‘I wanted nothing to do with social workers – until one gained my trust’

BASW officer Rebekah Pierre reflects on how the last social worker she ever had helped her find her way to social work

Rebekah Pierre
Pictured: Rebekah Pierre

Dear Future Social Worker,

I would not be writing this letter if it were not for Laura*, the last social worker I ever had. I cannot say for certain where I would be without her involvement – but I do know that my life would have been devoid of most opportunities I have had since. My life was headed in a direction of which there would have been very little worth writing about.

Up until Laura stepped in, I wanted as little to do with social workers as possible. Experience had taught me that there was no point in opening up to them – after all, there was no guarantee anything would change, let alone that I would be believed. As far as I was concerned, the bridge between myself and any future professionals was well and truly burned.

When I think about it, in gaining my trust, Laura worked miracles. And yet I cannot think of anything she did that would count as ‘miraculous’. There was no magic therapy or fancy technique – just an abundance of care, kindness and compassion. Unlike other professionals I had previously, she believed what I had been through and validated my pain.

But she didn’t just believe my past. She also believed in my ability to carve out a different future for myself, to break cycles. It was due to her support that I bothered to apply to university, something which previously had seemed so out of reach for someone like me. A few years later, I went on to become a social worker myself, working with children whose life experiences were not a million miles from what my own had been.

If you are reading this, it is likely that you are searching for where or how you can make your mark in the world. Perhaps you want to make a genuine difference, but simply don’t know where to begin.

You have many skills, some of which were not valued – or even acknowledged – in a school setting, such as critical thinking, creativity, and a natural gift with people. Above all, you seek meaning in a working world which can often feel meaningless in a culture which prioritises lining the pockets of the wealthy over helping out fellow human beings. And you have been seeking out your purpose for some time now.

Rebekah’s letter is part of our Dear Future Social Worker series of letters of advice from current staff and leaders to tomorrow’s practitioners, a key element of Community Care’s Choose Social Work campaign.

The campaign 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’re launching this campaign, and the five steps you can take to support it.

Would you like to write your own letter to the next generation of practitioners? We’d love to hear from you – email ruth.hardy-mullings@markallengroup.com.

I cannot claim that social work is the answer – it is a messy science at best. We deal with the complexities of the heart and of stories with no clear ending. There is never a perfect solution or a set of guaranteed outcomes. To some extent, that is a scary prospect – but it also leaves space for relationships to flourish and for people to be at the heart of every decision.

I cannot even guarantee that you could plan out your career. Social work is a vast profession, and a single day – let alone career – could take you into a school, hospice and a prison. But there is a certain richness in visiting more diverse settings (and people) in a single week than some may ever see in a lifetime.

Nor can I guarantee that you will ever truly know the difference you may make. The reality is that you may always be none the wiser. Unlike your peers who work in other professions, your work cannot not be measured or quantified in spreadsheets or statistics. Sometimes the result of your work will be gradual, and might only be evident a generation from now – or when someone grows up to write their own version of this letter.

But I can guarantee this; that every day will provide you with the opportunity to be a Laura (or perhaps a Lawrence) to someone else.

Yours faithfully, Rebekah Pierre.


2 Responses to ‘I wanted nothing to do with social workers – until one gained my trust’

  1. Rakesh Kumar August 17, 2023 at 5:18 am #

    Women empowerment, livelihood, save environment

  2. Lionel August 22, 2023 at 12:49 am #

    Wonderful and such a powerful story

    So glad you shared for all to hear

    I recall your early days in social work as a newbie in an east london borough, onwards and upwards well done Rebekah!