Joanne Scott mother of four from Dundonald, recently graduated from the part-time Degree in Social Work at Queens University Belfast. She shares her experience of the Part time Degree in Social Work Course
I started working for an agency in June 2015 as a Social Care Co-Ordinator. In August 2015 I moved to a Social Work post and started my AYE. I am currently working at BHSCT in an older people's team through the agency and am hopeful that I will be able to complete a good part of my AYE if not my whole AYE there.
What was your motivation for enrolling on the part-time Social Work Degree course?
I had been a full time carer for two of my four children for the past 13-14 years and was particularly interested in carer supports. I gained vital experience in my caring role such as engaging with different professionals and advocating for my children and wanted to use this experience to help support others.
Have you always been interested in social work/social care?
I always have been interested in people and the diverse difficulties that they may face. I have always recognised that each situation is unique to each person and each person must be recognised in their own individual context.
How long have you worked in the social care sector?
Previous to my caring role, I worked as a care assistant in residential care. I thoroughly enjoyed this role which provided me with good communication skills and the value of ensuring that I treated everyone with respect and dignity regardless of their circumstances.
Do you have other qualifications?
I have 7 GCE’s which I obtained at school and I obtained an Access to University Qualification from Belfast Met in 2010.
What are some of the parts of the course you found most interesting?
I found the two Practice Learning Opportunities (PLO’s) to be the most interesting part of my course as it enabled me to connect the theory that I had been taught in uni into my practice with service users. Both PLO’s enabled me to experience first-hand the difficulties that some people face and the supports they require from social workers. Also, as I had not been in employment for a while, these placements gave me the opportunity to experience working in an environment guided by legislation/policies and procedures and the impact that this could have on how I support others.
Were there any aspects of the course you found challenging?
At first I felt at a disadvantage from the rest of the part-time group as I was the only one who was not in full time employment. However, with the support of my peers and tutors, I soon came to realise that I had gained valuable experience in my caring role and had much to offer to my role as a student social worker.
What do your friends/family think of your achievements?
My family and friends have been very encouraging throughout the course and were delighted when I graduated in July 2015. This experience has proved a positive example to my four children as it has allowed them to see that you can achieve great things with hard work and determination no matter what age you are.
Is there any individual (or more than one person) who inspired you on your study/career path?
My husband was very supportive throughout my study time and had to balance his full time job along with supporting me. At times (especially when an assignment was due or during exam time) he took sole responsibility for looking after the children; making meals etc and generally running the house. Although this proved stressful for him, he supported me so that I could focus on my uni work as he knew that I really wanted to become a social worker.
How did you manage to balance to the demands of working/studying and family life?
By being organised and expecting the unexpected. The part time route suited me as it allowed me to be flexible in that I was able to focus on my work when needed whilst caring for my family. However, if I had been working full time like the rest of my group, I think I may not have found the studying/family balance just as easy.
What ‘words of wisdom’ do you have for anyone who might be considering studying social work?
Although it is a very rewarding and interesting course, it can be very difficult and stressful at times. I would recommend a good sense of humour to see you through and peer support was vital to my success. Be organised, work hard and don’t take yourself too seriously!
Apart from gaining a qualification, how have you benefitted from completing your degree?
I have gained confidence in my abilities and realise that everyone has different skills which they can use regardless of their background or job setting.
What does social work mean to you?
To me social work is about supporting people to try to overcome any difficulties and problems they may face. It is not about ‘fixing’ people but about supporting them to have the same opportunities and rights as those who may be in a more advantageous position.
How do you think the general public see social workers? Do you think this view is accurate?
I think on the whole that the general public remains pretty sceptical about social workers. They seem unsure about the role of social work and media perceptions of ‘social work done badly’ appears to feed in to this perception. I think more information needs to be given about the role of social workers to the public and positive examples of ‘successful interventions’ and ‘good social work’ might help to alleviate negative perceptions of social workers.
For details on the Part-time Degree in Social Work visit:
Queens University Belfast: http://www.qub.ac.uk/schools/SchoolofSociologySocialPolicySocialWork/Education/Undergraduates/SocialWork/SocialWorkPart-TimeDegree/
Ulster University: http://www.ulster.ac.uk/courses/course-finder/201516/Social-Work-Part-time-route-5081