Gary – I became a social worker because…

March 4, 2021 | Written by Gary Spencer-Humphrey

By Gary Spencer-Humphrey, AMHP, Adults and Health Team Manager and Trustee for the Social Work Awards.

Law school to social work?

After law school I wanted to pursue a career in what I call ‘People Law’ – that is any branch of the law that deals directly with an individual, such as employment law, human rights law, family law or criminal law.  I wanted to help those in difficult situations and make a real difference in people’s lives. 

As part of my legal training, I undertook a two-week mini-pupillage with a set of chambers specialising in family law. For reference, chambers are buildings where barristers work, and a mini-pupillage is akin to work experience for prospective barristers.

Little did I know this path would set me not for a calling to the Bar, but to become a social worker!

For a barrister, a typical working day starts the night before. You might have an urgent hearing the next morning, for which the clerk will issue papers to you late at night (say around 6pm for a 9am hearing).  Often you will be up until 10 or 11pm preparing for the urgent case, having maybe never met the client.

The days feel rushed – you might have a 9am preliminary hearing, followed by an urgent case at 10am, then a plea hearing at 11am.  You may have cancelled cases, where the parties do not attend, or families who need emotional support whilst you’re rushing off to your next case. 

For me, it didn’t feel like there was enough time in the day to really understand my client and ascertain if I was really ‘helping’ their case or cause.  I began to look at different options and came across the role of Social Worker. 

Why I choose social work

After reading about the role, I decided social work was the calling for me. It offered me the opportunity to work with people in times of hardship or need, and to make a real difference.  It would give me the time and knowledge to help people and manage change, whilst also promoting their rights and protecting their civil liberties.

I became a social worker as I wanted to make not just a difference to people’s lives, but I wanted to help shape the future of social work and make social care fit for the 21st century. 

I joined social work at the exciting and nerve-wracking time where legislation was changing on how we deliver adult social care in the UK. 

What thrilled me was the principle of wellbeing being cemented into law, and this became central to social work practice.

As a social worker, this enables me, as a practitioner and manager, to meet more than essential care and support needs. 

Promoting community capital and enabling people to live joyful lives is something that I practice as a social worker.

Tell us your social work story at telling us your name, job, contact details and social care number (just so we know you’re a social worker, we will keep it private).

Sherry – Why I believe in the power of social work…

March 4, 2021 | Written by Sherry Malik

By Sherry Malik, Social Care Officer, non-executive Director at Dimensions UK, Trustee at the Internet Watch Foundation, Staff College Associate and Trustee at the Social Work Awards.

As a young woman going through a particularly difficult period in my life, my grandmother who supported me said:

Anyone can encounter a bad patch in life. It won’t always be like this.

I had the support and love of my family to see me through the hard times. Some of us can draw on our support networks and will have the resources to overcome what life throws at us. Others will need the support of professionals like social workers.

I believe in the power of social work to help people get back on track when life has dealt a bad hand. Social workers provide the support which shores up resilience. They help navigate the turbulence and steer towards calmer waters. 

After more than 30 years of working in social care, I have met hundreds of social workers working with thoughtfulness, care and creativity to support thousands of families and individuals in need of support. When they have gone through a particularly difficult period, a social worker has walked by their side. I believe in the power of social work. 

Tell us your social work story at telling us your name, job, contact details and social care number (just so we know you’re a social worker, we will keep it private).

Brian – I became a social worker because…

March 4, 2021 | Written by Brian Mitchell

By Brian Mitchell, social work lecturer and Trustee for the Social Work Awards.

Why social work?

The song ‘do anything you wanna do’ has been with me all my life, or it feels that way. It also seems to me like it has been directing me and it definitely had a major influence on my becoming a social worker.

As a teenager, the words reverberated and were like a clarion call. Come with us and ‘be you’ was the central message. Don’t let ‘them’ tell you anything, make your own mind up. Barrie Masters (Eddie) sang in full roar and his words hit me like a sledgehammer.

Eddie had all the charm, charisma and cheek of ‘the artful dodger’ as played by Jack Wild in the 1968 film version of Oliver Twist. On first seeing Eddie and the Hot Rods on ‘Top of the Pops’ I loved them and him with all of my heart. 

Eddie had that ‘cheeky chappy’ persona about him. He epitomized independence and had a real working-class swagger that exuded confidence.

