‘You can literally change a young person’s life’: an 18-year-old’s message for social workers

In Community Care Inform’s latest podcast episode, Dan – a care-experienced young person living in semi-independent accommodation – shares his experiences of, and advice for, social workers

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For the latest episode of CC Inform’s podcast, Learn on the Go, we spoke to 18-year-old Dan about his experiences as a young person placed in children’s homes and semi-independent accommodation.

He shares his perspective on how social workers and services worked with him from his early teenage years, and what he would have liked to have been different. He discusses how the system could be more genuinely ‘ambitious for children in care’, and the types of support that would have made his move into adulthood and employment easier.

We’re publishing these extracts from the podcast with Dan as part of Community Care’s Choose Social Work campaign, which aims to champion the brilliant work social workers do every day, inspire the next generation of practitioners, and counteract the negative media coverage of the profession. Read about why we’ve launched this campaign, and the five steps you can take to support it.

On our campaign page, you will find more inspiring stories about the difference that good social work makes, as well as our series of Dear Future Social Worker letters, encouraging the next generation to choose social work as a fulfilling, rewarding career.

Having seen first-hand the stress social workers can be under and the impact this can have on young people, Dan is not starry-eyed about what this role can involve. But it’s because of his experiences that Dan supports our Choose Social Work campaign. In these extracts from the episode, he shares his thoughts on the difference social work can make.

Quotes appear below; click on the media player to listen to a five minute extract of the podcast.

The difference a positive experience of social work can make

Dan described how he “built such a positive relationship with a social worker” after making a disclosure at school and then receiving a message from a family member that suggested they knew about the disclosure:

“I immediately texted my social worker…And this social worker was due into court. I told him, ‘There’s a problem. You’ve got to come to school now and you’ve got to figure it out. You’ve messed up.’… And he dropped everything. He moved around court for me and he got another social worker to go, and he was at the school an hour later. I understand that can’t happen all the time, but with this big disclosure…And actually, that family member didn’t know anything, it was a misunderstanding. But just that reassurance…That was probably the first time I felt like a social worker cared.”

And I don’t know how to explain that experience – to have this person drop everything and come to my aid when I was really vulnerable.

“And to be able to support me in the correct way, it was such a heart-warming experience and it really changed my mind about social workers and the job that they do…. And I didn’t tell him any of the information [before he came to the school]… That was a big thing – that he kind of didn’t push too much but he understood, ‘Dan’s in need. I don’t know what it is but I’m going to go and be there for him’.”

‘You’re the one who helped them achieve that’

“We need people running these campaigns and we need people, you know, trying hard to get people into social work and show the good. ‘Cause there’s bad but there’s also really, really good.”

I think social work is so important for young people. You can literally change a young person’s life.

“I work in children’s mental health and I know it’s not the same thing, but for me I get that joy from, you know, seeing that I’ve helped a young person and I’ve supported them, even if it’s something simple like…getting them out of bed on time when they usually don’t. It’s the little things… Take the small wins when you can, because that’s so important. And notice them. Notice that you’re the one who helped them achieve that.”

“Social workers: I think they’re amazing. They’re the ground force and they are what keep the system going, I think. If you took out the director or you took out a manager it wouldn’t crumble so much. But if you took out the social workers…that’s when you really start to understand how important our social workers are and how much we actually do need to look after them.”

You can listen to the 45 minute episode in full here to hear Dan talk about how social workers can support the aspirations of young people in care, what oversight of semi-independent accommodation should look like, what makes for effective pathway planning and “good goodbyes” when a social worker leaves their role or there’s a change in worker. You can also subscribe to the Learn on the Go series via Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Google podcasts.

If you have a Community Care Inform licence, you can find the podcast with key learning points and further resources for individual and group learning here, and full transcript of the episode here.

2 Responses to ‘You can literally change a young person’s life’: an 18-year-old’s message for social workers

  1. Debbie Chester August 8, 2023 at 11:21 am #

    It’s marvelous to hear responses from young people, and my reason for entering social work was to work with young people leaving care. However when interviewed by a care-leavers’ team manager I was told it would be “unfair to the young people to employ me” as my placement experience was only in adult social care. She has no idea how devastating I found this, I’m still a registered social worker but not working directly in social work practice as I became so disillusioned by the inability to enter my chosen area without statutory experience in it. If we want more people to enter and remain in social work, surely enabling such opportunities is important, not only for social workers but for the young people in need of support.

  2. Julia G August 9, 2023 at 11:22 pm #

    Dan, you have lifted my spirits after a very difficult day in social work..We need to hear more of the good Social Workers do..There’s plenty of it around if only ‘people’ look for it.

    I have been qualified for nearly 20 years.. I qualified at 40. The biggest inspiration of my life IS a social worker. She too was there for me at one if the darkest times in my life when I was 14 years of age.

    I was a CIC for 18 years and had 3 wonderful social workers; (Yes, how times have changed?!!)

    I do actually care about the children and families I work with. I aim to do my very best – There are many like me.

    However, there are restrictions and many politics which involve inexperienced workers who manage to ‘chamber high’ and lose touch with reality.

    On a positive note Dan, keep doing your very best and look to the sky, it sounds like your limit! Very well done indeed.