Social Work placements in advocacy
Each year The Advocacy People welcome student social workers on placement and they generally stay and work with us for around four months.
It’s often a chance for students to accrue the practical case work hours they need, in a variety of working environments which they may not yet have encountered during their study.
Student volunteers also gain insights into the role of the advocate when working under the different legal frameworks in health and social care, such as the Mental Capacity Act, the Mental Health Act and the Care Act.
Our students tell us that they gain a great deal from their placement – but we also benefit hugely from the fresh perspectives and knowledge that they bring. It is definitely a two-way street!
We had a catch up with two of our Social Work students who have been with us since February to hear about their placements so far: Shannon is working alongside colleagues in Cornwall, and Charlie is with the Kent, London, Sussex team.
Hi there! Which university are you with? Did you specifically request an advocacy placement?
I am at the University of Sussex in my second year of a BA in Social Work.
I didn’t specifically choose an advocacy placement, mainly because I was quite open minded when it came to us putting our preferences down, but also because I was unaware of the organisation.
I am studying with the Open University on a degree apprenticeship programme. I am in the second year of a three-and-a-half year course.
I was able to suggest areas of development that I would like for my placement but it was chosen for me. I’d stated that homelessness, drug and alcohol, women’s refuge and mental health were my areas of interest.
Have you been ‘buddied up’ with an advocate on the team?
Yes, I have been allocated a ‘buddy’ whose background is as an experienced social worker. I have found this very helpful as she has a real understanding of my learning objectives, so has provided me with lots of learning opportunities.
I have felt supported by my buddy, she has been very understanding and considerate of me getting to grips with a new working role. The introduction period was thorough and enabled me to learn about the role of an advocate whilst undertaking shadowing opportunities and training.
What has it felt like so far and what kinds of practical experiences have you had already?
My background career has mostly been children’s social care, so getting to grips with the different legislations and advocacy roles initially felt quite daunting and overwhelming, but as I have progressed during my placement, I am starting to have a much better understanding.
Some of my practical experience so far has been advocating for clients with health complaints, attending the forensic mental health service user forum meetings, and visiting clients as their Relevant Person’s Representative.
It has been really interesting so far and I have been able to see lots of different roles such as Mental Health Advocate, Mental Capacity Advocate, Care Act Advocate, Relevant Person’s Representative and the role of the advocate in Deprivation of Liberty Safeguarding.
I have also been shadowing on hospital wards which has been really eye opening, and so interesting to see the role of a social worker from the person’s point of view. I have supported people in care homes and gained an understanding of advocating for their right to care and support needs.
I have learnt about the importance of the advocacy role in promoting and upholding people’s rights within the social care system. It has enabled me to reflect on how important person-centred practice is, as well as the legal systems that need to be followed to ensure that practice is ethical and people’s rights are promoted.
Has anything felt challenging at all?
Having to separate my professional identities from a Social Work student to that of an advocate was initially quite challenging. Shadowing a best interest meeting and witnessing the advocate have the opposite opinion to the social worker left me feeling quite conflicted. However, I have been able to adapt to this as I have learnt more about the advocacy roles.
I was also initially a little anxious about remote working but everyone that I have met within the team has been so warm and welcoming, it has really made a difference to my experience. I have also been very lucky to have a very supportive practice supervisor and practice educator.
Do you have an interest in a particular strand of advocacy?
Since starting my placement and having an insight into the different roles, I am quite interested in the Relevant Person’s Representative (RPR) role and also the forensic mental health advocacy.
So far, I have really enjoyed the RPR role and have found the Mental Capacity Act and Mental Health Act advocacy really interesting.
What do you feel might be the benefits for you as a social work student in doing this placement? Have you gained any insights already?
So far, I feel like it’s been beneficial for me to really understand and see how important it is for an individual to have their voice heard. So many people that we support have experienced or are at risk of experiencing oppression or discrimination. So, for them to feel listened to and empowered can make such a difference and it’s something that I will definitely be more consciously aware of in my future career.
I think it is valuable to be able to see the intervention of the social worker and the processes of supporting individuals purely from the perspective of the person concerned.
I think this placement has been beneficial in how I will consider the individuals I support in the social work role. Understanding the importance of an advocate in promoting people’s rights and how I can keep my practice person-centred.
Thank you to Charlie and Shannon and we hope the next few months go well!
We look forward to catching up again towards the end of their placement in June.
For Social Work students, a placement is a qualifying requirement of their professional programme.
But we also hear from people from a wide range of areas, including those doing law courses, and post-16 college students who are looking to do some volunteering for experience prior to doing a foundation course. Some of the local teams have also received enquiries from students doing psychology and disability related courses of study.
Here at The Advocacy People we are always glad to welcome students and volunteers where we can – and there may be various roles available depending on the locality team and your needs and wishes as a volunteer.
Find out more and download an info pack here or get in touch on 0330 440 9000.