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The prospect of a life in social work is an intriguing one. Nick Willmore, a tutor and lecturer, explains how those who might be tempted by a change in direction can make the prospect a reality


or many years the role of the social worker has been mocked and reviled in equal parts, yet people are still lining up to join the profession. Why? For many, it’s a real opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others that need a bit of help. As Ghandi once said, ‘the mark of a civilised society is how it treats those most in need’ and there is a satisfaction in being one of those that contributes. Social workers work in many different roles; whether it’s supporting vulnerable children and their families, undertaking adoption assessments, arranging care and support of older adults, or helping people with disabilities maintain as much independence as possible. What is common in all these roles is the ability to talk to people at a difficult time in their lives, being able to see the key issues, and planning the best way forward. So what makes a social worker? Without doubt it’s someone that readily gets on with others and is able to retain


social work?

a cool head under pressure. It is also someone that can build up a toolkit of ideas and theories that will inform the way they work. Whilst there is often cynicism about the profession, that it only knows theory and has no common sense; when training social workers we try and help them see the good and bad aspects of theory. After all a theory is something that has been seen to work for some people – the trick is being able to see which one is relevant in a situation. That is why practical experience is an essential element of the training. Social work training consists of two parts, the academic and the practical. All social work training involves the student completing some academic study. Alongside this students are placed with an

As Ghandi once said, “The mark of a civilised society is how it treats those most in need”

experienced social worker, learning how this academic study makes a difference in the real world. This gives the student time to think about the people they are asked to support, and a senior colleague to talk to about what they should do next. Often the people being supported by students say they are some of the best workers they experience, as they have time to reflect and are keen to listen to work out the best way forward, elements many qualified staff say are difficult to make time for. To get the necessary amount of practice time, each student needs to be sponsored by a social work agency, usually a council or care provider. Employers will often have an academic institution they work with, such as a local university or distance learning provider. Most social work training

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Sussex Living East September 2019  

Sussex Living East September 2019