The question of “why social work” I feel is one we all hear from many people outside of the profession, I know I have from family,friends,colleagues and other university students. It is sometimes a question I dread because I often feel like I have justify going into a profession that has serious negative connotations and stereotypes in the public eye. It does leave me with the answer however; “Do you want the long or short answer?”
For me, choosing social work as a career is a very personal subject and whilst I am not looking to get the violins out and sing a sad song, I can only answer the question of “why” by talking a little about myself and my life.
Born into a single parent, working class family, living in a poverty stricken area., I have seen and experienced a lot in my short life. Many of my family and friends have experienced hardship and issues ranging from mental health (depression,bipolar,schizophrenia) to abuse (mental,emotional,physical,sexual) to substance issues (alcohol,cannabis,cocaine) and the frantic,chaotic lifestyles surrounding such things. To say the least it was and has been an experience,something that educated me quickly and made me very aware of issues that we as people face every day. In my late teens and early twenties I did not know what I wanted to do, a wealth of education and experience,academic and personal but no clue. During this period I was just working a dead end job and one day it hit me. There was no way I wanted to do this any longer and continuing with this employment would do some serious damage to me if I did not move on. It stuck me that I wanted something that would combine working with people, was politically minded and allowed me to read into many different subjects. Looking back on it I don’t know why I didn’t pick Social Work straight away. Retrospect is a fine thing but least I have no regrets and my formative years have and continue to aid me in my learning.
The subject was alien to me and I had no clue what it would have in store. Rather than barrel in head long on to a path I knew nothing about, I felt it would be better for myself to do things related to it. A foundation in counselling,NVQ 2 in youth-work, a stint at the Samaritans and as a youth mentor and working as a support worker for a people with learning impairments, I thought; You know I really enjoy this and I want more…more chances,more opportunities, more responsibility…just more of everything. Beforehand I had never felt I had a voice or knew what I wanted, doing all this things empowered me, gave me knowledge and understanding, it taught me the importance of empathy and communication, brought together all the things I loved to study, psychology,sociology, biology, philosophy, history and politics among many other things. The eclectic nature of social care deeply interested me and gaining these skills and working within those roles was an incredibly enjoyable,inspiring,positive experience. It gave me purpose and pushed me to be a better person, I could literally feel myself developing as I did it. It had essential strengthened me as a person and that feeling makes me feel happy. Its had for a better word put a spark in my life.
So “why is social work important?”. This ties in why I chose the profession. I believe we do need Social Workers as the world, the systems and people in it do not support or protect everyone. I know there is restrictions,limitations,politics and a lot of cynicism and there is going to be times when we have exercise our power for the lesser of two evils, which is a hurdle we will all deal with when we come to it. But to me Social Work is the profession that allows you to fight for peoples rights,protect the vulnerable, support those who need support. It allows you to have a positive impact on others, if they so choose. It allows you,as a practitioner to work with a varied and diverse group of people, to learn and experience a multifaceted life that is consistently dynamic and evolving. It allows you to try and tackle the wicked issues, to help empower others to solve they own problems, to make a difference (hopefully for the better) to individuals lives. It teaches you continuously about all the different aspects of humanity and allows you to learn a lot about yourself. Social Work allows you to work on varying levels of society, to have a hand in changing it and to push forwards to a fairer,more equal and just society. Being a social worker could literally mean the difference between life and death for one person and to me that says it all and therefore makes it worth having,worth continually training and learning, worth making it a true profession and worth fighting for and continually developing it. That is why I choose to be part of it and value it. That is why I look forward to the coming years and being involved in it. That is why I am proud to call myself a Social Worker (in training).
Join us on World Social Work Day (Tuesday, 20-March-2012) at 8:00 PM GMT / 4:00 PM EDT to discuss and explore the “Global Agenda for Social Work and Social Development” in a rich and lively Twitter Debate @SWSCmedia.
@SocialWorkBSc is a social work student in.