Social care expects

Clare Jerrom kicks off a new series following
six social work students as they approach the end of their courses
and begin the search for employment in the social care sector.
Here, the six introduce themselves and reveal their experiences and

The image of social care may have taken a
battering in recent years but there are, fortunately, still a
substantial number of people who want to make a positive difference
to the lives of others through a career in social work.
Approximately 7,800 students applied to join Diploma in Social Work
courses in England and Wales last year. These students will be
entering the sector at a time of unprecedented change.

Gone are the days of ubiquitous social
services departments: newly qualified staff face careers in diverse
working environments and many will be based in multi-disciplinary
teams, employed by care trusts and independent sector organisations
rather than local authorities.

Community Care has interviewed six
final year DipSW students as they approach the end of their
training. These students will shortly be joining the social care
workforce and some may, in time, be involved in the way the
profession develops.

The group is diverse: some have already worked
in social care and are training to further their careers. Others
are relatively new to the profession or joined the DipSW course
straight from university.

These students have agreed to share their
experiences and thoughts as they come to the end of their training.
Community Care will follow their progress over the coming
months as they receive the results of their training courses and
start their first jobs as qualified social workers.

Name: Helen Woolgar

Age: 23

Lives: In student

Previous experience: “I
worked for a charity helping people with physical disabilities live
independently and at Gateshead Council as a support worker in a
summer scheme for children with disabilities. I am also involved
with befriending, which I love.”

Why social work? “My degree
was in anthropology and archaeology and I wanted to be an
archaeologist. But, as part of my charity work, I was a full-time
enabler for a lady with cerebral palsy and this inspired me. I had
done voluntary work through university, but didn’t realise it could
be a career.”

Training: Two-year DipSW/MSc
Green College, Oxford University.

Good points about the course:
“It is a generic course, which was good for me as I wasn’t sure
which area I wanted to work in.”

Bad points: “It took too
academic a view of social work. There should be more front-line
social workers talking to us about their experiences and jobs.”

Funding: A CCETSW grant, but
I also worked 16 hours a week with people with learning
difficulties through an agency.

Where will you be working in six
months’ time?
“I want to work in a children with
disabilities team, initially in a local authority in London, to
give me a good grounding in social work values and skills. I will
research the local authority beforehand to ensure they have a good
system to protect new workers.”

Salary expectation:
£20,000 to £22,000.

Career ambition: “To work in
the development of services, have some research published and learn
British Sign Language.”

Name: Toby Flight

Age: 30

Lives: Watford, Hertfordshire
with partner.

Previous experience: “I did
specialist therapeutic work for four and a half years and statutory
residential work for adolescents. Despite the tremendous
experience, which shaped me to be the person I am today, I was
tired of the antisocial hours and violence, so I had to get
qualified or leave the profession.”

Why social work? “I didn’t
want to do anything conventional so went into voluntary work and
charity fundraising. I wanted a job where I could respect myself
and find it interesting, worthwhile and exciting.”

Training: Two-year DipSW and
MA at Goldsmiths College, University of London.

Good points about course:
“The idea of non-directive learning meant the lectures would give
you the bare bones, and working in groups you would have to find
information for yourself. It forces you to work at a constant

Bad points: “High pressure.
Also it wouldn’t be to everybody’s taste, but it suited me.”

Funding: “CCETSW grant – I
just kept afloat.”

Where will you be working in six
months’ time?
Working in a child protection team to get
experience and professional credibility, and in a year look to
apply for a play therapy course.

Salary expectation:
“£21,000 progressing quickly, with golden hello and

Career ambition: “To gain a
play therapist qualification.”

Nora Dudley

Age: 23

Lives: Sheffield, house
shared with four students.

Previous experience: “I
worked in a voluntary playgroup, in nursing, did respite work and
residential work for young people and support work for teenage
girls, people with learning difficulties and older people.”

Why social work? “I always
wanted to do social work or teaching, but working at a holiday camp
run by a charity when I was 17 confirmed I wanted to be a social
worker. I found it really productive and wanted to help improve
people’s lives, not just their educational attainment.”

Training: Two-year
postgraduate DipSW/MA, University of Sheffield.

Good things about course?
Accessibility of resources

Bad things: “The financial

Funding: “Funding has been a
complete nightmare for me. Because I’m under 25, I get judged on my
parents’ income, despite having lived independently for five years.
We get so much teaching on antidiscrimination, yet the General
Social Care Council discriminates against us on the grounds of age
and marital status. I work 22 hours a week as a childminder, just
to keep afloat, but on placement I can’t work as I already work 36
hours per week.”

