I have mentioned previously my role as a Care Ambassador – of course, it is less grand than it sounds but is basically a method used by Skills for Care to promote work in the Social Care sector to young people and to link with schools directly who are teaching Health and Social Care. Some of my tasks have involved going to school career fairs or even university career fairs to talk about ‘being a social worker’ and to inspire (!) others to follow the path.
Every school I have been to is in the inner city. So it was that last week I found myself at a not-quite-local school in possibly one of the most deprived areas of London with about 30 16-18 year olds, together with a nurse and a home care worker – fellow ‘ambassadors’ – and a 7 hour programme of activities, talks and discussions to get us through the day.
There were some teachers present in the class with us to assist with some of the discussion activities but generally those involved were remarkably engaged and enthusiastic. I don’t know why that always surprises me!
They were mostly girls with one boy. One girl slept most of the way through but judging by her snarling when she woke intermittently, we decided it was actually probably less disruptive to let her sleep. Actually, I’m being a bit unfair – she did wake up towards the end of the day and participated quite actively – quite ironic really and we just figured she’d had a late night.
We spoke a lot about the values laid down by the GSCC for Social Care Workers as that is something that is on their syllabus and have to say that considering the subject is health and social care, there was not a single one of them interested in any aspect of social care – well, not at the start of the day anyway.
Most of the day revolved around group work and facilitating group discussions but there was a short presentation part I had to do about my job and what it involves on a day to day basis. Of course I highlighted the positives about ‘helping people’ and ‘empowerment’. Very few of them had much of a clear idea of what social work was about – indeed – I certainly wouldn’t have had a clue at that age.
Some had more personal experience than others though (a couple approached me at the end of the day, actually) and that is where you are treading a delicate path in a room of kids with their school friends, you really don’t want to be asking them which have had experiences with social workers unless they willingly volunteer that information. So I emphasised the positives but I genuinely still feel that the positives massively outweigh any negatives and quite honestly would recommend social work as a career. Of course, at the ‘question time’ the only questions they had related to how much money we got paid!
We asked at the end of the day if any of them would consider a career in social care and most were settled on some aspect of healthcare. A few wanted to be midwives or health visitors although the single boy wanted to work in the criminal justice system.
The real irony is that the only person I convinced to go into social work was one of the other care ambassadors with me who now works for a home care agency… I’m not sure if we are supposed to be recruiting each other!