By Vita La Porta
When I qualified from my master’s degree in social work with distinction last November, I would never have predicted that, after two years’ hard study, I would be cleaning in a residential children’s home.
I have always been a hands-on type of person, but I feel my skills and qualifications are not being put to good use. I feel frustrated as I know that I am more than capable of being a good social worker –doing a job I really love, and supporting children and families in crisis –particularly when I hear they’re in such short supply.
Prior to starting the course, I heard that social workers were leaving the profession and good social workers were in demand. I wanted to work with children and was told that my experience would be sought after once I qualified. I thought the world of social work would welcome me with open arms. What a shock to the system the reality had turned out to be.
I embarked on the job application process with a good degree, outstanding references, experience as a domestic abuse advocate, extensive equality work and work with adults and children with learning disabilities, as well as 100 days’ statutory placement in a Children In Need team. I thought I would sail into a job.
But all local authorities want are social workers with at least a year’s post qualifying experience. They want a “here’s your laptop and cases- get on with it” type of social worker, not someone who might need some investment. What hope do I have? I am a quick and enthusiastic learner and committed to working with children and families, which I’ve backed up with relevant experience. All I need is a chance, but when I’m turned down because of a lack of post-qualifying experience it makes me question whether training as a social worker was the right thing to do.
A fighting chance
I believe that the government should make it a duty for all local authorities to employ at least a small percentage of newly qualified social workers (NQSWs) throughout children’s services, rather than recruiting on mass once a year. I believe that with every permanent social worker recruited, local authorities should be made to hire a NQSW, just to give us a fighting chance to get on the ladder. Without this type of commitment NQSWs like me will be left wasting our talent.