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A space for students and newly qualified social workers

SASW Professional Officer, Karin Heber, shares why we set up our student and newly qualified support forums, and there significance during covid-19 and beyond

Its almost a year since the pandemic started for us here in Scotland. I've worked from home since 18th March 2020 and never imagined back then that I wouldn’t be back in the office with my colleagues for such a long time. Times were chaotic at the beginning, and are still testing for most of us.  In recognition of the extra stressors put on frontline workers by the pandemic, SASW began to offer a weekly support forum as a safe space for reflection and connection with others. When social work students also started attending, we realised how difficult the situation was, and still is, for them all over Scotland. Not only was learning moved online, but they were missing out on important peer contact, as well as the associated social life. Placements were shortened, cancelled or postponed which left lots of questions on how students could still achieve a well-rounded education that would leave them able to confidently enter their social work career.

Similarly, Newly Qualified Social Workers (NQSWs) started their careers unable to meet their colleagues in person, having to cope with a new job, often working from home and consequently missing out on all those important, informal learning opportunities, like observing experienced colleagues managing difficult conversations. I’m also thinking of all the laughter, banter, cup of teas and support I got from my colleagues in the different offices that I worked in over many years, that NQSWs and students on placement have sadly had to miss out on.

We felt that we needed to give Students and NQSWs their own space where they could share their stories, feel less alone, reflect and connect with others - and so the first Student and NQSW support and mentoring forum was born

The forum really lives off its participants who bring their stories and are eager to hear from others. It has always been a very supportive group which managed to reach out when people needed a cry or had lost confidence in themselves. We have discussed lots of different topics like: the Black Lives Matter movement/racism, critical reflection, research, resilience and wellbeing (a reoccurring feature), job interview skills, training needs and many others. The topics are directed by the group, but I am always willing to pick up on some themes that are brought up or give an input on a particular topic of interest if wanted. Often it simply is an opportunity to hear from students about their placements, students from other universities or NQSW about their workplaces and experiences. Most importantly, its an opportunity to connect.

We now meet the first Thursday of every month, from 5-6pm. You can attend the group once without being a member, if you want to come and check it out (for further attendance you would have to become a member). You can find out when the next forum will be taking place on the events page of our website, here. 

I would love to see you there!