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Gavin Hogarth: Step Up To Social Work Student

I’m Gavin Hogarth and I’m a Student on the Step Up to Social Work Programme, a 15 month postgraduate course running at the University of Birmingham.

I’m currently on my first social work placement within adult social services at a local authority in the West Midlands, providing support in the community following discharge from psychiatric hospital. I started my placement on the 6th July and I’ll be with the team until the 9th October before returning to university.

The placement has been a really interesting and rewarding experience; seeing how the team, the council and partners have adapted to the ‘new normal’; working in the main from home in a virtual environment. For the most part my placement has been a wholly rewarding and positive experience, although of course there has been some challenges and limitations. I have missed the everyday situational learning opportunities and relationships which build when working alongside others in an office; the chances the ask questions and discuss cases. Also, as a single parent of three, it’s certainly easier to work from home now that my children have returned to school, although I must confess that I have a mild pang of panic each time my mobile rings in case its school informing me of a lockdown!

My placement involves contributing and participating in weekly group supervision with other step-up students within the Telford & Wrekin cohort sessions. Facilitated by our practice educator we always begin group supervision by presenting a postcard which represents our feelings at that point in time. At our group supervision session on Day 20 of the placement I selected the following postcard:

I selected this particular postcard as it perfectly captured my feelings towards my placement in a ‘virtual world’ at that point. Following shadowing many online meetings on Teams, mike and camera turned off, I felt that I was ‘stage left’ observing much more competent others. I felt like I had been granted the privilege of ‘access all areas’ access to observing a new world but, due to my status as a student, unable to join in and participate. Carrying out a virtual placement was an interesting experience, shadowing and observing online meetings a valuable and enlightening learning experience but the remote nature, the ability to turn off your camera, mute your mike, did have an undeniable distancing effect where I felt separate from the placement setting.

This of course was back in early days of the placement and since then much has changed, as I’ve taken on cases and increased face to face work I’ve been increasingly able ‘step into the room’ to turn my camera on, turn my mike on, contribute and participate. My ‘virtual’ placement is constantly evolving and developing and is a hugely rewarding and valuable experience; I’m learning and developing new skills and knowledge each day. I was very happy indeed to choose and show this postcard on Day 37!

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