Students helping the vulnerable during the COVID crisis

Social work students at the University of Brighton are continuing to work despite the Coronavirus pandemic.

The students could have suspended their work placements but volunteered to carry on in hospitals, care homes and with organisations – working with safeguards and at appropriate distances from clients.

The students have been praised for their dedication by practitioners throughout the community.

Cath Holstrom selfie taken from homeCath Holmstrom, Deputy Head of the School of Applied Social Science (Student Experience and Recruitment) and Head of Social Work and Social Policy, said: “We are proud of our students and of the thorough, testing and yet supportive nature of the social work education we provide.

“At a time when we hear much and rightly so about the ‘sacrifices’ many health professionals make, it is good to recognise the work of social workers, working in contexts of austerity and reduced services whilst needs for services and support continue to rise.”

Cathy explained how the students undertake two lengthy placements in addition to their academic work. The first of these is a 70-day placement, often within voluntary sector organisations. Their final 100-day placements are required to be in local authority or hospital settings or a small number of other organisations undertaking legally mandated roles so that they are fully prepared upon qualification.

She said: “Students are key working and largely case-holding by this point in their placement, although work is supervised every week. They do not co-work all situations and will have been conducting home visits and interprofessional meetings as if they were qualified, albeit not having case responsibility for safeguarding situations.

“Across the two routes to qualification (BSc and MSc/PGDip), we had a total of 46 final placement students prior to the Covid-19 outbreak. Since then, 31 of these are still continuing, with appropriate safeguards in place, whilst others are paused due to either their own health or caring needs or those of others within their care.

“The students who remain in placements are in placement settings including mental health teams, adoption and fostering teams, family support and duty/child protection teams as well as general adult social work teams and disability teams.”

Practitioners have sent back messages congratulating the students, including:

  • “In these challenging times social work students have really stepped-up and shown their calibre, continuing to work with some of the most vulnerable people in our city. Students have shown willingness to divert their energies where the need is greatest, in hospitals, care homes, and supporting people to remain safe, well and connected in their communities. In everything they do they work to reduce distress of others, even though the situation changes for them day to day, as it does for all health and social care workers.”
  •  “Social work students have shown great resilience in terms of managing the unknown and taking each day as it comes, whilst remaining calm (particularly as they have many other sources of stress nearing the end of placements). They have also adapted very effectively to remote working and a different approach to practice on placement. I’ve been really impressed with their pragmatic approach to getting work done under challenging circumstances and maintaining their commitment to social work despite many having stresses associated with the wellbeing of loved ones etc.”

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