Interview: Rodeen and Evans on their placement as Student Social Workers at hyh
Rodeen and Evans are currently studying a two-year MSc course in Social Work together at the University of Hertfordshire. The academic learning is complemented by two industry placements, the first of which was with the team at Herts Young Homeless this summer.
What’s your background?
RODEEN “I worked with a charity that provides supported accommodation previously, so I had an understanding of what hyh was about going in and I had worked with a few people in the past, so when I got the placement, I was quite happy because I thought oh you know, I’m aware of the organisation.”
EVANS “The difference with me is that I hadn’t worked with any charities before. I worked in the care sector, so this was a very interesting experience for me because it was all new. This is a new environment and new learning for me.”
What were your initial thoughts about the placement?
R “Even though I knew of hyh I wasn’t really sure what the services entailed. Going in, I was worried about what it would be like, but everyone works together so well. Surprisingly, it has been a lot calmer than I worried it would be, even though there’s so much at stake.”
E “I had a different impression going in. Like I said, this was a new setting for me. Even with my experience in the care sector, I’ve learned a lot.”
What do you do as a Student Social Worker?
R “We’ve been scheduling lots of meetings with other professionals, talking to banks and benefits services, calling the Council, or calling food banks, or moving service users between hostels. There’s never a time where I’m thinking ‘Oh my gosh, I bored!’ because there’s always something, so I’m getting this really broad overview of the impact everyone here is making to those most in need.”
E “We have direct work with a lot of service users too. We engage with them in lots of way. We’ll meet young people sometimes two or three times, so they get to know you and you build up a relationship to support them. We’re not meeting people in their home, but we’ve been able to meet outside (in line with the protocol and restrictions in place), and still give them the level of support that they need.”
How have you found working here?
E “I’ve enjoyed it! I’m learning a huge amount. For example, in relation to the housing act and housing legislation, and in terms of diversity, working with young asylum seekers and other underrepresented groups who face lots of barriers to accessing opportunities and support. I’m getting to know more about them so it’s a good experience for me.”
R “I also had the opportunity to work with an older service user who had mental health issues and problems with reading and writing, which made it hard for him to change his situation. I helped with things like going to the opticians. Being able to support him was really nice. It made me think one day I’d like to work in Adult Services. You can see that impact. It’s been a great insight.”
Best and worst aspects of the placement?
E “It’s been interesting and fun from day one! The team have really been there for us.
R “To be honest, I haven’t had any bad experiences. I’ve had some stress! I was a bit worried about being able to get one of my observations done but the team really supported me”.
How has the experience impacted you personally?
E “For me, it has probably challenged some perceptions and ideas I had before. I’ve been able to learn that some legislation that you may think would work for young people, can discriminate against others such as asylum seekers.
R “I think knowing the difference between the boroughs and each of their nuanced housing regulations. The UK as a whole has a housing shortage, which can stunt the move on process and can be very demotivating for them. It’s difficult to see.
What are you most proud of during your placement?
R “For me, it’s the little things. I get a bit anxious about calling people and conference calls – so small things like being able to do that – or driving around – I was anxious about driving to places I haven’t been before but because I’ve had to do that, I have gained a lot of confidence so that’s an achievement for me. We also did a joint presentation for the team the other day!”
E “For me the biggest win was the £1,400 we secured for one service user. He was able to buy a laptop and household essentials – he was so happy! – and it was my first experience of that. He was in education and met certain criteria as a student, so he was able to get the tools he needed to learn. But I’m not going to take credit for that – it was a joint achievement! – it was a team effort.
E “We’re going back to Uni in October and then we’ll be going into our next placement in January so from now until then, it’s the next phase of the programme.
R “Then we graduate next summer!”
E “It’s been a great add on for us and our progression in future.”