How to Be a Social Worker If You Have No Influence?

This curated news story discusses one professional's thoughts behind how to be a social worker, understanding the social work requirements, which may involve limits on one's influence, and related matters:

Alison Michalska’s journey into a career supporting children started in sixth form. She worked with local youth clubs at the time and knew little about the profession she’d later join.

“I’d lived in a bit of a bubble,” says Michalska, who has recently started her year as President of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS).

“I hadn’t really thought about children being in care and there being professional social workers. It wasn’t a profession I really knew anything about.

“To be perfectly honest when I was doing A Levels and wondering whether to go to university, I don’t think I even knew that social workers existed.”

That changed when on leaving school she started youth work. The experience of supporting “quite challenging and difficult young people” opened her eyes to social work, and to some extent “the wider world”.

She says the work instilled a drive to try and make a difference to children that hasn’t left her since, and she’s continuously sought positions that she’s felt give her the best chance of affecting change.

First she moved from youth work into residential work, where it became obvious that “to get anywhere I was going to need to become a qualified social worker”. She did exactly that in 1986 and joined social work in an era of combined adults and children’s services. It was, she recalls, a mixed experience.

“While I enjoyed social work, I found it terribly frustrating,” she says. “You kind of want to cure all of society’s ills. There was a bit of: ‘I could do so much as a social worker, but actually to do what I really want to do then actually I need to move into more management and have a bit more influence in how social work operates and how local authorities work’.”

While some social workers reluctantly, or accidentally, end up in management, Michalska saw progressing up the ladder as necessary to help deliver the changes she wanted...

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