Sam graduated from the Social Work degree in 2017 and now works with adults with disabilities.
What were your biggest concerns before applying for Social Work?
The biggest by far was about the three compulsory practice placements. I wanted to know where would I be placed; what if I didn’t like it, and more importantly, would I get a choice? All my apprehensions were alleviated on day one of the course. The tutors explained in detail the process of the different placements. In brief, you will have at least one statutory placement with a local authority, there is a process in place for any discrepancies and you do get to state your preferences.
Where were your placements?
I had three very different social work placements. Each provided me with different challenges that enabled me to develop my knowledge and skills as a student practitioner. My first 20-day placement was in the voluntary sector working for a drug intervention programme supporting adults who identify as having substance misuse difficulties. For my second placement I worked for 80 days in a statutory setting with a children with disabilities team. Lastly, for my 100-day placement I worked at a psychiatric hospital supporting adults who had been detained under the Mental Health Act 1983 for care and treatment.
What kind of activities did you do on placement?
The role and expectation of me as a student during my placement varied as I progressed throughout the course. I went from attending meetings and observing practice in my first placement to leading meetings in my second. I went from listening to the recommendations of qualified staff in my second placement to presenting my recommendations as a professional for a Mental Health Tribunal in my third. Consequently, each placement requires different activities to be accomplished, however as I progressed, I began (with support) to complete professional reports, assessments, case recordings and leading meetings. I was immersed into each team, my opinion valued and respected.
Did the practical experience help you in your social work training?
100% yes! The practical experience provided me with a platform to explore and understand deeper what was taught during lectures. It also gave me the opportunity to develop my confidence, to be able to ask the professionals questions and to identify areas where I needed extra support. My practice placements have been extremely valuable in preparing me to support people as a newly qualified social worker.
What were the most valuable things you learnt in your placements?
I learnt how to utilise legislation to promote the rights of individuals and how to use theory to understand individuals’ circumstances. Not one approach fits all, as a social worker you have to be adaptable and be comfortable with uncertainty.
How did the placements help prepare you for life as a social worker?
The placements enhanced my confidence, knowledge and communication skills. I will never forget my first home visit. I was surprised at how nervous I was knocking on the door, hoping they would let me in. The practical knowledge and experience I gained from my placements were invaluable.