The truth is that I didn’t know whether I would be resilient enough for social work when I applied to Frontline, but I had a passion to make a difference.
I first came across the charity in my second year of university. I attended a not-for-profit careers fair and I noticed that the Frontline stall had written across it in big red letters: ’Transform the lives of vulnerable children and families’. I was struck by that. The Frontline team explained that only 6% of care leavers go to university and those who are or have been in care are six times more likely to be cautioned by the police. The more I heard, the more I became interested in Frontline.
Becoming an advocate
I applied for Frontline’s summer internship, but I didn’t get it. I didn’t complete the application fully because I was going through a rough patch at university. However, one of the team read my application and liked it enough to invite me to their offices. I explained what happened and instead of the internship they offered me a brand manager role, in which I represented Frontline on my campus and at other London universities. Through this, I became more confident, developed my people skills and upped my social media savviness. In my final year of university, I realised that I wanted to get more involved with Frontline’s mission; I’d persuaded myself to join the programme.
Recruitment role plays
The recruitment process was rigorous, as you’d expect. The most challenging aspect was the assessment centre. You do quite a bit of role playing. While this was stressful, looking back it was actually the best part of the process because it gave a realistic insight into the role.
In the role plays you need to be empathetic and a good listener, and read the briefing papers carefully beforehand – just like in social work. For the first few seconds, I was really overthinking it but, as the scenario progressed, I reacted as I would in real life.
Becoming a social worker
The Frontline programme develops graduates and career changers into social workers and runs for two years. Over this time, you qualify and work towards a master’s degree in social work.
The best thing about it is the support you receive and the ability to collaborate with people from all different backgrounds who share the same values. The programme starts with five weeks of residential learning. It gave me many of the tools and techniques I now use in work and life generally.
Next, I was placed in a local authority and I worked in a unit of four other participants under a consultant social worker. This structure was really supportive; I never felt alone and the four of us bounced ideas between us. Our consultant social worker spent a lot of time enabling our development – for example, reflecting with me after difficult conversations with families.
Now in my second year, I work in a team specialising in children with disabilities and additional needs. I love it because I tend to work with clients for the longer term and I have seen first-hand the benefits of working with children over a more sustained period of time.
I am always learning and one of the things I have learned is that you have to accept help. In social work, you constantly have to reprioritise your working day. You may think you will start your day with admin but then you get a call from a parent who is struggling or you are contacted by a fellow professional informing you that an incident is happening and that you need to be there. I did struggle initially with maintaining a work/life balance, but with the support of Frontline and my line manager I have put some boundaries in place.
The best thing about my job is making a positive impact and that’s what I hold on to when things get tough. For example, I have worked with a young man who has autism and had been a victim of child sexual exploitation. When I first met him he lacked confidence and was very shy, but over the past 18 months I’ve worked with him to build his confidence. Now he is thinking a lot more positively.
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