Live Q&A: How to become a social worker

Getting started in the social work profession was a baptism of fire for Joe Brown.

Anyone needing a real glimpse into what it is really like in this line of work should read about Joe’s experiences in a recent piece for SocietyGuardian. It’s a feature that exposes the highs and lows of a profession that regularly takes a beating in the press.

For example, rather than being greeted with a hello, the first time Joe met a family during his training, it was actually more of a hostile opening.

“I didn’t realise you had to have training to be a bastard,” said the father. But this didn’t put him off the job.

SocietyGuardian recently shadowed Joe and another newly-qualified social worker for a day. As you can expect, working in frontline social work is certainly no walk in the park; the hours can be long and the work emotionally draining. But Joe explained how the challenges of the job – including dealing with initial resentment – are balanced with little successes that “make the job feel worthwhile.”

In a Guardian Careers blog, professor of social work Sue White also pointed out how rewarding becoming a social worker can be. She said: “Successfully helping a young person who has left the care system and is now addicted to heroin get clean for the sake of her baby and watching that baby thrive takes some beating, even if you’ve seen many more, who don’t succeed.”

So, what is involved in qualifying to become a social worker? How much practical experience will you need to get onto a university course? And are councils still offering financial incentives to attract recently qualified graduates? Our panel of experts are answering these questions and more in a live Q&A on 14 April between 1pm to 4pm – advance questions are welcome below.

For ongoing coverage about the social work profession, visit the local government network and sign up for the Social Care Weekly newsletter.

Our panel:

Sarah Coates is a social worker at CLIC Sargent, a leading cancer charity for children and young people. She has been a qualified social worker for eight years, working within local authorities before joining CLIC Sargent in 2006. In her current role at Southampton General Hospital, she is often shadowed by first year social work students.

Amanda Wollam, who currently works for Telford & Wrekin Council, qualified as a social worker in 1981. Amanda’s career has included stints working as part of a fostering and adopting team, within adult services and in community care.

Peter Northrop has worked for Skills for Care, part of the sector skills council Skills for Care and Development, since 2007. He has lead responsibility for social work in Yorkshire and the Humber. Peter qualified as a social worker in 1983 and worked in frontline social work for 18 years.

Elizabeth Guyatt is an experienced social worker for Bromley Council, with particular expertise in the field of safeguarding adults. Elizabeth gained her social work training at Royal Holloway, University of London, in 2001 after working in scientific publishing and translation in Moscow.

Nushra Mansuri is a professional officer for the BASW – The College of Social Work, which is a professional association for social work. Nushra is a qualified social worker.

Dr Jean Dillon is a senior lecturer in Social Work at Middlesex University in London. She is an expert on how social workers join the profession and how they develop throughout their career. Her academic teaching and research spans social work education and practice.

Alison Twynam has been in the social work profession for 23 years and has been at Hertfordshire County Council as the head of policy, practice and quality assurance for the past four years. She has always worked in children’s social work and has chaired several child protection conferences.

Hayley Daniels-Lake is a personal coach and therapist at Prior to this role, Hayley spent five years working in social care. This experience led to her beginning a Social Work degree.

Professor Corinne May-Chahal is interim co-chair of The College of Social Work. Corinne is also currently professor of applied social science at Lancaster University.

Paul Marriott is managing director of Hays Health and Social Care.

Allan Rose is a lecturer on the social work degree programmes at Brunel University. Prior to working in education, his career was largely in statutory children’s social work based in local authorities.

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