Social work students from Cardiff University are using their skills to help people in need during the Covid-19 crisis.
Many on the two-year master’s degree, which finishes in July, have already been taken on as employees for organisations working to offer continued services to people hardest hit by social distancing measures.
Abyd Quinn-Aziz, senior lecturer at Cardiff University’s School of Social Sciences and director of the MA programme, said: “Our students have quickly risen to the current challenges and are working to help in the effort to make sure those who require support and care are not forgotten during this pandemic. I’m proud of their dedication.
“This crisis has highlighted the importance and value of this sector. For those in society who are more vulnerable, social workers provide a vital lifeline during times of hardship. This role is going to be even more crucial in the months to come. I know that our students have shown the commitment and have developed skills and knowledge in being able to provide key services in a range of settings.”
Mother-of-two Jessica Archer, 34, has juggled the two-year master’s course around night shifts and childcare. Now working as an assistant social worker for Monmouthshire County Council, she is carrying out home visits and calls around home schooling Scarlett, nine and Noah, 13.
“When I was 15 I went on a course and I remember saying, ‘I want to be a social worker’. That never really changed, but life got in the way. I dropped out of my A Levels early and had children quite young. I worked for the NHS doing outreach work around sexual health and then went to education as head of wellbeing. I have also worked and volunteered for the NSPCC for nine years period.
“I just thought, ‘if I don’t do the masters now, I’ll never do it’. I want my children to see that you’re never too old to achieve your goals. I sat them both down and said, ‘if I’m going to do this, we’re going to have to work as a team, getting stuff done in the house together’. It’s been an intense two years for all of us, but they’ve been really supportive.
“In my current role I’m working with young people in the family protection and support team. Where home visits are needed, we’re trying to balance that with risks around Covid-19. You might call at a house and stay outside the front door. We’re trying to be innovative and wherever possible, keep those vital interactions going.
“When I’m home with my children, we’re working to a tight timetable of home schooling. They’re out in the garden every day and we’ve got schoolwork to get through, as well as chores. It’s tough going at times as any parent will know but we’re all doing the best we can.
“As a family, I feel we are really lucky. The current situation is difficult but we have lots to be thankful for. I’m glad to be doing what I can do help those that aren’t so fortunate.”
Nathaniel Wilson, 26, is working as a relief worker for homeless charity Llamau, in supported accommodation for young people aged 16-21.
“After studying psychology at university, I got a job with a third sector agency offering mental health support, in a team helping young people. That made me decide that I wanted to go into social work. I like working with young people as they aren’t afraid to be direct about how they feel. As a younger man in this role, you can be a role model. I can still relate to them to a degree.
“The young people I’m working with at the moment are in supported accommodation as a result of homelessness. My role is about helping them to be able to live independently in their own property in the future.
“You support them to manage money, help them with techniques to regulate their emotions, support them to grow into adults that can survive in society well.
“It’s going to be a strange time to qualify as a social worker. Understandably, young people’s anxieties flare up massively when things are uncertain. It’s hard not having all the answers. All you can do is listen and try your best to reassure them and keep them occupied. It’s just about being there for them.
“There’s something really nice about being with somebody when things are tough and helping them to move past that, being able to tell them how well they’ve done.”
David Langley, 37, has worked in various roles in the social care sector, before deciding to embark on the master’s course. He’s now working as a social care assistant for Bridgend Council, maintaining contact with adults to ensure they are being supported.
“I already had about seven years experience of working in the sector - including in a residential homes for young people, in homeless hostels and in tenancy support. Nevertheless, the course has been a steep learning curve. The first year was a massive adjustment. I was reading from the time I got home until I fell asleep and going straight into university the next day. I’ve really enjoyed the placements and have got some great experience.
“I’ve recently been taken on in a team working with adults. I’m working from home and calling people to see how they’re managing with their shopping and to make sure they’ve got the right support networks in place. I may be talking to carers to make sure they are feeling supported while things like day centres have been stopped. When needed we are also making face-to-face visits to people’s homes or to hospitals, where video calling or other alternative methods of communication aren’t appropriate.
“It’s great to be getting that experience and doing what I’ve been training for over the past two years. It’s nice to be putting what I’ve learned into practice.
“The current situation is worrying for everyone and even more so for people considered to be the most vulnerable. It’s important for them to have someone there who can be calm and supportive.
“This sort of work is doubly important at the moment. If you’re trying to be a social worker you must have that drive in you to want to help and support people. I don’t know why else you’d want to get into the job.”