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World Social Work Day – A second-year social work student’s experiences

Posted: 16/03/20

Currently doing a four-month placement with Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (CNTW), Isobel Kent-Lowe is a student social worker in her second year at Northumbria University…

She says the reason she wanted to become a social worker was to be able to support people who are less fortunate. “Being a social worker means you can make a real difference to people’s lives,” she said. “Social work gives vulnerable people a voice and allows them to make their own choices.”

Based in the children and young people’s services at Benton House, Isobel has been assisting with assessments and home visits during her placement. She has been helping children with their self-esteem, doing low level counselling and getting to know them.

“We’re involved in every aspect of a child’s lives looking at how things can impact how they feel, from their school, family, friends and living situation,” Isobel explained.

Although it can be emotionally tough, it is working with parents and seeing their reactions that Isobel finds the most rewarding thing about social work.

“Often parents aren’t doing anything wrong but might not understand their child and the issues they might be having.”

“Seeing the relief on their faces when they have been struggling with something and we’re able to help is extremely fulfilling, and can make a massive difference in relationships with their children.”

While social work is a worthwhile job, there are times when it can be very difficult. For Isobel, the hardest part is hearing some of the things people have been through.

“Hearing the extent of people’s suffering can upset me and I sometimes find myself thinking about it for a few days after, wondering if they’re okay,” she said.

The theme of this year’s World Social Work Day is relationships, something which Isobel says is vital to the role of a social worker. Developing meaningful relationships with service users allows social workers to build trust and have open and honest conversations.

Having good relationships also helps Isobel improve in her role. She added: “Having a good relationship with a service user allows social workers to gather feedback to see what’s working for them and how to progress, rather than just having meetings for the sake of it.”

Throughout her university course Isobel has done a variety of different placements, including within learning disability services, safeguarding and child protection.

Isobel acknowledges that there can be negative perceptions of social workers, something she describes as a ‘blame game’ with serious case reviews.

She said: “There is often talk in the media about negative things but there’s not a lot of talk about the positive things we do all the time. There is good work being done every day.”

To learn more about what it’s like to be a social worker at CNTW, you can read our introduction to social work at CNTW, as well as Justin, Van and Laura’s thoughts on their day-to-day roles.