Circle has a proud tradition of welcoming Social Work students from all over Scotland and providing them with frontline experience in order for them to qualify and be ready for the professional challenges that they will face in the future.
Three new students joined Circle recently and as per usual we thought we’d ask them a few hard-hitting questions in order for us all to get to know them better… And of course learn from the experiences they are gaining both academically and at the coalface.
Hi! Firstly let me welcome you again to Circle, I hope you are settling in well? Secondly, thanks for agreeing to chat to us, could you just take a second to introduce yourselves?
Hi, my name is Zoe and I am 21, on my final placement at Circle as a social work student! I am currently doing an undergraduate degree studying social work at the University of Dundee.
Craig More, 25. Currently studying Bsc Social Work at Edinburgh University. I’m on my final placement at Circle for 13 weeks. I’m currently in the Families Affected By Imprisonment (FABI) team.
My name is Keira, I am 21 and I am a student social worker at Circle. I am on placement at Circle from January until April. I am currently in my fourth year of a Social Work degree at Edinburgh University.
Before we start the serious questions I wonder if you could answer a little ice-breaker for us, if you could be any animal, what would you be, and why?
Zoe – I think I’d be a bear, I love the idea of hibernating through the winter since the cold and snow are not my friends so if I could avoid it as much as possible that definitely works in my favour and the overload of eating prior to hibernating I could get on board with too!
Craig – I would love to be an eagle because I’ve always wanted to be able to fly.
Keira – If I could be any animal I would be a sloth. Mostly because they are intelligent, they live a chilled life and are usually found sunning it up in a hot country, what more could you want? And let’s face it, they’re very cool!
That’s a great mix of animals to join our growing Circle zoo! But the flying, the chilling and the hibernating are all things I am sure people would be on board with. Other than transmogrification what are you passionate about?
Zoe – I enjoy going out on walks with my dog (who never seems to run out of energy) and seeing new places and exploring!
Craig – My main passions are football and history. In terms of music, my favourite band is Queen.
Keira – I am passionate about spending time with family and friends. I have a love/hate relationship with the gym and swimming and I am also passionate about travelling and love exploring new places.
Great to hear all of you are active, or force yourselves to be active! Its such a great boon to physical and mental health. Now that our supporters know you a little better I wonder if you could tell us what inspired you to study for a qualification in Social Work?
Zoe – My grandmother does a lot in terms of volunteering and supporting those in our communities especially when I was younger and those values and principles of care and helping have always strongly resonated with me and that is where I discovered social work and I am so glad to have chosen this path!
Craig – I have always enjoyed working with people and I want to support people in any way that I can
Keira – I have always known I wanted to do social work since I was young. Most kids want to be a teacher or an actor, but I wanted to be a social worker. As I started high school, I started to notice all of the inequalities and differences that people were facing, which only made me want to do this job even more. I have always been passionate about helping people and noticing the deeper issues that people are facing.
And how long have you been on placement at Circle?
Zoe – I started my placement at Circle the beginning of January, so I have been here for just under 2 months now!
Craig – I have been at Circle for 6 weeks now so I am half-way through my placement.
Keira – So far, I have been with Circle just over one month and have about two months to go. Although, I am still trying to get used to everything.
As you’ve had a little time with us know… What do you think the biggest difference is between studying and practicing Social Work? Are you learning or experiencing anything at Circle that you weren’t expecting?
Zoe – The biggest difference is being able to take what you’ve studied and efficiently apply that to your practice.
Craig – Learning about the theories in university was fairly easy but it was tricky at first to identify when and how I was using them in practice. I have had many opportunities to do this at Circle and I feel that it has improved my professional development.
Keira – I think the biggest difference is coming to the realisation that you can actually do something now and you are the person that people rely on. Throughout my course it was always difficult to see the end and actually imagine myself doing the work, but it is a good realisation that you can finally start to help make a difference. Another difference is trying to put things you have learned into practice. You learn a lot of theories and ways of working throughout your degree that you understand at the time but end up having a full new meaning once you start using them.
