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An Interview with Susanne: NQSW at Bristol Council Family and Young People’s Services

SWSCmedia:  Where did you undertake your social work degree and training?

Susanne:  I did a Masters in Social Work at Bristol University.

SWSCmedia:  What motivated you to become a social worker? Did you always know you wanted to become a social worker?

Susanne:  I really wanted to work with children and looked into teaching, but there were quite a few ideas in teaching that I didn’t like. I feel children are one of the most vulnerable group of people in our society. They don’t really have people to stand up for them. I wanted to listen to their needs and support them. When I became aware of social work and what it involved, I was very keen and pursued it. I think as a social work you have a very unique and privileged role and insight into family life.

SWSCmedia:  What motivated your area of practice specialism (family and children)?

Susanne:  My interest in working with and supporting children. As mentioned, I feel you have a very privileged position within a family. 

My placement in my second year confirmed my choice – this was in a children’s team near Bristol.

SWSCmedia:  What motivated you to take part in the programme “Protecting our Children”?

Susanne:  When I arrived to start work for Bristol City Council, the BBC was already filming. I was asked if I would agree to being filmed and wanted to help promote the profession in a more positive light. Although “Protecting Our Children” is a small drop in a big ocean, I thought it would be a good way to help people understand more about what it involves and the complicated dynamics and difficult decisions we have to take. Perhaps to not always see things in black and white.

SWSCmedia:  You were newly qualified when filming started how did it make you feel watching the programme after almost a year of filming?

Susanne:  Like many people, I didn’t like seeing or hearing myself on TV! But it is very interesting to see your own actions from a different perspective. It was also interesting to see what decisions had been made about what was included in the final film and what wasn’t. The case had to be distilled into a film of only one hour long, so inevitably some things were left out.

It also made me analyse my own practice and become very critical. I was anxious about what people would think of some of the things I said and did. It made me realise how vulnerable I was as a newly qualified social worker as my practice is different now.

It was very emotional watching Toby’s situation from a distance. I realised what sad, emotional and difficult situations we work with and how we have to distance ourselves from this to a degree as professionals.

SWSCmedia:  Did many of your colleagues volunteer to take part in the programme?

Susanne:  Several people in my team were also involved in filming.

SWSCmedia:  How did your family and friends react to the programme (pre and post screening)?

Susanne:  I’ve had a really positive reaction from friends and family who have seen the documentary. My family in Germany couldn’t watch the programme, but I’m sending them a DVD. My partner’s family, colleagues and friends have been very supportive. One friend said watching the documentary had helped her understand me better as a person, as it shows an aspect of my life she wasn’t fully aware of. People have been very respectful of the work social workers do.

SWSCmedia:  Everyone enjoyed watching “Protecting our Children” what was the most difficult aspect of being involved in this programme?

Susanne:  Being looked at and criticised by the public. I’m not someone who enjoys being the centre of attention, so it was uncomfortable at times being the focus of discussion.

It upset me hearing criticism about my practice from other social worker / professors in the media about support that we would not have given the family. I hoped that people in the social work professions would have been more aware that of course we did much more for the family before we removed Toby and that not everything could be featured in an hours programme after being filmed for a whole year!

SWSCmedia:  What aspects of making the programme did you enjoy most?

Susanne:  Overall it has been an extremely interesting experience. I’ve very much enjoyed talking with people about what they thought about the work. I am pleased the response to the programme has largely been positive and has improved understanding of the profession.

It was also helpful for me understanding just how much work goes into a single hour
of broadcast. It has made me respect the media much more. 

SWSCmedia:  What did it feel like having cameras follow you around at work ?

Susanne:  Uncomfortable at times – people look at you when you come past with the
camera. But I enjoyed getting to know the documentary team. When they left I felt part of my working practice was gone.

SWSCmedia:  How long did they film you for?

Susanne:  They filmed altogether for just under a year.

SWSCmedia:  What do you hope the programme will achieve?

Susanne:  Better public understanding of what social work is about.

SWSCmedia:  Do you think we will see more programmes like “Protecting our Children”? 

Susanne:  I hope so! But I’m not sure – it’s very difficult to arrange the access, to get departments to agree to it. The way the team approached filming was unique, and I’m not sure how often the BBC could commit to this approach.

Since the programme we have seen you featured in Community Care. What advice will you give to social workers interested in engaging with the media?

Before working with BBC I would have said to be very cautious but now I think we as social worker have to be more open and honest. It took time to trust the BBC and the crew. But not to be too shy, to be open and honest and talk about what social work is about. I hope more people will engage, so social work stands in a more positive light. 

SWSCmedia:  Do you think you will be doing more media work to raise the image and profile of social work?

Susanne:  I might, but at the moment my priority is to build experience and to
develop my own professional understanding of the job.

SWSCmedia:  What has been the most surprising or unexpected aspect of being part of
“Protecting Our Children” documentary series?

Susanne:  I have been pleasantly surprised by the positive response to the programmes. I think looking back on my first difficult case it helped me develop my practice. 

SWSCmedia:  Thank you for answering our questions and best wishes with your career.

SWSCmedia:  Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions and all the best with your work.

Susanne is a Newly Qualified Social Workers (NQSW) at Children and Young People’s Services @BristolCouncil 

We’re pleased to announce that Annie Hudson (Director of Children and Young People’s Services from @BristolCouncil) will join us on Tuesday at 20:00 GMT / 15:00 ET when we shall explore “Social Work in Media: Protecting Our Children” @SWSCmedia.


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