Special not Special

I'm Special

A guest blog by student social worker @RShirtliffe

Social Workers = Special type of person, aren’t they?

I am currently embarking on my second year at University to one day become a qualified Social Worker. To myself, becoming a Social Worker would be a ‘dream transfer’, as the footballers would say, into a career I have long been striving for. However, should I drop this information onto others around me I seem to get a similar response:

“A Social Worker? You’re brave” – (puffs out cheeks and raises eyebrows)

“Really?” – (confused face)

“Rather you than me” – (relieved someone else wants to do it, as if they could be called upon to become a social worker themselves like jury service)

Then there is the most common but uncomfortable response of all….“Couldn’t do it me, taking people’s kids off them. Not for me that” – (accompanied with a scrunched up facial expression and upper lip movement that says social work is disapproved of nationwide).

Is social work really removing children from families? Surely that’s not right.  What is the role of a social worker? Will I be hated before I’ve even become a social worker? These are just a few of the many questions that I thought about, but I could not answer until I finally made the decision to enroll at University. Meeting different social workers with various amounts of experience and knowledge has really helped to clear my mind. But has it erased the nagging thought that I will still be disliked by many before they get to know me? No. If anything, it has made me worry that it will be a common re-occurrence.

The most powerful response I have had the privilege of trying to compute is “takes a special type of person to want to do that”.

Does it? Why do people have to be ‘special’ to want to help people find purpose. Or to offer to help somebody battle a situation that they maybe don’t fully understand. Or to simply have someone check on them every now and again. What is so special about ringing or visiting someone to check that they are happy with their life, or not in some cases. I don’t have to be a social worker to do those things, nobody does. It’s worrying to think that the public see someone as special for wanting to make a difference to others lives.

Before starting university, I was very naïve to the sheer size and scope of areas that social workers are expected to work to and within. To me a social worker did it all, children, adults, older people, families. Now I’m a little more up to date with the different types of social work and social work employers, I can see why so many people don’t fully understand what a social worker does or can do. I will hold my hand up and admit that I myself once had a very simplistic opinion as to why I wanted to be a social worker. Simply because I wanted to help people. That was it. How ideal that would be if that was my job role. There would be much less disapproval.

Social work is planning, meetings, specific work taking place every day to protect and safeguard, years of training and practice. These unspoken aspects are the heartbeat of the social work role and I for one cannot wait to be managing my caseloads using all the tools out there available.

So as my first placement of my social work training draws closer and closer and I feel the build up of nerves and excitement, I keep questioning how I will be seen by the people I will be working with.

“Student social worker, you know nothing!”

“You’re just another one of them”

Or maybe, and it seems a little far fetched, but I might be liked…..

After all, I am special right?