Open Forum

As a student on a practice learning placement you feel as if you
are in a tug-of-war. At one end of the scale you have the
university and the practice assurance committee, at the other you
have your practice assessor, the practice setting staff and service
users. The main aim is to meet your national occupational
standards, but of course you must also ensure that the workplace
you are in is safe.

One of my practice settings was a young people’s residential
unit. One day another student and I were left alone with four young
people. I knew this could lead to a problem as one of the young
people had a high risk assessment. So we asked for another member
of staff to join us – and someone did, but only for a few

Shortly after this a young person threw paint over my face,
which began to burn. After trying to get the paint off I went into
the staff office to fill out an incident form. The staff there were
amused by the red marks on my face and seemed to regard what
happened as a joke.

The next morning I notified my learning adviser of the incident
and of the way it had been dealt with.

I was then called to a meeting at the unit. When I arrived I
received a cold reception from staff but all I had done was

In the meeting I was given a shocking ultimatum – return to work
or leave the unit there and then. Reluctantly I chose to go back as
I knew that if I couldn’t find another placement I would fail the
course. I had whistle-blown to protect the welfare of service users
and staff and now I was being punished.

I remember a seminar on whistle-blowing during my first

I believed that I would never need to blow the whistle during my
practice learning as the permanent staff would.

But I do not regret doing it. Service users rely on us to ensure
they are safe and all workers, whether qualified or in training,
must never be afraid of raising the alarm.

Angie Hind is a student social worker in her third year
at university.

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