Faculty: Health, Social Care & Education
Department: School of Education and Social Care
BA (Hons) Social Work
Category: Social sciences and social care
3 July 2014
Mae Ashmore is a student social worker; here, Mae blogs about her experiences on placement in a secondary school where she was involved with a family in need.
In February 2013 I started my placement in a secondary school. Although some question what learning opportunities a student social worker can achieve in a non-statutory placement, I feel it can provide a student with a unique opportunity to assess many needs and to work collaboratively with service users and multi-agencies.
I vividly remember on the first day of my placement my on-site supervisor asked me: What did I want to get out of my placement and how could I develop my skills further? I said I would like to be involved with the community and scribbled this on to my book.
At that moment in time I put the thought to the back of my mind and became more concerned that the majority of the Year 7 children are taller than me. There was no way I was going to survive a year in a school where many of the students look older than me!
During one of my regular supervisions my on-site supervisor allocated me a case regarding a Year 7 student who often looked and smelt unclean. I had weekly one-to-one sessions with the student and used creative ways to assess his needs. During one session I asked him to draw a picture of his mum, older brother and his two younger brothers who were aged four and six. The exercise was called ‘Whose job?’ I had cut out a list of common jobs we do at home and I wanted to find out who was responsible for doing what in his house. I asked, ‘Whose job is it to cook dinner and whose job is it to lock the front door?’ It was at this point I thought something was not quite right. I expressed my concerns following the correct procedures and attempted to contact his mother on many occasions. One day a neighbour came to the school and shared her concerns regarding the family. It was becoming apparent that this family was particularly vulnerable. I visited the family home many times but to no avail. I looked in the back garden; household waste was strewn everywhere and I was concerned for the welfare of the children. I contacted the council to report the condition of the garden and I made a referral to the Children’s Social Care team; I was asked to continue to try and get the mother to engage. The family fled, the police broke into the house. The house was in an appalling state and a dog with a maggot infestation was removed.
I experienced many emotions during this process and did a lot of reflecting. Maybe if the mother had contacted a support service like Mind or Cross Keys Homes she could have got some help. I believe it can sometimes be uncomfortable asking for help when you are struggling at home, sometimes you may want and need help but something is stopping you from asking for it. Sometimes you just do not know who to ask, and maybe do not know what support is out there.
Everyone needs a helping hand now and again, to be guided in the right direction. Although I wasn’t able to help that family, something positive has come out of it. I opened up my book labelled ‘Community work’. I wanted to let my local community know that help is available and I was able to offer it – and so hopefully they will benefit from our first ‘Supporting Families’ event in 2014.