Social Work Placements
It's vitally important for students to apply theoretical knowledge gained in the classroom to clients within a practice-based setting.
What happens on placements?
Placements help you develop the knowledge and skills required to be successful in your future career:
- While on placement you will be expected to adopt the working hours of your social work department. This could involve working shifts, weekends and bank holidays.
- We offer help to cover all aspects of your placement.
- When you go on placement, you will be allocated a placement tutor, who will be contactable and may visit you during the placement.
To give you an insight into what it's really like, watch the film of Meridy on her placement and read the lowdown from Sharon on the challenges and joys of both of her placements experiences.
Steven's story: A social work student on placement
To describe it in one sentence: a fast-paced, exciting, scary and challenging emotional rollercoaster. No day is the same. Often you are left to your own devices as you plan your day and attempt to fit in all of your tasks and leave enough time spare to complete the jobs that never do get completed. Get used to that. Time management is a very important skill in this field. Nobody appreciates the work load of the social worker out on the front line.
Get used to rushing about. An abundance of home visits, meetings, conferences, core groups for example will fill your diary at a great pace. Take control of this, own it, do not be scared to say no or wait an appropriate time to return a call. Prioritise your work. Emotions get tested, patience gets stretched, you will get caught up in office politics and you will not please everyone. But, you will, as time goes by, realise that this is what it is all about. You have got this far and you are out in the real world putting your skills and knowledge base to the test.
There’s no other job like this. You will be put in some of the most difficult situations you have ever been in. You will be relied on to make some of the most difficult decisions you have ever had to make. You will do this happy that whatever choice you make is made with your client’s best interests at heart; this is a great feeling. I cannot explain the feeling of satisfaction you will get when a family thanks you for the work you have carried out, although this is sadly a rare occasion due to the nature of the role.
I cannot guarantee that you will agree with the practice that you see out in the field or the policies that in fact drive your own way of working; that is down to you as an individual. However, I can guarantee that, regardless of your placement, you’re about to be introduced to an amazing learning experience. You’re about to learn new skills and gain an understanding of your chosen subject that you cannot get from a text book.
Embrace it, engage on a deep and personal level and enjoy the ride. You are about to learn more about yourself than you ever knew.
Jane's story: a day in the life of a social work student on a statutory placement
During my practice placement I was placed in a Local Authority within the Children in Care Team. My work within this team has been varied and I provided support to children who were fostered, and their foster carers to meet the variety of their needs. This placement gave me an opportunity to work with Children in Need (CIN), Child Protection (CP), Safeguarding and to familiarise myself with the Common Assessment Framework (CAF) process.
I was allocated five cases for which I was directly responsible. Throughout my time on placement, the foster carers and the children that I was working with were aware that I was a student social worker and I had to see their consent if I had to include any information of them in my University work; this demonstrated my professionalism, and that I followed the Birmingham City University Code of Ethics and HCPC Code of standards.
While at my practice placement I had the opportunity to work with professionals from a variety of areas, including education (schools), police, housing projects, health, youth group organisations, law (court settings), and housing providers and private landlords. Working with these professionals enabled me to gain knowledge of different services and the roles they played to help support children and families. I attended school meetings for the children on my caseloads, placed some children under the Local Authority care out of area, and sourced appropriate accommodation for them. I specifically worked with children in care aged ten years and above who were sexually abused, were living with a parent who misused alcohol, had housing issues or were neglected by their biological parents.
I undertook initial visits with regard to referral to all five cases allocated to me. I also had the opportunity to shadow other qualified social workers from Safeguarding teams, which allowed me to attend family court proceedings for Safeguarding teams, family contacts appointments, adoption panel and review meetings, and Child Protection Conferences.
In addition I chaired different children’s meetings at different schools, took minutes and I was even involved in the process of a Section 47 of the Children Act (1989). I applied University theory to practice, particularly legislation. I was able to discuss any issues of concern with my Practice Supervisor and Practice Educator. I had an excellent first Practice Placement and I will apply this great experience and the skills I’ve acquired in my next Practice Placement, as well as after I qualify as a professional social worker.