An introduction to social work
An introduction to social work

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An introduction to social work

Your life story

Now, you are invited to think about the person whose life story you know best: yourself!

Activity 3 Your life story

Timing: Allow 20 minutes to complete

Below are five brief audio clips. Each clip focuses on a specific question, answered by Open University social work students and graduates from across the UK. Listen to each of the clips.

Download this audio clip.Audio player: Audio 1 What inspired you to train to become a social worker?
Skip transcript: Audio 1 What inspired you to train to become a social worker?

Transcript: Audio 1 What inspired you to train to become a social worker?

SPEAKER 1
What inspired you to train to be a social worker?
SPEAKER 2
I think for me my inspiration to become a social worker started when I was doing my undergraduate degree in psychology with criminology. That allowed me to then move on to working as an independent mental health advocate. And in that role, I was able to work alongside social workers, mental health officers, and really understand and appreciate their perspective in terms of antidepressant practice, in terms of helping someone to reach their potential and their outcomes, and I felt that this was something that I really wanted to pursue as a career. It tied in with my interest in mental health practice and, obviously, social work, as well, and being in a way forward to actually try and make a difference in someone's life.
SPEAKER 3
I think it were experience. I used to work in a children and family team in care and protection as a social worker assistant. And meeting the team and see what social work can make a difference, I decided to give it a go. I wanted to be like them. I suppose that one is why I decided to start a social work training, just to be like many friends that inspired me.
SPEAKER 4
I suppose it was something that I'd wanted to do for many years and hadn't been able to because I was working. I suppose, really, that was, the OU then gave me that route in.
SPEAKER 5
I was in support work roles and continued being support work roles. But I came into the job I'm in now and saw social workers around me, and I actually think that my perception of social work changed a bit. I realised that what I had thought a social worker was, or what I thought their work was limited to, wasn't entirely reflective of reality. And actually, their role was a lot wider, a lot more holistic, and a lot more caring and nurturing, because I think there is a perception that social workers are so authoritative and come in with their own agenda. And then the role that I'm in now is like, that's not the case at all. And they make a real and tangible difference, but in a very practical way.
End transcript: Audio 1 What inspired you to train to become a social worker?
Audio 1 What inspired you to train to become a social worker?
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Download this audio clip.Audio player: Audio 2 How does social work make a difference?
Skip transcript: Audio 2 How does social work make a difference?

Transcript: Audio 2 How does social work make a difference?

SPEAKER 1
In everyday practical ways, how does social work make a difference?
SPEAKER 2
Well, someone can take control of their support and commission it themselves. And then, it could also be seen as another arm of the state in terms of we have statutory duties to abide by and comply with. So for example, in The Adult Support and Protection Act 2007, we have a statutory duty to undertake inquiries, investigations, case conferences if we feel that an adult is at risk of harm. There's obviously the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) Act as well, where mental health officers would have a statutory duty to assess and agree to interventions and compulsory measures to protect someone's well-being.
SPEAKER 3
We usually enter the life of people when they are the most difficult and fragile moment. And I think that being the calm figure that they want to guide them through the difficulty and offer the support that they need or they might-- they can't-- they don't have it is the best way that will describe that-- the role of social worker and why we're making a difference.
SPEAKER 4
I think even just those roles of advocating, supporting, and sometimes even just a practical support that social workers give, it's all the unseen things that are probably the most valuable to the most vulnerable in society.
SPEAKER 5
You're going to have social workers who are going in and doing really supportive and empowering work with face-to-face with people and empowering them to make a change and a difference to their own lives and to use their own strengths to do that. And if that is with parenting skills, for example, or on the ground with skills in terms of managing with a child with tantrum behaviors and really help them support them with that. But then you come the whole way through the spectrum to the social workers who are in a much more managerial kind of role. And I don't mean that they're social worker managers, but I mean, that actually they've got a lot of power behind them in terms of their role is to fulfill whatever part of the legislation is talking about.
End transcript: Audio 2 How does social work make a difference?
Audio 2 How does social work make a difference?
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Download this audio clip.Audio player: Audio 3 What are the biggest challenges facing social work today?
Skip transcript: Audio 3 What are the biggest challenges facing social work today?

Transcript: Audio 3 What are the biggest challenges facing social work today?

