We have spoken with Children’s Social Workers who have recently completed their Step Up to Social Work training, here’s what they had to say:
Jo, Sheffield City Council
Jo, a theatre and performance graduate, was working in a temporary job as an adoption register administer when she decided she could make a difference by becoming a social worker.
Unable to give up work to afford another degree, Jo applied for the Step Up to Social Work programme as it gave her the opportunity change career in spite of her financial constraints. She was admitted to the February 2012 cohort and graduated in May 2013.
Looking back, she describes it as “the hardest 18 months of training she’s ever done” as students have to do everything – from placements to paperwork – very quickly. Jo says that she “felt lucky to be on it” and feels that Step Up produces capable social workers as it instills the attitude of being a practitioner as well as a student in you, embedding the ethos of continued learning.
Jo’s memorable success:
“I helped to find a permanent home for three siblings, aged 4, 2 and 1, together. The children were quite a handful and the oldest had delayed development as a result of severe neglect. The view was it would be difficult to keep them together, however I managed to find a promising adoptive family profile which was approved by the Adoption Panel and the children happily settled with them. That was two years ago and I’ve since received a thank you letter, which is precious to me because it’s such a lovely success story.”
Sue, Leeds City Council
Sue, 51, got a BA degree in Early Childhood Studies and worked as a nursery nurse and later a family support worker before joining the 2014 Step Up programme. Sue wanted to get into social work 10 years before she managed to, and tried various routes, but struggled to find something that allowed her to continue supporting her family. “Then I heard about Step Up” she explained, “and it really fitted my needs.”
As well as attending lectures in Leeds, Sue was put on placement with an adult mental health crisis team, then spent six-months in children’s services where she is now on the front line as a qualified social worker. Sue describes Step Up as a course that “fully equips you for what’s coming” – hard work, with high expectations, but “life-changing”. “We got exceptional support and are still getting it – it’s gotten me where I wanted and it does make you literally ‘step up’ and push harder.”
Sue’s memorable success:
“I had a mother suffering domestic violence who was resistant to help from social services. I did a fresh assessment, however, and began working directly with her. Using visual tools, I showed her the impact of domestic violence on her six-year-old son, who was underperforming at school. In time, the Mum began to work with me, realising that her son must come first. A Child Protection Plan was put in place and a court order made to prevent the violent partner from accessing their home. Within six months, they were living safely in their home without the need for a Child Protection Plan. I’d say it was perseverance – from both myself and the mother – that got us to such a good place.”
Kate, Leeds City Council
Before joining the Step Up to Social Work programme in 2014, Kate had been a freelance photographer, a museum worker, a credit controller, a teaching assistant and the non-teaching head of year at a secondary school.
For such a variety of roles, there was one theme that ran throughout for Kate: her ability to help others. So when Kate, now aged 30, heard about the fast-track social worker programme, she jumped at the chance. Her 15-month course included placements at an adult mental health centre and with Leeds City Council Child Protection team, where she is now a permanent member of the team. She says of her final placement and current work:
“It was fantastic. I feel lucky to be in Child Protection and to have been trained on the Step Up programme as nothing is guaranteed. At Leeds it’s fast-paced and varied because the team deals with a wide range of services – triage, duty assessment, looked-after-children, Child In Need and Child Protection plans.”
Kate’s memorable success:
“We worked with a couple in their twenties to help them keep their first child. Due to her traumatic childhood, Mum felt she couldn’t cope mentally with the role of being a parent. Dad, however, wanted to care for the baby. We took the unusual step of placing the child under an interim care order and housing the whole family in a foster home, where intensive parenting support was given. They learned practical skills, like nappy changing and feeding, but also how to look after Mum’s mental health so she didn’t become overwhelmed.
Three months later the court decided they could return home with support from social and health services. I was proud that at Leeds City Council we were able to think differently to break the pattern. The foster carers were open to doing something unusual – in this case, working with Dad as the primary carer.”
Denise, North Yorkshire County Council
Denise was one of the students that attended the first Step Up to Social Work programme in 2010.
The course was tough but gave her the grounding needed to work in children’s services. She says: “It was really intense, you’d be on placement and doing assignments at the same time. The fast pace of the course does prepare you for what life is like in child protection. It’s a juggling act to achieve everything.” Denise, who had previously worked in specialist needs schools in Scarborough, was sent on placements in adult services, a children’s home and in child protection, where she plans to stay.
“My final placement showed me which area I wanted to be in. From completing assessments to statutory visits and court work, I like the pace of the work we do. It’s difficult, and sometimes stressful, but that appeals to me.”
Denise’s memorable success:
“We had a mother and two children under 10 suffering domestic violence from an ex-partner. We worked with Mum – keeping in close contact and signposting her to appropriate help – to ensure the children were kept safe and that she did not return to the abusive relationship. It was wonderful to see the children responding positively to intensive play therapy and for the Mum to start working as a volunteer. In the beginning, she had not wanted to know and thought social workers were awful. But she ended up sending a lovely card to me saying how grateful she was. These experiences make it worthwhile.”
Jayne, Leeds City Council team leader, talking about Step Up students
“We’ve had two Step Up students on their final 100-day placement here and both of them got jobs with us afterwards. One, in her twenties, came from a secondary school teaching assistant role. The other, in her forties, had a housing support and mental health background. Both have gone into child protection and one is on my team.
When they come to us they are really well prepared and ready to hit the ground running. They have an understanding of what they are coming into and what is expected of them. It’s an excellent scheme and Leeds is keen to retain its Step Up students, so we benefit from our input and some well-rounded practitioners.”
Check out what one of our students, Lewis, from Cohort 4 had to say in these two short videos