Recently, our Social Work Department hosted a ‘Mend the Gap’ project on behalf of the Regional West Midlands Social Work Teaching Partnership. We caught up with the students involved to find out about their experience and how it's helped them on their course.
A 'Mend the Gap' project is one in which a group of people come together to identify the gaps in social work provision for a identified group in society and look for possible solutions for how those gaps can be mended. The group attempts to be representative to take account of all perspectives. The pilot project looked at the experience of people who act as carers for people with learning disabilities and/or difficulties.
We spoke to some first-year BSc (Hons) Social Work students who were involved in the project along with Social Work lecturers, Social Work practitioners as well as the carers.
What’s the value of a Mend the Gap project?
Anthony: "It’s been great for many people to come together from different backgrounds – the facilitators, the practitioners and us students – and to hear other people’s experiences and to achieve a great goal."
Yvonne: "Mend the Gap allows different people from different walks of life, different perspectives and views, to come in and identify what’s missing, or the gaps that need to be mended or filled. You can then build on ideas together to find solutions and the way forward. This project was specifically looking at people with learning disabilities and their carers."
Patrice: "The value for me is that is enables practitioners, service users, carers and students alike to be valued and share their opinions to come up with ways to mend the gaps within society for people with learning disabilities and learning difficulties."
What have you gained from the Mend the Gap project?
Anthony: "I’ve gained a lot in a short amount of time. I’ve only been a student here since September  but being on this project for the past eight weeks has helped me to work with other people and other professionals but, most importantly, listening to the carers themselves and their experiences I feel will be really valuable for us students [who’ve been part of the project] while we’re doing our course here and when we go on placement. So I feel like I’ve learnt a lot – it’s been great!"
Yvonne: "For me, I’m not only a student, I’m also a carer for my son who has autism, so, by being around other carers, I’ve actually managed to network with them and I’ve seen myself some of the gaps that exist within society. So, it’s taught me as a student, to consider how I’m going to become a good social worker and how I’m going to make a difference for service users and their carers."
Patrice: "For me, it gives me value and a sense of belonging. It shows me that everybody’s opinions matter; your voice is meant to be heard regardless of whether you’re a student, a carer, a lecturer or a practitioner. We all worked together as a team to identify gaps."
How will taking part in the Mend the Gap pilot project impact on your studies and/or approach to your future placements?
Yvonne: "Mend the Gap provided me with an opportunity to work directly with carers. I enjoy my social work course a lot and having the chance to sit down and discuss as a team of carers, lecturers, social workers and students to identify gaps was an eye-opening experience for me. Observing carers and social workers interacting was educational and a rare opportunity because when I start my placement I will be working with service users and carers alongside social workers in assessments and providing services, rather than focusing on identifying gaps within social work.
"Soon after Mend the Gap project, I started my shadowing. It was interesting to see the gaps that we identified when meeting service users and their carers in a real-world content. I was shadowing in an adult setting and my approach to social work was more positive and inclusive of both carers and service users as a result of being part of the project because I understood the gaps that existed, and I respected the role of an anti-oppressive approach more.
"When I start my placement next January, I want to be the kind of social worker who builds rapport through simple acts such as accepting a cup of tea in a service user’s house. This is because, before Mend the Gap, I had knowledge of it, however I did not realise the extent of which a carer valued simple acts like partaking tea together as a way of building a professional relationship with a social worker.
"I am also grateful for linking with the carers because, although I am a student, I am firstly a mother who cares for a disabled son and the carers provided me with information that has been helpful for me on a personal level too."
Are you considering Social Work?
We spoke to student, Jess, who gave us 10 reasons she thinks Social Work is a good choice!