Open Forum

Going back to university to read social work left one student wondering what he had let himself in for

Having spent my working career in various forms of social care, at the age of 32 I gained a place at university to read social work. Despite the financial hardships, as well as the upheaval to my family and social life, my decision was based on two motives: I wanted to develop both personally and professionally and I wanted to be an “agent for change”.

Although personal and professional development is a matter largely for our own determining, if as student social workers we are to be the future agents of change, we will need help.

In our introductory session we were told that the quantity of work involved would virtually end our social life, that anyone in a relationship would probably see it break up before the three years were over, that  we’d all just considerably increased our chances of committing suicide and that anyone wishing to change course could do so easily. All this on our first day and within hours of our professional social work  career.

The next day, feeling disheartened, we sat around wondering what on earth we were letting ourselves in for and trying to find the motivation and eagerness we had previously possessed.

Some of the comments we have since heard have left us bewildered.

“You’ll spend 85 per cent of your time in the office filling in forms and we’ll train you to do just that,” said one lecturer. No one told me this at the careers centre.

“Social work is such today that, rather than change your values and prejudices, we’ll give you the language to disguise it,” said another. When asked to comment, our class hardly gave a murmur.

When I began my course I felt I could make a difference. I felt I was about to take my first tentative steps to joining one of the most organised and potent pressure groups that the UK has to offer.

If my social work education is typical, perhaps as student social workers we need to recruit the recruiters to the cause before we look for change anywhere else.

The writer is a social work student


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