Long before the Gallaghers, Eddie rode in with a fistful of arrogance and a stage presence to hang it all on. More than that though, he had that tune. It felt like it was written for me, just for me. It suggested rebellion was close to hand and I could be one of the main instigators. Well, either that or I could control my life and that I had choices.

From that moment rock and roll and what I understood to be social work were inextricably linked and intertwined. I had fallen in love with music and here I was about to give my heart away all over again to social work.


When considering why this profession?

I would argue there is an inherent bias toward the arts within social work as much of what we see, observe and hear is the basis for what comes next. 

Art and music seem to offer a unique way to both engage and give us an insight into the lives of some people. It is what makes the work exciting and gives it an inherent value. It also feels like a profession one can love.

Call me fanciful, an idealist, or naïve but the question isn’t why social work, surely it is why wouldn’t you be a social worker? 

Tell us your social work story at telling us your name, job, contact details and social care number (just so we know you’re a social worker, we will keep it private).

If you can cope with this and still want to do it, you are made for social work

November 9, 2020 | Written by Mary Carter

Story written by Mary Carter, Student Social Worker of the Year Award winner 2019 and Newly Qualified Social Worker at Essex County Council.

Back in November 2019, which I’m sure feels a lifetime ago for us all, I was
thrilled to win the prestigious award of Student Social Worker of the Year.

I remember this day like it was yesterday and it’s high up there on best days ever. For me, it reignited my lifelong desire to become a social worker.

Great expectations

I was earnestly grateful for the recognition I received for my work as I know that every other nominee, in fact thousands of students around the country, was as capable of winning this award. I was overwhelmed – a combination of shock, excitement and pure happiness.

Hearing the remarkable efforts that practitioners were making to their profession reminded me that social work was my calling, a truly honourable evening to be part of. This being said, it did not come without its worries.

I went into the new year with all that was ahead and this knocked me, the ‘emotional hangover’
began to unveil.

…it reignited my lifelong desire to become a social worker.

Winning this award left me feeling that the pressure was on and the expectations to do well were uncomfortably high. What if I struggle? What if I get ‘found out,’ a feeling we all struggle with from time to time.

Four months on from this evening and a time of our lives that none of us would have expected – Covid-19, a crisis that has highlighted the importance and value of this field. A time when a new generation of social workers was very much needed.

From student to social worker

Although I was fortunate to have only ten placement days left, my final statutory social work placement was significantly impacted by Covid-19. I was instructed to self-isolate and work remotely.

I needed to know how to respond to this crisis professionally and appropriately.

Some students did not want to be in placement when I was adamantly sure I wanted to be. I was supported and a solution was made that was creative and flexible. I feared the leap from student to practitioner, I feared the unknown.

After a successful interview and rest from placement, I started my dream job in the Children in Care team at Essex County Council. I was nervous and feared what was ahead in my new role, whilst equally desperate to use my newly developed skills, passion and optimism to make a difference.

For all students and newly qualified social workers, learning had to change quite significantly. I had to learn my role, tasks and what was expected of me very quickly. I needed to know how to respond to this crisis professionally and appropriately.

New beginnings

It felt outlandish starting a role where I didn’t have a full team around me for help and support. This being said, I was warmly welcomed and, by connecting on our teams WhatsApp and remotely via Microsoft Teams, I began to feel comfortable asking questions, seeking guidance and opportunity. I formed part of a team that wanted me to grow and a team that saw potential.

Winning the Student Social Worker of the Year award gave me the confidence to get involved with and become a founding member of Social Work Connect: a webinar-based initiative helping students, practice educators and practitioners from across the world to stay connected and develop knowledge around social work theory and reflection.

I have also been volunteering in my community in support of ending homelessness.

I feel incredibly proud to be a social worker

My plans to set up a student exchange to Ukraine for care experienced students is under way. The Covid-19 pandemic has showed us how much we can achieve when we all work together.

You are made for social work

Whilst the beginning of my journey as a newly qualified social worker has been a different experience from the one I had envisaged it has, in many ways, prepared me for my lifelong career in the profession.

I feel incredibly proud to be a social worker and honoured to have been able to contribute to supporting people through the Covid-19 crisis where my professional identity is becoming more apparent.

