Michael graduated with a Diploma in Social Work from Reading University and then went on to complete postgraduate study in social work at Oxford Brookes University. He currently works as a social worker in the Children's Services Access and Assessment Team for a local authority.
I initially started out with a fixed contract working for the Probation Service as a probation volunteer. I then became a volunteer worker, working with young people. When the contract ended, a sponsored post became available providing the opportunity to undertake further study. I decided on social work because I felt it would open up interesting possibilities. Due to contractual commitments, I worked as a probation officer with young people two years after graduation before securing a job as a social worker.
I feel that the social work course prepared me well for my job. As well as academic subjects such as sociology, social policy, criminology and law, I also had the opportunity to study social work skills, which covered areas such as interviewing, reflecting and restating - all really useful in my current job. A large proportion of the course was practical, which helped to develop my communication skills. I had to return to study to undertake attachment and child development modules separately as I had chosen criminology as opposed to child development following my initial interest in probation work. However, within my current role understanding criminal motivations can be very useful.
My role involves visiting families, speaking to children and their parents/guardians. I assess risk, make recommendations for support and show people how to access it. I advise court about a situation that exists in a home and I try to ensure children are safe. The job is demanding, especially when working with children. However, I get a buzz from making peoples' lives better.
The role is constantly developing as it is generally research driven and as good practice recommendations are made, the service adapts to include them. Although the role is more in the public eye these days, it has also benefited from more openness. It is both legal and supportive - an interesting mixture these days.
I hope to advance towards management but, like many social workers, I want to continue working with people. Although effective service delivery is a team effort, I feel that without competent managers we cannot operate efficiently.
I enjoy the fact that I can help children, keep them safe, help them to reach their potential and improve their lifes. The job is also very varied, which makes it more interesting.
It's a very busy job and as we are the first point of contact some things we witness can be distressing. However, in a good team everything can be managed. Sometimes professional detachment is very important.
I feel that it's important for students and graduates wanting to enter this role to have an interest in their community and some experience within the social care sector.
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