Anna Mayer on her placement in a voluntary sector hostel for women

Having worked in the social care field since 2007, she realised that to progress her career and ultimately make a greater difference to people's lives, she would need to gain a qualification in social work.

Dynamic environment

Anna joined LSBU after being impressed by the staff and atmosphere of the course when visiting the campus. However she was ambivalent about returning to study, feeling better suited to the workplace than academia.

"Yet I was drawn to this course because of the opportunity to learn through practice placements in addition to teaching. I enjoyed the dynamic nature of learning and working on placement – researching to inform my practice, and practicing to inform my research. The quality of teaching is high. I value that all the teaching staff have experienced working as frontline social workers, and some continue to practice alongside their academic work. It's great that there are so many support options available across the University, from drop-ins at the library to the shiny new Student Centre, and more specific support if you have need for dyslexia and disability support.

As a course representative, Anna knows the value student input can have on courses: "I appreciate that our feedback is taken on board and valued by the faculty. I witness first-hand at course board meetings how students' views are acknowledged and used to make improvements."

Valuable skills

It was made clear to Anna's class from the start that now is a difficult time to get placements. "However, once we are offered an interview, it's in our hands to make it work."

Anna spent her 100 day placement at a voluntary sector hostel for women with high support needs including substance use, mental health difficulties, domestic violence, learning disability and history of offending. "I was able to build positive working relationships with all women in the hostel, including those termed 'hard to engage'. As a student I offered additional support to women who had higher needs than standard funding allowed for. I led on client involvement within the hostel, for example through residents' meetings."

Anna gained the valuable opportunity to work with other agencies including HIV specialists, drug and alcohol agencies, mental health services (CMHT, inpatient ward, therapeutic community) and attended MARAC (multi-agency risk assessment conferences).

The most valuable lesson for me is that people are people, regardless of their background, life experiences or any labels they may have. I had not previously worked with this service user group, but I learnt that many of my skills were transferable. Ultimately, it's about communication and building relationships.

Better career prospects

I hope that being qualified will give me a better chance of progression, as not having a degree was previously a barrier to this. When I graduate I hope to work as a social worker, initially in a children and families setting, though I am open to working in any field. I will have to complete the Assessed and Supported Year in Employment (ASYE) before I am a fully-fledged social worker. When this was first introduced I was frustrated that it would add another year of study, but I now see it as a positive way of gaining better support and protection in the work place.


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