What will you be doing in six months’
A field worker with looked-after team of young
people aged 11 up to care leavers. I expect to start in a local
authority where the jobs are – in the south of England.”

Salary expectation: “With MA
and experience, I expect £20,000.”

Career ambition? Project
manager of care leavers team.

Name: Leslie Wilson

Age: 34

Lives: East Midlands, with a
partner and two children.

Previous experience: “I
started working in a home for older people in London and, via an
agency, ended up working with looked-after children. I went on to
work with children with disabilities and then disabled adults and
people with learning difficulties. For nine years I had various
management posts within statutory and voluntary sectors. For the
past four years I have been working in a hostel for homeless care
leavers and ex-offenders.”

Why social work? “In my teens
I went through my fair share of jobs and although they involved
working with people, this did not fulfil me. I felt I had something
to offer others and social work would be the most fulfilling way of
doing this.”

Training: Two-year DipSW/MA,
University of Nottingham.

Good things about course:
“Some of the best learning experiences have been discussing with
other students why they would act in a particular way.”

Bad things: “The length of
written assignments at 3,000-4,000 words is too long. During course
work I have found it insulting constantly having to explain my
understanding of oppression. As a black person living and working
in the UK, I feel over the past 34 years I have had a pretty good
understanding of oppression.”

Funding: “A bursary of
£4,000 per year, but I have also had to take on a part-time
job and agency work to support myself. If social work is to attract
more students something needs to be done to make studying less
financially stressful.”

Where will you be working in six
months’ time?
“Restarting my career in a management
position, possibly in residential services for adults with learning
difficulties or physical disabilities in the voluntary sector. I am
also interested in registration and inspection.”

Salary expectation:
“£18,000 to £23,000 but I may be forced to start from the
beginning and a salary of £16,800.”

Career ambition: “I want to
know that when I retire I do so because I have given all I can to
my profession, not that I have taken all I could stand from

Abbi Adair

Age: 28

Lives: South Shields, Tyne
and Wear with husband and two dogs.

Previous experience: “I was a
support worker for a year with adults with learning difficulties
and physical disabilities. At sixth-form college I visited a school
for people with severe learning difficulties and physical
disabilities weekly and I now visit a local hospital with my two
Newfoundland dogs, who are registered as therapy dogs.”

Why social work?: “My parents
fostered two children and were involved with community work when I
was younger, and this gave me an insight into the profession and
the problems that children in care face. I want to work proactively
with people and make a difference.”

Training: Two-year DipSW/MA,
University of Durham.

Good things about course:
“The course was not just text book and taught me to be
self-reflective. The learning curve was tremendous.”

Bad things about course: “It
is extremely intensive.”

Funding: “CCETSW funded me
through the course, taking into consideration my husband’s

Where will you be working in six
months’ time?
“Children and families social worker in a
local authority.”

Salary expectation: “The
going rate locally of about £16,000.”

Career ambition: “To be
contented in work.”

Name: Nik Flavell

Age: 28

Lives: London with

Previous experience: I worked
for nine months as an assistant social worker in a youth offending

Why social work: “I trained
to be a barrister and practised for a year. I did a lot of
pre-sentence reports and met a lot of vulnerable, socially excluded
people who due to my privileged background I had never come into
contact with before. I felt it would be personally rewarding to get
involved earlier on in the process, not just at court. I was
motivated by genuine compassion sourced through my Christian faith.
People thought I was mad at the time, but I never saw it as

Training: Two-year DipSW/Msc,
Jesus College, Oxford University.

Good points about course:
“Great placements.”

Bad points: “It gave me a
little bit of knowledge in a lot of areas, but it was disappointing
that it heavily relied on placement to fill in the gaps.”

Funding: “Through my wife! I
got funding of £4,500 a year but it wasn’t enough. To qualify
for the course you need six months’ experience and an average
unqualified worker would earn £15,000, but to progress and get
qualifications, you have to go from that to £4,000 a year – a
major disincentive.”

Where will you be working in six
months’ time?
“In a children and families department
working on a referral and assessment team, in the north east
because of the cost of living in London.”

Salary: About

Career ambition: “To be
director of social services in a city, making a difference to the
lives of children and their families and not on the front of the
Daily Mail.”

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