Social work learning practice
Social work learning practice

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Social work learning practice

1 Your life story

People go into social work for a variety of reasons: to do good, to help others, to change the world, to confront their own problems or even by accident. In many cases their backgrounds and experiences have played a major role in their choice of career.

Making the link between your personal experiences and what you bring to your practice is an important early step towards becoming a reflective practitioner.

In this clip, Stephen Rashid talks to a social worker, a care assistant and two recently qualified social workers. They describe how they came into social work and what life events or turning points may have influenced their choice of occupation.

Activity 1

0 hours 20 minutes

As you listen to the audio clip, make some notes about the different life experiences of the speakers, and on the reasons why they came into social work.

When you have listened to the accounts, think about your own life, and what attracted you to social work.

  • What life events, or turning points, do you think might have influenced your choice of occupation?

Make notes and compare them to the experiences of the speakers in the clip.

Download this audio clip.
Skip transcript: Your life story

Transcript: Your life story

Julie
I came in to social work quite late in life. I was probably forty two … forty one when I first thought that I might like to do something on these lines. Up to then really, I'd been a housewife, a mother, a working mother. And so I just felt, well, what was going to do with my life?
So I started off really by working with elderly people in a residential home. And I quite enjoyed that. I remember the very first day I went, because I was very frightened, because I didn't know what to expect, and I wasn't sure what my role was meant to be. And I remember coming from there and feeling that it had been quite rewarding because, in some ways, I'd lost my father quite recently to that, and it was almost like caring for my father. And my father had been a very positive person. You could not make decisions for him. He was a very independent person. So I felt that I could take that with me and enable other people remain independent, if you like.
From there, I then moved to work for a county council home, doing the same work. And the officer in charge at the time asked me if I'd ever thought of perhaps doing her job. And I said, “No, no I haven't really”. And she said, “Well, if you try and go through the system,” she said, it could take you years, because you'd have to work for the authority and do a CSS. But they are doing a diploma now,” she said.
Well, I didn't have any academic abilities. I'd been quite poor at school. Actually, I'd left school at sixteen with absolutely nothing, and so I didn't have a lot of confidence in my ability to do any academic work.
But I eventually got to Bangor, and had an interview, and they suggested that I did an access course. And I did that, and I enjoyed that. I then got on to the Diploma in Social Work. So that was my introduction really.
Gwenda
I'd been caring for my mother, who is partially blind. And I thought, if I could look after my mother, surely I could help with coming here to work … to look after generally the elderly, because I enjoyed looking after my mother, and I still do. She's still independent, living on her own still. She's eighty eight now, and I got such a satisfaction looking after her, that I thought, “Oh I could make use of my life by looking after the elderly in general”.
Stephen Rashid
Is it very different?
Gwenda
Yes. With my mother, I was more involved. It was a challenge with the elderly, because I didn't know them before, and I like to get to know them … and different personalities. Well, I thought, I could make them happy in their old age.
Jo
I would struggle to find any one factor in my life that’s contributed towards my identifying social work as a career that I wanted to follow. I’ve always been very keen to see that people are able to exercise their rights. I’ve been interested in the sort of political forum, internationally, really. I suppose, when I was younger, I was interested in doing things for Amnesty International. But I can’t say that, through my family background, there were factors there that perhaps helped to form that as a path for me particularly. And I feel, in my work now that’s still very apparent … promoting people’s rights. It’s very much an important part of social work, I think. That interest has always been something significant to me. But I see that as being the case in a lot of different careers …in teaching … the whole educational sector.
I think that, although social work can seem quite utilitarian almost, you have to argue cases for funding, and weigh up one person’s needs as being greater than another person’s needs. It is really about the exercising of people’s rights and promoting that.
Andy
My brother’s an electrician … my dad is a welder. And, when I left school, I got an apprenticeship as a dental technician. And that was because my family had pushed me towards doing something technical … get a career, get some kind of apprenticeship. And social work’s the antithesis of everything else my family does.
Stephen Rashid
So what was their reaction when you announced that this was the way you were going?
Andy
Well, I did an English degree, and my dad despaired at that point. So, by the time I left university and was doing support work, they were just bemused. Social work … they were, I suppose, negative about the two year course. “Oh, another course … what was your degree for?” … and so on. But, as I’ve gotten older and once I qualify, then the starting salary’s not bad. And now my dad, in particular, can see that there was some point to it.
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