Bringing colour to social work education

At Sussex we have a long tradition of involving service users and carers in our teaching and research. Below Jill Scholl who currently coordinates the Service User and Carer Network at Sussex tell us why she feels the network is important to social work education, and the difference it makes to the making of future social workers.

Service users and carers bring “colour” to the teaching and learning of social work students.  When we sit on panels to assess a student’s suitability to come to the University we look for the skills and attributes that are important to us. We listen carefully to their presentations to look for the humanity that is so important for a social work student. We read their portfolios to see how they record their work with service users and carers as this tells us more about the student’s ability to reflect and learn.

Service users and carers do not see themselves as victims, and we bring our perspectives of our lived experiences, good and not so good, into the classroom, to share appropriately and constructively with the students. These sessions are much valued by the students as they bring an opportunity to talk to service users and carers in the comparative safety of the classroom. What we have valued in working with a social worker, and why.

As students’ progress through the courses and begin their placements we have the opportunity to assess their progress alongside the academic and the practitioner. The student is developing their personal role at the same time as their professional role. This is a time when basics need to be re-visited, and the service user and carer can bring this to the assessment. The ability to work with people living in complex situations requires humanity, empathy, knowledge and confidence. We would be asking ourselves would we want this student to be our social worker.

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March 18, 2014. World Social Work Day.

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