Case study

Social worker — Hannah Rudd

A supportive team and a good working culture are important to Hannah in her social work career

How did you get your social work job?

After a few years of working as a social worker in a community mental health setting, I decided I wanted to go into children's social work, which I hadn't done since my training.

I registered with an agency to find the right position and as I wasn't sure whether I would enjoy the work - this would allow me to move on quickly if it wasn't the right fit. Plus, as social work is a difficult job, it's essential that the team you work in are supportive, so I wanted to be able to check out the team culture before committing to a position.

Luckily, the first agency assignment I had was in the children in care team with Derbyshire County Council, and I enjoyed it so much that I have applied for a permanent position.

How relevant is your degree to your job?

My BA in politics and philosophy was helpful for learning about the political context of the work that I now do, while my Masters in social work directly relates to my current role, and involved two placements during the degree.

What are your main work activities in your social care role?

There is a huge amount of variety in my role and things can change at short notice, but on a typical day, I'll check emails to see if something has come in overnight or over the weekend.

I'll attend meetings relating to the children I work with who have personal education plans, and team around the child meetings, and also visit the children. The settings of visits can vary, so I may see children at home, out for a walk or we'll go and get a hot chocolate. I also arrange contact with birth families and ensure they have the support they need.

I additionally have informal supervision sessions with colleagues, where I'll chat through problems and challenges. Each day, I need to be able to respond to any crisis or urgent work that comes in.

How has your role developed and what are your career ambitions?

Since becoming a social worker, I have completed Practice Educator Professional Standards (PEPS), which qualifies me to be a practice educator and have student social workers work with me.

What do you enjoy most about social work?

The best thing about my job is building relationships with families, seeing people learn and grow, and when children meet their milestones or excel in certain areas. One of 'my' children wrote a poem recently and it made me cry.

Also, working within a team of people who are passionate about good outcomes for children, and are supportive of each other.

What are the most challenging parts of your role?

Many of the families we work with have experienced trauma, some for generations, and so sometimes people don't respond the way we think they will. This can make communication tricky at times.

Seeing children upset because of the experiences they've been through, and when they feel let down is also challenging. This can even sometimes be because you've let them down, on occasions where you've missed or been late for a visit, etc.

The care system itself is also a challenge because there isn't enough money, and not enough foster carers or social workers.

Any words of advice for someone who wants to become a social worker?

Have realistic expectations and celebrate little wins. We do make a difference, but it takes time and consistency. There are a lot of hard days but there are lots of glimmers of hope too - it's important to recognise those.

When looking for a job, see if they offer reflective supervision, as well as your mandatory case supervision. A lot of emotions come up when you work in social care, so it's good to have a safe place to work these through.

Practice boundaries and saying no. Often in this job you go above and beyond because you want to do the best for the families you work with, but if you say yes to everything and burn yourself out, you can't help anyone.

By having set working hours or taking your time back when you do need to work over you can support your work/life balance. There will always be something at work to do, but you will work more effectively by having a break.

Also, it is good to be a team player, but if you're always having to fill in gaps in the service, managers won't ever feel like they need to fill that gap.

Have a life outside of work. Get a hobby, find ways to relax, whether that’s walking the dog, going to gym, wine tasting, whatever. Don't sacrifice your life for the job.

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