October 28, 2016, by Carla
How I Went From an Arts Degree to a Career in Social Work
by Anna Halsall, BA English and Philosophy, graduated 2011
After leaving university, I was unsure where my next chapter would lead me. I knew I wanted a career that provided challenge, variety, and was fulfilling. I toiled with the idea of commencing postgraduate social work study, but held off initially to build up my work experience. After a three year stint of working at a not-for-profit and teaching overseas, I found myself knocking at the door of social work once again. This was in 2014…
Exploring different routes into social work
I considered different postgraduate routes into social work and was encouraged to apply for Frontline by a friend who had completed a similar fast-track programme. After reading up on what Frontline had to offer, it was the prospect of becoming immersed in practice at an early stage and learning ‘on the job’, that really appealed to me. The assessment process for the programme was vigorous, although very appropriate for a role that tests endurance, resilience, and your ability to reflect and analyse on a daily – or even hourly! – basis.
The programme commenced with an intensive five-week summer institute. This included attending lectures conducted by renowned academics in the field, poignant talks from ‘experts by experience’ and interactive seminars. After this, I was transferred to the Children’s Services team within an allocated local authority. In the first year of the programme, I was placed in a unit, which consisted of two other participants and a Consultant Social Worker.
My first year working on the frontline
Throughout my first year in practice, the unit undertook direct case work with families. I personally feel that I really benefited from the opportunity to directly apply theory to practice, as the academic work was tailored to cater to my practical experiences. The academic tutors were particularly helpful in supplying the most up-to-date research relating to my caseload. At the end of this year, I obtained a PGDip Social Work, and then as a qualified practitioner, I continued practising in a child protection team where I am still working to date.
Throughout both years of the programme, I felt incredibly supported by both the local authority and by the team of committed staff at Frontline. Having now completed the programme, I have a masters in social work, have passed my ASYE (Assisted Supported Year in Employment) and have two years of direct frontline experience in children’s services.
Looking forward to the future
For the foreseeable future, I intend to remain working within my current team, however, I am also excited about exploring future opportunities to transfer to Adult Services or roles within the voluntary sector. For anybody considering applying to the Frontline programme, I would encourage you to read more about what is on offer online. I feel very fortunate to have been part of the first, pioneering cohort and am excited about joining the alumni network that will offer me guidance, support and further learning as I move forward in my career.
Most importantly, for anybody considering social work as a career, I would proudly encourage you to join the profession. It is a privilege to enter into the lives of families and walk alongside them through their individual journeys, often in times of crisis and in their darkest moments. Almost on a daily basis I find myself marvelling at the sheer levels of resilience and determination that can be observed both within children and adults. I am constantly learning from both the families I work with and the dedicated team of colleagues that I observe and am supported by. The role comes with immense responsibility and with that, there are challenges, set-backs and at times, ‘success’ within the role may feel difficult to measure. However, I could not think of anything else that I would rather be doing.
On reflection, I do not doubt that the opportunities Nottingham provided – including overseas expeditions, and volunteering within the UK and internationally for worthwhile causes – helped lead me to a career that has firm values based in social justice. It is these same opportunities that also helped prepare me for a role working alongside the most vulnerable in society.
Frontline is recruiting 300 participants for its Leadership Development Programme. Want to make real change for children and families? Find out more about social work and start your application by visiting the Frontline website. Applications close 21 November. There is also more information about social work careers on our website, or to discuss your options with a careers adviser, book an appointment online.
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