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Is a career in social work for you? An interview with a Frontline student social worker

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In the UK, there are over 70,000 children in care, with a further 277,000 on ‘Child in Need’ plans.

Frontline is a charity providing training in social work, “with a mission to transform the lives of vulnerable children by recruiting and developing outstanding individuals to be leaders in social work and broader society”.

Frontline offers a range of excellent schemes for undergraduates, final-year students, as well as graduates and people who want a career change. Training as a social worker involves working with the third sector and really making a difference to individuals.

Rahim. Image credit: Frontline

Rahim, who’s in his second year on the Leadership Programme with Frontline, tells me that he found out about Frontline during his second year of university.

He says,I was going to a careers and jobs fairs. One day I went to a laws career fair with my friends. I saw an advertisement for Frontline and it simply said TO TRANSFORM THE LIVES OF VULNERABLE CHILDREN. I just felt something in that moment and from then onwards I wanted to get involved.

“I started off with them by being a brand manager, representing the charity in and around my university. By third year, the Leadership Program had opened up.”

Since leaving university, Rahim has been with Frontline for two years and works as a student social worker. When asked what his specific role entailed, he replies, “You can’t label social work with a few duty roles. One day I could be working with families, the next with young children.

“In England alone, there are around half a million children who don’t have a safe or stable home," he says. "Recently, there has been a rise in the number of children in care. These children are 6x more likely to be convicted or cautioned. It is imperative in the early years for social workers to get involved; this helps to prevent longer-term issues.”

Image credit: Frontline

I was interested to hear whether Rahim thought the government recognised the effects of these longer-term issues. He thinks that this is definitely an issue which needed to be raised: When it comes to social work I only see negative things in the media. When we look at crime we don't look at why and how these people came to act this way. If we look at statistics, these behaviours are often linked to childhood - if the work was put in at an early age it is something that could be avoided 100%.”

I have seen this negative representation in the media of social workers, they are often portrayed as the enemy of struggling parents. Rahim agreed that this was a big misconception.

“The biggest misconception would be that social workers are there to take your kids," he says. "You only hear in the media when things go wrong - everyday there are things going right. Social workers cannot take your kids, only the police or courts have the power to do that.

"Social workers are there to safeguard children.”

In the current political climate and with an increase in the number of asylum seekers in the UK, I was interested to know if Rahim thinks that diversity in social work could help communities.

He agrees that it is hugely important, saying, “It can open and break barriers between different people and us as social workers and provide relationships.”

Image credit: Frontline

Breaking down these barriers in order to provide support and guidance is one of the hardest jobs in social work. Rahim talks about a certain understanding being necessary: “In the present day due to the political climate, we are coming across people from all over the world, we need to somehow understand their culture and at the same time it is an opportunity for us to learn about them.”

Rahim also opens up about the hurdles he faced when entering this area of work, being from a South Asian background. “It is unusual for Asian members to go into social work; it is a field with predominantly white employees.”

He talks about criticisms he has had to overcome from his own family, including the prejudices that it was purely a woman’s job. Rahim says proudly, “I believe I have become a part of that increasing diversity by becoming a social worker.”

I ask Rahim what his biggest challenge has been so far. For him, it was purely having the confidence to jump right in and not be afraid to make mistakes. This is something Frontline supports employees in, “One of the great reasons why I joined Frontline was because I knew in my first year I'd have a consultant social worker for any questions I had, like a mentor.” These mentors provide guidance as well as taking on board any suggestions or changes their mentees might have.

There are a number of ways you can get experience in social work as well as Frontline. Rahim suggests getting involved with third sector organisations (volunteering), giving back to the people.

Frontline themselves offer a range of ways you can get involved, such as undergraduate taster days, and a three-week summer internship.

Recommending Frontline themselves, Rahim says, “During my time working for them as a brand manager I gained a range of skills, I built my confidence on public speaking, communication skills.”

“There are also Fellowship Networks with past participants, and I am always going to have those connections, so if I want retraining or have any ideas, I have those connections and there is always somebody to listen.”

Despite the job being a challenge, Rahim finds it equally rewarding: “I love the idea that I’m part of a wider network of workers across Britain and the globe, sharing a vision to safeguard children, elevate families and change lives. Once you are in the job you realise you're part of making a change and it feels really good.”

Social Work is becoming more and more important, especially in the current political climate. It is definitely something which should be spoken about more in the media, in particular, the excellent work that these employees are doing.

If you are interested in a career in social work, check out Frontline's Programmes here. Frontline speaks and appears at many careers fairs and talks in universities across the country so look out for them!

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