Case study

Newly qualified social worker — Daniel Sillman

Daniel worked in education before changing career by studying at Goldsmiths, University of London. He's now a qualified social worker and member of the British Association of Social Workers (BASW)

How did you get your job?

I spent a few years working in school's following my undergraduate degree in literature and film studies, including time spent as an unqualified teacher of children with special educational needs (SEN). I found the pastoral side of this work much more interesting and rewarding and was drawn towards safeguarding when working with a young girl who was experiencing severe neglect at home.

I didn't make the jump to social work until a couple of years later, during a period of dissatisfaction in the education sector. I knew I wanted to work with children and that meaningful work would be in improving their lives and their material conditions at home.

What's a typical day like as a social worker?

A typical day will give you a full run through of the different processes and help cement your knowledge on how to develop effective practice. Child in Need meetings, Child Protection Conferences, a court case in Care Proceedings, all of it helps build knowledge of how the Local Authority works to safeguard children and it's a wonderful experience to be a part of. 

While there are processes to follow and structures in place, meetings might need to be rearranged at the last second for a strategy discussion about a missing child. It's an unpredictable role in safeguarding, which can be both exciting and frustrating.

What do you enjoy about your job?

Complexity and relationships. I work with very complex cases, none of which are the same. They range from serious adolescent mental health cases to premature babies left alone in hospital when their parents don't attend. Throughout this work, building quick relationships with families is key and motivates progress much faster than a top-down authoritarian approach. I have found this relationship-based work most effective. Second to this, the knowledge I've acquired during my year as a newly qualified social worker has placed me far beyond what I expected at the end of university. I am managing cases I never thought I'd be capable of managing at this point in my career and my confidence in my own abilities is down to the excellent training and supervision I've enjoyed from my team and other colleagues. 

What are the challenges?

Managing a caseload of complex cases sometimes means that those with a less identifiable risk slip, albeit temporarily, by the wayside. It's important to ensure that this doesn't happen as we know that in the majority of Serious Case Reviews, the cases were Child in Need and the risks hadn't fully been identified.

Other than that, finding time to wind down away from work is an art that is just as important as anything else. Cases can take up a lot of headspace and it's vital to remember who you are outside of work.

In what way is your degree relevant?

After my undergraduate degree I struggled to find well paid work during the recession. However, my social work degree from Goldsmiths, University of London has really prepared me for my career. It gave me the necessary experience through placements and taught me about social work through an anti-oppressive lens, which I am ever grateful for.

What are your career ambitions?

Right now I'm at the beginning of my social work career. I have interest in mental health and harbour small fantasies about going into psychotherapy. But at this juncture I just want to learn more and support families in the best way possible.

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