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How do we measure Social Work experience?

When I started training and consultancy work my imposter syndrome played like a daily broken record.

‘You’ve not been qualified long enough’, was on repeat followed by a unique chorus of ‘why would anyone listen to you’.

I qualified in 2015 and moved from social worker to senior practitioner, to child protection conference chair within 6 years. I judged myself on my own assumptions about age and experience.

But moving from an operational team to safeguarding and quality assurance reaffirmed something I had seen escalate after the pandemic shifted our lives and in turn, our practice as social workers;

There is a generation of social workers who haven’t had the same training as others. There are practitioners who have qualified and undertaken ASYE from a distance, where virtual meetings and home visits in PPE (and only in a crisis) became the norm. Social Workers who didn’t get to see the basics modelled. (I should add the route to qualification doesn’t seem to make a difference to this). A generation of social workers forced to run before they could walk.

And so Social Work Sorted evolved. In 2021 I turned to Instagram to start sharing. I created everything I needed when I was a new social worker.

The platform expanded quickly. I remember a message I received in the early days. ‘You just seem to get it’.

My ASYE is not a distant memory and I started Social Work Sorted with roots in practice. It’s much easier to pick up on challenges when you see them directly. It’s much easier to break them down when you understand the reality of social work demands.

And so, gradually the imposter syndrome record of the year started to slow down.

I realised that experience is often a case of quality over quantity.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t value time as a measure of experience. I’m not saying we should ignore the depth of knowledge that experienced practitioners have. I am saying that we should use our social work skills. We should be critically reflective about what we value, who we value and why we value them.

I know that a parent who has lived through care proceedings will teach me far more than a book written by a lecturer years out of direct practice. But I also know that book will contain information that I will utilise and I can’t just ‘write it off’ (poor poor pun) because the author hasn’t done a home visit in a few years.

In the same way that no two ‘cases’ can be directly compared, it would be reductive to place to much emphasis in one area of expertise.

From my rambling, it’s probably clear how much I overthink this topic.

But here is what I know to be true right now.

My skill is in connecting.

I can quickly connect to my memories of being a new social worker. I can see patterns in the challenges that occur in an ASYE year. I can unpick them and break them down into step by step tasks.

I can connect with thousands of social workers across different online platforms. I can remind them that they are not alone. I can guide them in the best way I can, so that they have time and energy to do the parts of the job they love. I know that these will be the moments they hold on to when all they want to do is quit.

I don’t have tens of years of experience. I have what I know and it’s working. I model education and reflection through my blog and podcast. New social workers who follow me know that I am honest and always realistic. What I do is a work in progress because I understand I will never stop learning.

Social media, for all it’s fault, has allowed me to develop a true feedback loop. Social workers trust me. They are not afraid to contact me and ask for help and guidance. This keeps me connected to practice and allows my training to constantly adapt to the need of newly qualified practitioners.

I’m a *very* small cog in a huge machine of social workers trying to help other social workers.

The Social Work Sorted Community means we learn, grow and reflect together.

And it really is something special.

Accessible audio training for new social social workers with a focus on children and families social work in the UK.

Unique guest interviews to highlight key issues in social work and encourage critical reflection and learning.



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