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Bridging the Gap: Reflections on my Social Work Placement Experience at Gaddum

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“My experience during placement [at Gaddum] has prompted me to reflect on the experience of working with children to ignite their minds and make an impact on their lives”

With each passing day, my admiration for Gaddum and the enchanting city of Manchester continues to grow. They have both played an instrumental role in shaping my journey as a social work student and have left an indelible mark on my heart.

 Riya is an International Student studying Social Work at the University of Manchester. She shares her experience of her placement at Gaddum, working with young carers.

As I shared my experience with my friends at the University of Manchester after we had wrapped up our 35-day placement, I could only think of one word to describe Gaddum – a ‘blessing’.

Having come from a culture where caring for our family is primarily seen as a duty or responsibility, I had a vague idea of what the term ‘Young Carer’ meant.

It was during my placement interview that I came across this term for the first time. Little did I know at that moment that this placement would lead to such a profound learning experience, providing me with a new perspective on the caring role.

Now, let’s shift gears to my time in Manchester—the vibrant city that has captivated my heart. Among the many things that have enthralled me, one stands out in particular – the abundance of parks that grace this cityscape. It has prompted me to embark on refreshing walks every morning, myself in the sheer beauty of nature. Manchester’s parks have offered me a serene retreat and a chance to rejuvenate, amidst my studies and placement work.

With each passing day, my admiration for Gaddum and the enchanting city of Manchester continues to grow. They have both played an instrumental role in shaping my journey as a social work student and have left an indelible mark on my heart.

What have I learned during my placement?

One of the most important lessons I learned at Gaddum was the importance of listening to young carers and valuing their experiences.

Learning about young carers evoked a range of emotions, such as empathy, compassion, and concern. As an Indian woman, I felt there is much more care to be shown towards young carers who are shouldering adult responsibilities at a young age, and a desire to support them in any way possible.

At the same time, I felt concerned about the lack of support and resources available to young carers in my country and the impact it may have on their well-being, education, and future opportunities.

On Carers Day in the UK, I took the opportunity to identify carers in my own family and I called them to wish them a ‘Happy Carers Day’ and thanked them for all that they do.

Another crucial lesson I learned was the importance of self-care for social workers, especially when working with vulnerable people like young carers. Recognizing the emotional challenges involved, I have implemented several practices to prioritize my well-being.

Open communication with my supervisors allows me to share when I need a break, and I have made changes to my routine to incorporate self-care activities. Additionally, taking a break from my part-time commitments during this placement has allowed me to fully focus on supporting young carers while maintaining a healthy work-life balance; and ensure that I have the necessary support when I require it.

How did placement help in both my professional and personal growth?

 As I began this journey, I did not feel confident about working in a new social care system in a new country, I was self-doubting about the language barriers, the little knowledge I possessed, and the mistakes I would make along the way.

As the days passed, I could see the difference little by little. It became clear to me what I was doing, my sessions became meaningful, and I was able to determine outcomes for my cases. My Practice Educator and On-site Supervisor served as my backbone, bringing out the best in me.

Frequent supervision sessions helped me to understand the importance of identifying and assessing the needs of young carers and developing strategies to support them effectively. Additionally, it gave me the opportunity to reflect on my practice, challenge my decision-making skills, and develop critical thinking skills.

It became evident that every young carer had unique needs and guidance on how to use the social worker’s toolbox and other resources were invaluable and made my preparation easier. Positive feedback helped build confidence and reinforce good practice, while constructive feedback helped to identify areas for improvement and build skills.

As part of our induction programme, we attended training sessions to learn about the organization, the opportunities available to us, and the process for our 70-day placement. Group sessions provided a supportive environment where I could connect with other students  and develop a sense of shared purpose and identity. It also improved my teamwork skills through group projects and building my confidence to participate in group discussions.

Go Above and Beyond

 We were given the chance to plan and coordinate activities for young carers during the Easter holidays. We conducted a risk assessment for the chosen park and organized engaging children’s activities to provide a safe and enjoyable experience.. The outcome of these efforts was highly rewarding.

The event provided them with a much-needed break from their caregiving responsibilities and an opportunity to bond with peers who shared similar experiences. Introducing young carers to each other was crucial as it created a sense of community and support.

It enabled them to connect with individuals who truly understand their challenges and provided a platform for sharing stories, exchanging advice, and building lasting friendships. The activities not only offered a fun and enjoyable experience but also fostered a supportive environment where young carers could feel understood and valued.

 Additionally, leading the team meetings on a weekly basis provided an opportunity to hone leadership skills, including effective planning, organization, and the introduction of fresh ideas.

Furthermore, we had the privilege of suggesting improvements to Gaddum’s website and social media platforms, recognizing their increasing importance in today’s digital world.

Developing Cultural Competence

 One of the most significant challenges I faced during my placement was the impact of culture on social work practice. As an International student, I had to navigate cultural differences and adapt my approach to working with young carers in the UK.

I had to be mindful of the different cultural norms and expectations around caregiving and family relationships, and I had to work closely with my colleagues to ensure that our interventions were culturally appropriate. I was also impressed by the dedication and expertise of the social workers at Gaddum, who provided compassionate and effective support to young carers.

Impact on my Career Aspirations

 My experience in social work includes working with adults, and it was always something I looked forward to in my career until I joined Gaddum. My experience during placement has prompted me to reflect on the experience of working with children to ignite their minds and make an impact on their lives.

It emphasizes the importance of early intervention and prevention in addressing social issues to focus on working with youth, rather than waiting until adulthood to address social problems.

Working with young carers has inspired me for empowering young people and promoting their rights.