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Final year Social work BA student appointed Student Representative of Merton’s Children Social Care Social Work Board during placement.

Yvonne Bryant A first person account by Yvonne Bryant about her placement, what led her to becoming a student representative and the exciting new doors it opened for her.

My name is Yvonne Bryant and I am a BA Student Social Worker on my final year of study.  During my final practice placement I worked for Merton’s 0-5 Supporting Families Team and attended a Children’s Social Care staff and partner forum.  The forum included speakers such as Paul Ballat, Assistant Director, Commissioning, Strategy and Performance.  Yvette Stanley, Director of Children, Schools and Families and Paul Angeli, Assistant Director, Children’s Social Care and Youth Inclusion.  A key part of the agenda was for staff and partner agencies to share examples of good practice to all those present.  As such, I nervously raised my hand and was invited by Paul Ballat, to ‘have my say’.  I shared my experience of ‘good enough supervision’ (Hawkins and Robin 2012), celebrating how I was able to engage in professional and personal reflection with my Practice Educator in a safe containing environment (Bion 1962).  This sharing experience led to an invite from Paul Lawrence, Learning and Development Manager, to take the lead in becoming the student representative for the Merton Children Social Care Social Work Board.

I attended two meetings, which allowed me to gain insight into how wider partners from Kingston and South Bank University review and share their expertise around specific items on the agenda.  For example, Jane Lindsay, Head of Social Work School for Kingston shared her knowledge and involvement of supporting Frontline social workers.  Alongside this I was able to gain an awareness of the Signs of Safety Child Protection Approach that Merton has recently introduced.  Following on, I was able to ‘have my say’ and spoke about how important it was for student social workers to be proactive in thinking about ‘lifelong learning’.  Moreover, for students and newly qualified social workers to take responsibility in reflecting, planning and sharing their thoughts on areas of continuing professional development during supervision and the appraisal process.

The opportunity to attend the Social Work Board meetings allowed me to further develop my leadership skills (PCF Domain 9: Leadership), which was an area of development I wanted to enhance and had noted on my Personal Professional Development Plan.

My participation at the meetings opened up another opportunity, that being to meet the Mayor of Merton: Agatha Akyigyina.  This was a fantastic experience as the Mayor had invited senior staff from Children’s Social Care team such as Lee Hopkins Service Manager and staff from the Team Around the Child and Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub.  The evening was very enjoyable and gave me the opportunity to network with other colleagues and to have a one-to-one conversation with the Mayor about my experience as a student social worker working in the 0-5 Supporting Families Team.  At the end of the evening, the Mayor presented guests with a gold badge, which she stated symbolised the hard work we had all given to Merton and the community.  Reflecting back on this moment, I felt so proud to have had the opportunity to work directly with Merton’s children and families.  The experience enabled me to make a firm decision to want to gain further competencies in working with children and families across different social care teams.  Therefore, I have applied for my Assessed Year in Employment with this goal in mind.

My closing thoughts contemplate the importance of student social workers being proactive in celebrating good practice in different forums.  Reflecting back on being brave at voicing my experience of good supervision at the staff forum led to becoming a student representative on the Social Work Board.  In thinking about my final thoughts, I would like to pay homage to Catherine Dove who inspired my bravery when she stated to all level 5-students embarking on their first practice placement, ‘one needs to be proactive’.  Her words I have enshrined in all aspects of my practice and I feel have helped me in making personal and professional decisions as a student social worker ready to embark on a new chapter of learning and development during the Assessed Year in Employment.