More than 30 social work students at the University of Brighton are volunteering to continue placement work during lockdown by supporting vulnerable families whose needs are even greater with the COVID crisis.
Here, 35-year-old student and single mum Hannah Beniston (final year Social Work BSc(Hons)), tells how she’s providing vital help while balancing the needs of her two teenage children.
“Since the new guidelines regarding coronavirus were introduced, I have been mostly working from home and have had to adapt the way I work. This is because I’m not based in our office with a team around me to guide me with my learning.
“Initially I was told by the university my placement may need to be postponed but I felt I had come so far and worked so hard for this degree, I didn’t want to abruptly stop now. I was fully prepared to continue working frontline for a cause I feel so passionately about.
“Fortunately, there was a change in University guidelines which meant with the use of extra support and supervisions from the University, my practice educator and supervisor and daily Skype meetings with the rest of the Duty and Assessment Team it has been made possible for me to continue with this placement.
“Working from home doesn’t come without difficulties, especially when you have children at home also demanding your attention and help with their school work. I certainly preferred having the structure of going into the office and having a clear divide of work/home life. It’s all very muddled at the moment, but I’ve adapted well.
“Luckily, I am very capable of working on my own initiative, so working alone has been achievable. I have had to become more creative in communicating with clients. We’re all having to adjust and familiarise ourselves with new technology applications to do this.
“Obviously there can be some difficulties with this, some families may not have access to technology and others may choose to not want to engage in this way. Communicating over the phone is very different to carrying out routine visits. It doesn’t feel so natural and makes you realise how important body language and facial expressions are for picking up signals and making relationships with our service users.
“We have been advised to have minimal face-to-face contact. But, of course, we are front line key workers, and our work cannot stop. Abuse and neglect do not stop. Our duty is to protect vulnerable children and adults. Lockdown may cause many to become even more vulnerable. This has been highlighted with the huge spike in reports of domestic violence reports. People are being told to stay at home, but for many, home isn’t a safe place. As such, we are continually supporting these families be it over the phone, via FaceTime and Skype or face-to-face. We are continually assessing need and risk and endeavouring to minimise this wherever we can.
“As always, we deliver the best possible service we can, but in these uncertain circumstances, we do this whilst trying to keep ourselves and our own families safe.”
Hannah is carrying out her final placement with the Local Authority Children’s Service Duty and Assessment Team. She plans to work in frontline child protection after qualifying.