower Hamlets for giving me their time. They didn’t need to let me in, but I felt very welcomed here and learnt so much.”

Nick Wilcock is Deputy Chief Operating Officer at Credit Suisse, a Frontline Supporter.

Interview by Joe Jervis