A newly qualified social worker’s experiences

Community Care is inviting newly qualified social workers to write about their experiences. In the first of this new series Alinka Gearon describes her work on a children and families team


Here I am a qualified social worker after a long hard slog of academia, late nights, countless library hours and invaluable tolerance and support from my husband! I qualified in June 2009 and started work in the children and families referral team at Swindon Council.

As part of the support programme for newly qualified social workers, my caseload has been protected in volume with frequent supervision. I have already had the opportunity to work with children, young people and families experiencing domestic violence, substance abuse, teenagers with additional needs, trafficked children, gaming addiction, learning difficulties, mental health, poverty and extreme cultural isolation.

I have organised children in need interventions, chaired meetings and sought to put families in touch with community resources. Direct work with children has been the most precious part of my practice and I have utilised books, Playmobil toys and fuzzy felt faces to explore their experiences and gain an insight into their worlds.

I am grateful for the caseload protection and peer support from colleagues, but as expected the cases I’m being allocated are increasing in complexity and responsibility. In recent weeks I have experienced the demands of a case going to court for a care order with the challenge of working in partnership with families whilst safeguarding and protecting children.

I’ve met with Ofsted inspectors, and assessed and planned interventions for multiple cases under section 17 of the Children Act (children in need). I’ve also taken a heavily laden paperwork tour of looked after children procedures in finding children placements.

I do worry about making time for snatching reflective space as intended by the newly qualified social worker programme. Informal supervision and sharing experiences with colleagues have been invaluable in such a busy environment of our team and has at least, offered reflective learning on the hoof.

Usually though reflective thinking often comes at the most unusual times, brushing my teeth or washing up!

The pace of work in our team is relentless and yet I seem to thrive on the vast diversity and range of experiences the nature of the work brings to my practice. I only qualified last year but already feel I am making a difference to the lives of children and families.

Alinka Gearon is a newly qualified social worker at Swindon Council, one of thousands of graduates in England to be supported by a national programme for newly qualified social workers run by the Children’s Workforce Development Council. This offers a comprehensive induction schedule, high quality supervision and training, and a protected caseload during their first year of employment

If you are a NQSW and would like to tell us about your first  year please contact daniel.lombard@rbi.co.uk

This article  is published in the 1 April issue of Community Care magazine under the heading ‘Im grateful for caseload protection’

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