This week’s diary is by a senior lecturer in social work.

Have been invited to speak to students on an access to social work
programme at a further education college. The class is held in a
local football club and I find the tutor anxiously scanning the car
park as I arrive. The group’s enthusiasm is encouraging, although
some are vague about the nature of professional social work.

Teaching all day. On the way to class one of my students races past
to deliver her child to our nursery. Two more are late and one is
absent because of work commitments. Today the group is undertaking
“experiential” communication exercises. I am aware I sound like
Joyce Grenfell as I try to maintain order. After class one of my
students tells me she is worried about her finances, her child is
ill and she has a lump in her breast. I reassure her that she can
have an extension for her assignment and feel humbled by the
demands faced by many students.

Visit a second-year student on placement in the child care team
where I used to work. A family with suitcases sits in the reception
and a woman loudly demands to see “the man in charge” as “what
social services have done is illegal”. My meeting with the student
and practice teacher is interrupted several times by urgent phone
calls or anxious colleagues. On leaving, I meet one of my former
clients who has just had a spell in prison as a result of which his
children are going to be adopted. Although he tells me I was the
best social worker he ever had, I decide I do not miss practice
very much. Wonder whether my students appreciate what they are
letting themselves in for.

Catch up with prospectus requests. The government’s recruitment
campaign produced a brief flurry of interest but this has died
down. The average age of our DipSW entrants is 34. Even though many
have domestic and financial responsibilities, they are expected to
exist on the student support arrangements that cause hardship to
many young people who can still look to their parents for help.

Admissions interviews with a social worker from a consortium
partner agency. I see some excellent applicants who have researched
social work thoroughly, prepared academically and have worked with
vulnerable people. Hope they accept our offers and are not put off
by the financial sacrifices they face. However, one applicant
informs us that she “doesn’t read books” and another tells us that
the most difficult challenge a social worker is likely to face is
“catching fleas from a client”. Would that it was.

Attend university graduation ceremony. Seeing our proud students
and families makes it all worthwhile. All the students I speak to
have the jobs they wanted. I just hope they can maintain their
commitment and enthusiasm.

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