The varied careers of social work graduates

Coventry, Solihull, Warwickshire, Worcestershire and….Somerset! Some of the local (and not-so close) places in which recent graduates of the MA Social Work have gone on to work in front-line child-care practice. Unsurprising so far perhaps…that these talented individuals have used their education to go on and develop skills in safeguarding the most vulnerable children in society, helping to keep families together – in sometimes the most difficult of circumstances. Government have been clear about their desire to ensure that vacancies for child protection social workers are filled by credible people, and the team at Warwick embrace that.

Yet also: Therapist, Community Art Practitioner, Educational Welfare Officer, Best Interest Assessor, Approved Mental Health Professional, Operations Manager, Fostering and Adoption Supervisor, Advocate, Domestic Abuse and Violence Practitioner…some of the less apparent ‘destinations’ for graduates of social work education from Warwick.

As detailed by the prominent social work academic Pamela Trevithick (2011), the debate regarding ‘generic versus specialist’ social work is not confined to the contemporary age of austerity. There have been many modifications and developments within the sector, with strong arguments on both sides – specialism could arguably raise the quality of particular types of social work, yet advocates for generalism would point to the realities of practice – children do not operate in a vacuum, and interventions with their parents, families, peers and other professionals will often be central to promoting the welfare of the child. Concurrently, those working with adults can reasonably expect some of those people to be parents! Knowledge of children could be intrinsic to a family-focused intervention for those not specialising in child-care practice. Such holistic awareness chimes with, rather than contradicts, the idea of a ‘child-centred system’ informed by systemic practice, promoted by Eileen Munro (2011) in her seminal report.

As such, the generic and multi-focused social work education we provide not only helps to produce rounded practitioners, but also broadens their employability options. Indeed, the British Association of Social Workers (2017) publically pronounce the varied and multifaceted opportunities available to those qualifying with a social work qualification such as the MA at Warwick:

“Social workers work with individuals and families to help improve outcomes in their lives…in a variety of organisations. Many work for local authorities in departments that provide services for children or adults. Some work in NHS Trusts and many others work in the voluntary and private sector. A new development is the creation of social enterprises, whereby social workers set up their own company, or work with others to contract for work.”

Meanwhile, the government itself through the National Careers Service (2017) openly outline the ‘range of people’ social workers can engage with – so any suggestion that social work is solely about safeguarding vulnerable children is clearly misguided.

The country needs skilled, holistic and rounded child protection social workers, and the MA Social Work at Warwick is pleased to play a part in supporting people to fulfil this vital and challenging role. Yet if social work with adults, people experiencing learning disabilities, older people or those with mental health needs are also of interest, the course continues to provide the necessary training and education to enable demonstration of the competence to register to use the protected title of ‘social worker’, in a range of fields. We are proud to provide the breadth of a generic qualifying programme, whilst using a modular system to capture specialist knowledge.

About the Blogger

Luke Tibbits is Teaching Fellow on our MA Social Work course at the University of Warwick

REFERENCES

British Association of Social Workers (2017) Social Work Careers. Accessed 23/02/17 at: https://www.basw.co.uk/social-work-careers/

Munro, E. (2011) The Munro Review of Child Protection: Final Report – A Child-centred System. London, Department for Education.

National Careers Service (2017) Social Worker. Accessed 23/02/17 at: https://nationalcareersservice.direct.gov.uk/job-profiles/social-worker

Trevithick, P. (2011) ‘The generalist versus specialist debate in social work education in the UK’, in Lishman, J. (ed.), Research Highlights: Volume on Social Work Education. London, Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

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