Social worker from Australia on working in the UK

To mark International Social Work Day on 16 March, we invited three social workers to tell us why they decided to practise in the UK. This week, Jane Royes explains why she swapped Brisbane for London six years ago

People often ask me why I live and work in London when I could be on a beach in Australia. I came to the UK six years ago because I wanted to work in the most contemporary and modern welfare system in the world.

When I started working in self-directed support I realised I was at the forefront of modern social work. This was one of the highlights of my professional career.

The biggest differences between here and Australia and my toughest challenges were learning the intricacies, complexities and dynamics of the community. Once you know your community and local networks you can work effectively no matter where you are. The professional associations for social workers here and in Australia have overlapping codes of practice and ethics.

Australian social work often begins with theory, then extrapolates this to practice. In the UK there is a more pragmatic approach to the discipline. I have looked at using self-directed support to develop new ways of working with clients using the strengths perspective. This is why I have found self-directed support so refreshing and exciting as a welfare approach. Many of my colleges, however, are more concerned with how self-directed support works in practice. Debates like these make working in the UK very interesting for me.

People in Australia tend to have a better understanding of the role of social workers than in the UK.

My Australian upbringing made me proud to be a social worker. It is generally respected and acknowledged as a tough job. Nevertheless, the Australian tabloids still demonise social workers and lay blame on them when something goes wrong.

The day-to-day life of a social worker is broadly comparable between the two countries.

However, having worked in Vietnam, I’ve experienced how different and difficult life can be for social workers in developing countries. I had to sleep on the floor of a hut with 15 other social workers. When conducting interviews about HIV awareness in small villages we were never sure we were getting honest views of people we interviewed because of the presence of communist party functionaries who insisted on attending all of the interviews.

I’ll miss World Social Work Day in London this year. I wish all of the hard-working UK social workers my best on the day. I think I’ll be sitting on a beach in Australia.

Jane Royes, is a senior social worker in adult services at Kensington and Chelsea Council in London

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