Social work is a gift that allows us to walk into the lives of wonderful people
and children from all different walks of life and make positive, purposeful and meaningful changes. I remain focused and determined to develop my skills and use my experience to build a positive social work career.

As a committed Pinterest user I love a quote – the following words from professor Brené Brown comes to mind.

Connection is the energy that is created between people when they feel seen, heard and valued – when they can give and receive without judgment

Brené Brown,

I share this award and journey with all the social work students who, despite the circumstances and the existing struggles, commit to making change every day.

If you can cope with this level of uncertainty, manage your everyday lives and still want to do it then you are absolutely made for social work.

Tell us your social work story at telling us your name, job, contact details and social care number (just so we know you’re a social worker, we will keep it private).

A Story of Difference

November 4, 2020 | Written by Dan Smart

Dan Smart, a social worker at South Gloucestershire Council, shares his experience of being a newly qualified social worker during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Tell us your social work story at telling us your name, job, contact details and social care number (just so we know you’re a social worker, we will keep it private).

Going the extra mile (or 100) during coronavirus: part one

October 11, 2020 | Written by The Social Care Reablement Team, Devon County Council

This is a guest blog from The Social Care Reablement Team at Devon County Council. 

The Social Care Reablement Team (SCR) provide a short-term service, usually up to three weeks, to adults who need support to remain independently living in their own home. The majority of referrals come directly from hospitals when patients are ready to be discharged home.

The team has shared with us how their work has changed during the pandemic and how they are going the extra mile for their clients.

Alice’s story:

“I was the first to visit a client on her discharge from hospital at the beginning of lockdown. She was feeling scared at the prospect of not being able to see her family and was worried about being isolated. Her fridge was full of rotting food. I cleared it all out for her, went and bought her a few items and arranged a food delivery service.

Sensing she was going to struggle I chatted about what she liked to watch on TV. She mentioned a programme she had enjoyed but hadn’t seen it all, remembering it was called ‘The Crown’. I did some research and realised it was on Netflix. With her consent I organised for her to have Netflix installed and when I visited her again, I found her thrilled to have discovered there were 4 seasons of it and she was happily binge watching it! She made great progress with us.”


Sami’s story: 

“A client I was visiting was finding isolation very hard and was feeling scared with all the news on TV about COVID-19. She needed the security of her family and they arranged for her to move up country to stay with them. She was worried about stopping at the motorway services and being at risk of picking up the virus and thought it best to take some snacks and drinks for the journey. She didn’t have much in the house to pack up and so, on moving day, I bought her some snacks and a reusable water bottle with a straw as her leaving gift from me. It was warmly received and hopefully made her a little less anxious about the journey.”


Julie’s story:

“I was visiting a gentleman who was struggling with his health. He was 99 years old and coming up to his 100th birthday at the end of June. I wanted to make his birthday special as I knew I would be visiting him that morning.

His daughter had spoken to one of our team leaders and expressed that her dad had become very low in mood & feels like he’s ‘giving up’ but she had arranged a small surprise celebration at his home for his 100th birthday, which she hoped would boost him up again.

It certainly did! He received over 100 cards, including the one from me, and the balloons I bought him brought a huge smile to his face. He was visited by some friends and family – from a distance – and he even had a film crew there and made in onto the local news on TV!”


Eddy Broadhurst’s story (Occupational Therapist):

“During these unusual times, our ways of working have needed to be reconsidered and adjusted, especially joint working; in order to ensure guidelines are adhered to amidst working in a pandemic. I feel technology – particularly video chat platforms have allowed me to do this.

“I completed a joint virtual home visit to complete an Occupational Therapy assessment with a client. The client returned home from hospital and now needs to use a wheelchair at all times and was not able to access essential facilities around their home.

“With the virtual presence of OT and the physical support of a Reablement Team Leader we were able to obtain the client’s strengths and needs, observe the client around their home and gather essential measurements of the home and their wheelchair in order to inform the next steps. I established the client would benefit from major home adaptations of doorway widening and ramped access to ensure safe and independent access to essential facilities and the community. I was able to complete the necessary paperwork and sent it to the client via email. They were able to apply an electronic signature which I then sent to the relevant District Council to be processed as an urgent recommendation.”


Tell us your social work story at telling us your name, job, contact details and social care number (just so we know you’re a social worker, we will keep it private).

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