Newly qualified social worker Nikki Burton will join the College of Social Work’s professional assembly this month. Here, she explains why she applied for the role and how she plans to turn the profession round by making sure the College is plugged into current practice issues.
When I was at university, there was a lot of discussion about the College of Social Work and I had time then to keep an eye on how it was being set up. Once you go into frontline service it can be very easy to lose focus on the wider social work profession and how it’s developing, because you get caught in the bubble of your department. But I think it’s important that social work has a voice. We often receive negative media attention, so it’s good to have a College that can stand up for the profession, that can explain why social workers do certain things, what their needs are and how the profession needs support to develop. That’s why I applied to be a member of the professional assembly; the College is in its early days and I can be a part of how that goes forward.
To be nominated, I had to fill out an application form detailing my skills and experience and write a statement about why I thought I should be on the assembly.
I graduated in 2008 with a psychology degree and took a post as a community care officer for Hertfordshire adult care services, working with older people and people with physical disabilities. Two years later, the department sponsored me to do my master’s in social work. Now I’m back at Hertfordshire in the same department and my client group includes older people with dementia and mental health problems.
I’ve been a user of services in the past and, although it was a little while ago, it gives me some insight into the other side of the social work story. Also, there’s a lot of argument at the moment about the business case for employing social workers rather than unqualified staff. I’ve had experience as an unqualified and qualified member of staff, so I can see the benefits the social work role can give to the service user group we’re working with. Finally, I’m taking part in the assessed and supported year in employment (ASYE), so I can help develop that process for others in the future.
Part of my role on the assembly will be to maintain development of the College, so that it continues to respond to frontline social workers in the right way and give them the resources they need to be able to do their jobs. The College is a centre of excellence, so it will look at relevant policy changes and how to shape those with the best interests of social work in mind, as well as providing advice to individual social workers. Another part of my role will be to make sure the College is kept up to date with current practice.
The professional assembly will meet once every quarter, but there may be other events and meetings I have to attend or documents to read and respond to. I asked permission from my employer before I completed my application, because it will occasionally involve taking time out of my working day. They were happy to let me do that as part of my continuing professional development. Although I’m standing on the assembly as an individual, not representing the views of Hertfordshire council, my practice can benefit from the opportunities I’m given, which will in turn benefit the department.