SPEAKER 1
What are the biggest challenges facing social workers in Scotland today?
SPEAKER 2
I think the biggest challenge that's facing social work in Scotland today is really around austerity. There's been years of budget freezes-- or budget cuts and a request for the local authority in general and social work services to save money. And this has led to our resources in the local area being quite stretched and limited. And whether that be third sector agencies, maybe not receiving funding the following year, or being limited in what they're able to provide.
SPEAKER 3
At the moment, I'm working a caring community team, and I think that the amount of the waiting lists-- the size of the waiting lists and the pressure that you have. Because you are told to take time to work at the pace of the service user to use a person-centered approach. And you need to do these things in order to reach a positive outcome with the service user, but on the other side that there is hundreds of people waiting for you. So it's to balance the speed and the pressure that you-- in order to provide the service for everybody and not just for a few.
SPEAKER 1
OK. Thinking about social work in Northern Ireland, what do you think are the biggest challenges today in Northern Ireland in terms of social work?
SPEAKER 4
Well, at the minute, I think mental health issues and probably the lack of capacity and funding there.
SPEAKER 5
We've got an aging population. We're getting more people living later in life. And with that comes huge challenge in terms of supporting them well.
End transcript: Audio 3 What are the biggest challenges facing social work today?
Audio 3 What are the biggest challenges facing social work today?
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).
Download this audio clip.Audio player: Audio 4 What advice would you give to someone thinking about becoming a social worker?
Skip transcript: Audio 4 What advice would you give to someone thinking about becoming a social worker?

Transcript: Audio 4 What advice would you give to someone thinking about becoming a social worker?

SPEAKER 1
If you're going to give somebody advice about becoming a social worker, what advice would you give them?
SPEAKER 2
Being a social worker is challenging. We're in challenging situations with people. And we have to build rapport with service users and clients where they may not have the same values. They may not have the same attitudes towards life in different situations that we do. So having your own value base, and being able to reflect upon that, and not push your own values onto someone else, and respect their choices and their right to autonomy is really important.
SPEAKER 3
The course is hard. It's hard work. So just if you're entering, that you are aware that you need to pause a lot of personal commitment for the duration of the course. Because it's hard work. I'm finding it hard. And it's hard to balance your life and the study, and the placement, and everything together.
SPEAKER 4
I would say there's a lot of hard work. But it's also very rewarding.
SPEAKER 5
I would say to consider what you think a social worker is and what you think you need to be to be a social worker. Because I think the two, quite often, are different to initial expectations. And that doesn't mean that it has to be-- that doesn't mean that it's wrong. Or because of what you thought a social worker is, it's slightly different from what a social worker actually is means that you shouldn't do social work. But it's just-- there can be a bit of discrepancy in terms of reality and thoughts. Or certainly, there was for me, yeah.
End transcript: Audio 4 What advice would you give to someone thinking about becoming a social worker?
Audio 4 What advice would you give to someone thinking about becoming a social worker?
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).
Download this audio clip.Audio player: Audio 5 Why study social work at The Open University?
Skip transcript: Audio 5 Why study social work at The Open University?

Transcript: Audio 5 Why study social work at The Open University?

SPEAKER 1
And why did you study social work at The Open University, and what are its benefits?
SPEAKER 2
So I undertook the Open University postgrad diploma in social work because I was offered the opportunity through my local authority to do the studentship route. And there was a partnership established already with The Open University. However, my experience with The Open University was actually really good, really positive. What I found was the structure of the course allowed me to plan when I was going to study, what I was going to study and how. My partner at home worked shifts. So this was really ideal doing online learning because I didn't have to commit to traveling to University. I didn't have to take time out of maybe spending time with him at home. I could really focus on having that work-life balance.
SPEAKER 3
So my employer choose the Open University. It's great. I live up North in Scotland in a rural community. So is-- it would be the only way for me to access the courses. Flexible, it's accessible is-- The quality of the resources is astounding. The tutors, they are great. Overall is a great University to study for with like get them done. Sometimes online learning has a stigma, but the Open University takes the stigma and turn upside down because the quality is incredible.
SPEAKER 4
Yeah, well, I suppose the flexibility has been fantastic. And I think even in terms of the modules because I actually started down another route and then switched to social work. And I've been able to have that flexibility and even access the modules on the go. Quite often, I'll sit outside school at school pick up and read through some of the online materials. And it's just that flexibility of being able to balance everything has been really good.
SPEAKER 5
Chose Open University because it was flexible really. I was at a stage in life where I didn't want to go back to. I had financial commitments as part of it, and I needed to work. I also felt that I had passed the stage of quite typical university days. I had done university before, and I'd had my student experience. And so I just wanted to keep working but study on the side. It fit really well with what I had brought to in terms of my previous education, my previous qualifications. And so it was accessible in that sense.
End transcript: Audio 5 Why study social work at The Open University?
Audio 5 Why study social work at The Open University?
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