Few go into social work for the glory. It is not a profession renowned for the confidence it inspires in the public, or one where remuneration packages match the high caseloads. Here social workers explain just what is so satisfying about their jobs and the sense of accomplishment they experience by achieving good outcomes for their clients.
Marlane Parkes, senior practitioner and in the acute recovery team in the community mental health service, Isle of Wight
“I like being a social worker because of the positive outcomes I can help clients achieve. One woman, who was allocated to me a few months ago, was very low and had no self esteem, limited social support network, and was on benefits. Now she has a voluntary job with the RSPCA, attends belly dancing classes and has made friends at an art group. My client’s mood has improved and she is positive about the future. Her motivation and commitment to the charities she works with has also reduced the stigma people with mental health face.”
Peter Lewer, ARC project manager, children families and education, Kent Council
“Helping young people and families achieve their potential is the most rewarding aspect of being a social worker and I entered social work to make a difference to my community. One 16-year old I worked with was in care and estranged from his family after attacking his mum with a knife.
“I recognised he would contact his mother again and my role was to support the pair with this eventuality. “After five sessions with them both he left care and moved to the same village as his mum to continue to develop their renewed relationship.
“He returned to education and now works in social care.”
Trevor Shadrack, approved mental health professional, multi-disciplinary home treatment team, Tower Hamlets Council
“The most rewarding part of being a social worker is the satisfaction of being in a position to enable those experiencing a crisis in their lives and unable to progress without professional support of their mental health or social needs.
“I enjoy referring clients on to other appropriate services when they are no longer in crisis to ensure they receive longterm support, observing the progress they make, and knowing the client benefited from my involvement and is getting their life back on track.”
Richard Pearl, social worker for Swansea Council’s central team for older people
“My favourite aspect of social work is the face-to-face contact I havewith the clients. It is a great job if you like interacting with people and have a desire to help them change their lives for the better.
“If you can look back on your career and realise that individuals and families have progressed in some way from your interventions, however hard fought they may have been at the time, then it is a great achievement.”
Elaine Aspinwall-Roberts, Lecturer/practitioner at Liverpool John Moores University
“Sometimes you receive a referral which makes you think, ‘what on earth am I going to be able to do to make any difference here?’. Then you work with the adult or child in that difficult situation to develop their trust and overcome any suspicion.
“As a social worker you work with them, using the knowledge and skills you have learned and developed, to listen, suggest and assist. Sometimes you are taking hard decisions, celebrating achievements or being useful until there comes a point when you are not needed any more – that’s the most rewarding bit of all.”
Jane Naik, review and assessment project team social worker Redbridge Council
“It is people who make my job so rewarding – and frustrating – at times. I work with a variety of colleagues and service users who ensure my days are never dull and rarely the same. The rewards of being a social worker are not monetary or material, although I did get a surprise bunch of flowers recently.
“It sounds cheesy but the rewards are more subtle: going home knowing I empowered someone to get the residential home they wanted or knowing that I dealt successfully with a safeguarding case. It’s not always like that as things do go wrong, but the good days outweigh the bad.”
Chris Martin, senior strategic manager commissioning, Essex Council
“For me, a career in social work is fundamentally a vocation of true meaning. It’s one of the few careers where you have the privilege of being able to work really closely with some of the most vulnerable people in our communities, to build on their strengths and truly make a contribution to an improvement in their lives.
“I’ve had a career of extremes, with some very tough times but some truly rewarding experiences. But it’s also been an opportunity to put principles such as equality into everyday practice and to make change really happen.”
Find out what other social workers think about their careers You can discuss career options and the state of the profession with social workers on CareSpace
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The Student Zone social work careers guide is supported by Unison