What type of work have you / will you been doing at Circle? What kind of challenges have you been supporting people with?
Zoe – Currently my caseload is pretty varied from providing family support, 1:1 child support and groupwork with fathers. This will involve building relationships and working with individuals and doing activities such as art therapy and baking. In terms of supporting my cases, it has predominately been around providing a space for individuals to explore and understand their emotional needs and supporting in the issues around parental substance use.
Craig – I have been working with fathers who are currently serving sentences in Addiewell prison. This has involved providing support to them and their families. There have been many practical issues such as housing and finances, and I have been supporting people to engage with support services such as mental health and substance addiction.
Keira – Currently I have 2 families and 2 young people on my case load. Since I am working within the Harbour project, most of my cases are tackling issues around parental alcohol use and parental mental health. These cases have all been new to me as I have never done this type of work before but I am enjoying learning alongside helping others.
For anyone reading this that is considering studying for a qualification in Social Work what would your top three tips be?
Be prepared for a lot of reading and always ask questions!
- It is a great chance for opportunities with a wide range of placements which is great to explore what field and sector you would like to progress in.
- DO IT!! It is such a rewarding profession all about making a difference in people’s lives, if you want to make a positive impact, then social work is a great way to do that!
- Get as much experience as you can before studying social work. This could be support work or volunteering that will help to develop your understanding of the role.
Keep up to date with the latest policy and research developments. This will help keep you constantly updated with the latest advances in social work practice
- Manage your expectations. Make sure you are realistic in the goals you are setting to avoid disappointment.
Stick with it! It is a long and difficult course and sometimes you can’t see the relevance to what you are doing, but it all comes together in the end and is worth it when you can see the finishing line.
- Don’t stress that you don’t understand everything first time. I didn’t fully understand a lot of the information I learned during my course until I actually used it in practice. You will get a lot of information during the course, it is difficult to remember it all but the important part is using it once you are working with people.
- Speak to other professionals. People who have put in the years of work are happy to share their knowledge and tips with you. The more people you get a chance to talk to/work with, the more you will learn.
When do you finish your studying and what is your plan for when you do? What type of job would you like to get? Why?
Zoe – Once I have finished placement, I will have one more final hand in and should be due to graduate in June 2021 (if all goes well). So, it comes to the dreaded question of what next… Currently I do not have a plan in terms of what’s next, I feel there is a wide variety of career options which open up from a social work degree so I am remaining pretty openminded to exploring the experiences and job opportunities that may present themselves.
Craig – My placement at Circle finishes on April 13th and my dissertation is due 3 weeks later so that will be the end of the studying. I would have liked to have taken a break and gone travelling but that looks unlikely at the moment so I plan on finding a job straight away. I have really enjoyed the criminal justice element of my work at Circle so I would love to get a job as a criminal justice social worker.
Keira – I would love to get a job within either children and families social work or youth justice. I love working with and helping children and think that both of these areas would have a lot to offer. The good thing about social work is that there are countless different paths you can take and a lot of different opportunities. Every placement I have been on so far, I have loved.
And finally, with the experience you have so far, what one change would you make to the world around us that would make the biggest positive difference to the families you support, and why?
Zoe – For more people to challenge stereotypes and stigma which are predominate within our society in order to ideally eradicate them. They have such damaging implications on individual’s self-esteem and prove as a massive barrier for vulnerable individuals who want to reach out for help and support and therefore, this is one of the changes I’d like to make in the world around us.
Craig – Definitely removing the structural barriers that affect families such as poverty and unequal access to opportunities. This would allow people to be more active members of society and have equal opportunities at accessing jobs, services and an overall increased quality of life.
Keira – The change I would make would be to reduce inequalities for everyone. The gap between the rich and the poor is so large that it creates so many issues for the poor, if inequalities were reduced this would hopefully reduce the amount of poverty and struggles that people face.
If you have any questions about our Learning and Development project then please get in touch with the project manager Fiona Burness – Fiona.Burness@Circle.Scot