I was very pleased to be able to support the first national Come Back to Social Work programme which was led by the Local Government Association and funded by the Department of Health and the Department for Education.
I attended their final session a few weeks ago and was really impressed with the success of the programme and the impact it's had in bringing excellent people back into practice. I am delighted that one of the participants, Ahmed Abd-Elghany, has written this guest blog to share his positive experience.
For the last few years I was looking hard to find a way back into social work. With the high demand and need for social workers I thought, with my experience, a few refresher courses would make it easy for someone like me to return.
However, I was not sure where to start and the courses didn’t come cheap - this was a setback for me and I am sure for many others in my situation.
In fact, I came across many avenues and funded programmes targeting non qualified people with degrees in any other discipline but social work!
Although there were opportunities to train, these programmes totally ignored the already qualified individuals who had taken a break for one reason or another. It didn’t make sense. I thought: surely it’s cheaper to help those with the right qualifications come back to practice rather than start from scratch?
I didn’t stop trying but the answer was frequently “Sorry you are already qualified”, or “Can you go back on the register first?” That’s when I started drifting away from the profession.
When I saw Come Back to Social Work advertised, I thought thank goodness someone out there has read my mind.
Applying for the programme was an opportunity not to be missed. I was very privileged to be selected with 20 like-minded social workers to participate in 30 days training, lectures, coaching and mentoring sessions.
I must admit it was overwhelming to start with, but we got through it. It’s not like doing another social work degree, it’s more like a refresher course where you can reflect on your learning and practice.
It was about what‘s new, what's changed, and the skills we can transfer from outside social work to our practice - building confidence, resilience and self-esteem.
We were able to meet new people, including those whose names I had previously only read in books or seen on TV, senior social workers from different local authorities, even the Chief Social workers (I gained lots of likes on Facebook!) and 20 social workers from different parts of the country who were the stars of the programme.
The programme helped me to think about creativity and innovation, utilising skills gained during my community development work with minority ethnic and faith communities.
Even though my experience and training were more linked to working with young people and families, changes in legislation and the shift towards working with communities made me think more about working with adults or generic social work and think more holistically about my social work approach.
Since I was able to link with local communities, give talks about social work promoting a positive image about social workers and social services, some community leaders we were able to identify the need for social work positions in large community and faith institutions - in particular those deemed hard to reach by professionals and were willing to part fund a social work post.
I certainly learnt a lot, built my confidence, met like minded people, got back on the register with HCPC and have a clear vision about where I want to be and what I want to do.
Ahmed is a qualified and registered social worker, specialising in building bridges between different ethnic and faith communities with a focus on Arabic speaking communities. He has served in local government, housing associations and the non-profit sector.
The impact of his community recreation work was formally recognised with an invitation to 10 Downing Street.