Liz Lefroy, Senior Lecturer, Glyndŵr University
Outside In is the tangible expression of participation within the social work degree course at Glyndŵr University. It is a focus group for individuals with expertise through experience of social and health services. A key aspect of the project is the participation of individuals as enrolled students on one module per year of the degree. Here, Jade gives her analysis of the experience of the first of those modules, Learning Together.
Jade Pescod, Outside In, Glyndŵr University
As Outside In, and students on the Learning Together module, we can share our perspectives, experiences and values while educating future social workers, enhancing their knowledge of real life situations and what they might come across in practice. Social workers need to be more user-led, and by Outside In participating, it pushes them to be more user-focused in their practice.
My particular contribution to participation is the knowledge that I have about specific mental health conditions, plus knowledge and experience of the system as a care leaver, a child in need and LAC along with being homeless. This raised awareness as a lot of students hadn’t heard of my condition and struggled to understand how such situations can happen. This furthers the knowledge of the students and their understanding that we are not ‘cases’ that can be closed – we are real people with feelings; not figures, or targets.
We had a session in the class talking about what makes a good social worker and what makes a bad social worker. As Outside In, we can speak from the perspective of having a social worker ourselves; this enlightens the class with what is expected of them and how to work to the best of their abilities as a future social worker.
Sharing my story
I share my story to help improve things for young people in other settings; such as with TGP Cymru who work with children and families. There is a team called Team Around the Tenancy who work with care leavers who are homeless or are experiencing housing issues. They have an advocacy team for those who are involved with social services. I bring a level of understanding to my work with young people – a major advantage.
I’ve bounced between bed and breakfasts and hostels, I’ve experienced this first hand and I know how traumatic it is, but I also know it is possible to make it through to the other side.
Participation in social work education is so important because it gives social work students a clearer level of understanding and a new perspective. They can question the person who has experienced being in the system and explore with them any issues that they want clarified. They are able to see that there are many different roles: such as children and families social workers, disability social workers, renal social workers and adult social workers. Being able to see, hear and ask questions then gives a better level of understanding in comparison to what they would get from books and lectures. It can help them to think about what they would do in the future if they were to work with someone in a similar situation.
With the diversity of individuals in Outside In who students can question, it brings a wider general knowledge of understanding of social work. It can help develop the social work students’ values, for example, saying what makes a good social worker and what we need from services, and why. By being able to understand the problems that Outside In describe, the students can decide what they would and wouldn’t do. Without Outside In there, much less knowledge would be shared. People there have been through a huge variety of different experiences, from sensory impairments to homelessness to physical disabilities. With more of us speaking week by week the confidence of others in the group is built up.
I’ve used my knowledge to educate and influence the social workers of the future through my lived experiences. I’ve learnt that other people’s values can be different. I’ve learnt about where other people are in their lives – how they prefer to be supported, how they prefer to get their emotions out. And I think it’s interesting to hear what students think. Some may have gone through what other individuals have been through. With us accepting questions in a safe space it allows everyone a fuller understanding of what’s really going on. What we bring will perhaps spark an interest in different areas of social work.