Deborah Olusoga

Social Work MA

View the course
  • Year of graduation: 2023
  • Current job title: Social Worker
  • Industry sector: Adult social care

I chose the University of Northampton because of the central geographical location and access to a good transport system, which was very important to me for optimum attendance. Also, the University offers a January intake for the programme, which fit perfectly into my plan.

My career goal at the time was to become a qualified Social Worker. Having been employed in the area of public health with little career progression, I ended up working in the health and social care field for over 14 years. During that time, I became a team manager, but felt something was missing in my ability to effect statutory decisions for the service users in my projects. I realised I needed a career where I could be more involved in statutory decisions to enable better outcomes for vulnerable people, families, and the wider society.

During the degree course, I enjoyed the opportunity to explore the UK’s social policy and legislations and how they are applicable to various situations and I’m now able to reference these within my professional decision-making. I appreciated being able to understand the role of legislation, professional standards, and ethics in ensuring that vulnerable individuals are protected – this knowledge has helped me to challenge any act of oppression in my everyday activities. There’s so much inequality and oppression in our world today – being able to learn social work values which are based on working in anti-discriminatory and anti-oppressive ways, which I feel is lacking in many professions, was crucial to me.

I was able to undertake two placements as part of my course, which provided opportunities to gain practical experience of what to expect in the workplace upon graduating. My first placement was 70 days of working within a children and families’ service, while the second was 100 days within a neurological care service.

During my 70-day placement, I worked with children and families, as well as individuals who were isolated and needed support to reconnect to local services during the Covid-19 lockdown. Wellbeing checks and phone calls were made to children and families to provide the extra support they needed to help meet their wellbeing goals, and children were visited in schools to assess their needs and make further provision to meet those needs, such as physical and mental health requirements.

The 100-day placement could be summarised as an avenue to put all the statutory aspects of the social work profession that I’d learnt into practice. Being able to undertake a student placement in a neurological and complex care service involves working with people who suffer an acquired brain injury, Huntington’s disease, dementia, stroke, etc., which helped me explore how these conditions can affect people. Whilst some patients were only admitted for several weeks for rehabilitation, others required longer stays, and even end-of-life care. My role was to visit hospitals, care homes and families to conduct assessments with other professionals, to find out if the neurological care service could meet their needs. This helped me to gain practical knowledge of the Care Act assessment and mental capacity assessment. Safeguarding concerns were reported when necessary and Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards were applied for, which all improved my understanding of what I’d learnt in the classroom. On many occasions during this placement, I also had the opportunity to train other professionals, including nurses and therapists on safeguarding, which improved my professional leadership skills.

I developed many employability skills during my placements, such as excellent assessment skills, anti-discriminative skills, communication with different vulnerable groups, adaptability, and organisational and leadership skills amongst others. I also gained coaching skills as I was able to train a team of new starters within the service and provide refresher training to many of the organisational staff teams, including registered nurses, psychologists, and physiotherapists.

Social Workers in the UK are still in high demand and my placement experience proved my ability to adapt to the changing needs of service users within our society. There’s also great demand for individuals who are passionate and able to challenge oppression, and those able to uphold human rights and lead social justice. These are some of the areas I was able to demonstrate during my job interview after graduating from the course. My studies have given me the confidence to defend the course I truly believe in and helped me to become an agent of social change within our society.

One of my tips for getting the most from a placement is to be willing to go the extra mile. You must have a can-do attitude, meaning a positive attitude to everything. Also, ask questions –you’re setting yourself up for greater learning opportunities if you do and there’s no silly question. You can’t know what you don’t know unless you learn it, so be open to the many learning opportunities you’re exposed to on placements. Also, be prepared for your supervisions and be ready to discuss what you’ve learnt or what went well, what did not go so well, and what you intend to do better through reflective practice. These will help you become a great reflective practitioner.

As well as my studies, I enjoyed music and swimming as a good form of relaxation, and I still participate in these now I’ve graduated. Studying a Social Work MA was extremely demanding, so having time for my own self-care helped me to unwind and alleviate any stress.

I’m now registered with Social Work England, have secured a professional role, and am looking forward to gaining a leadership role within the organisation I work for. All the skills and knowledge I’ve gained on my degree have been useful in my current role because I’ll easily make use of them within the course of my professional duties.

I’m currently volunteering for ‘pass the touch’, which aims to support victims of domestic violence and I’ll also be volunteering as a magistrate soon, to help make decisions that shape our community, and protect, enhance, and transform people’s lives.

If I could give any advice to someone interested in this career path, I’d encourage you to engage with the Student Hubs that are available, book one-to-one meetings with your lecturers for guidance if you need it and buy your books in advance.

My experience at the University of Northampton has been challenging yet motivating and fulfilling.