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This is a guest blog by June Symonds, current BA (Hons) Social Work student.

As a 2nd year BA (Hons) Social Work student, it has been a pleasure studying at Bournemouth University – one of the most prestigious universities in our country. BU offer such an enriching social work programme, which undoubtedly prepares students for their social work career. With the Covid-19 pandemic came challenges which we have all had to adapt and adjust to. The social work Lecturers put in an immense amount of hard work and dedication in securing suitable placements for every social work student despite the adaptations that organisations had to make in view of the pandemic. This allowed students like myself the opportunity of a broad range of experiences for my learning and development.

It goes without saying that at the heart of this pandemic, BU have done an amazing job supporting me and many other students through our learning. My Academic Adviser has been on-hand to offer support and her door has always been open which has been extremely reassuring. She signposted me to other areas of the university where I was able to receive financial support during the pandemic and this has been invaluable to me: a real testament of the care and support that BU offer their students.

Lecturers have also worked very hard to arrange for suitable industry professionals, Social Work Practitioners and members of the Public Involvement in Education and Research partnership to help enrich our learning and our future practice with service users, carers, and other professionals. I am confident that all these experiences are shaping us into learning, developing and ultimately qualifying us to become the best Social Workers that BU have produced.

General William Booth (Founder and General of the Salvation Army), once sent a telegram to his officers around the world to remind them of the focus of their work. The telegram contained one word ‘others’. That single word captured the foundation for the entire organisation. It is this word ‘others’ that resonates with me and drives my passion to support, enable, encourage and empower others to make life-long changes. It is my hope that a career in social work will enable me to put this passion into practice.

I started and finished my 70-day placement during the pandemic in an agency that provided support for clients and their families with drug, alcohol, and mental health conditions. Having covered units such as “Learning from the Lived Experience”, “Law and Social Policy”, “Social Exclusion and Discrimination”, and “Readiness for Direct Practice in Social Work” to name a few, I felt adequately prepared to start my practice placement, to critically reflect and develop my knowledge, skills and experiences.

My placement was invaluable to me and gave me many opportunities to develop my learning in assessments, interventions, agreeing care plans and setting SMART goals with clients as part of supporting their ongoing recovery. I supported clients (working from home and the office) via telephone and some face to face contact with full Personal Protective Equipment provided. There were also many opportunities of inter-professional working which allowed me to develop the use of relational communication skills to enhance my future practice.

I couldn’t have completed my placement without the high-quality support from my Practice Educator (PE), Placement Supervisor and Practice Tutor. My PE assessed and supported me very effectively with supervision, always keeping me thinking on my feet to critically reflect and consider the linking of theories to practice, observations and feedback to ensure the quality of my practice, the regulatory Professional Standards and Professional Capability Framework were being met.

During this pandemic, I have also volunteered for several local charities. My work with Safe Families UK (a local early help Christian charity) has involved me being a Family Friend to a local family of five who were new to the area. Regular weekly friendly support for the mother helped to build her confidence and provide support as she went through a cancer diagnosis during lockdown. Creating a genuine connection with the whole family helped to provide hope and a sense of belonging for the family. I also helped deliver food parcels through the initiative with Safe Families UK and St. Clements Church, LOVECHURCH, Bournemouth to families in crisis and have found it to be a wonderful way of helping others and showing God’s love in times like this.

I also supported an elderly friend through my voluntary work with The Silver Line charity who provide a free confidential helpline and support for older people across the UK. Giving my time once a week to engage in meaningful conversation with my telephone friend has been enriching and deeply enjoyable throughout lockdown.

As the pandemic struck and initial lockdown provisions came into effect in March 2020, Citygate Church Bournemouth partnered with Bournemouth Foodbank (a Trussell Trust foodbank) to provide a foodbank community hub at their Citygate Centre on Holdenhurst road where I volunteered. This initiative was a practical way of utilising the church building to support our local community during lockdown. The foodbank supported some members of our local community who reached a crisis point because of furloughed arrangements, redundancies, changes in benefits etc.

I am excited to see what the next year has in store for my learning and development at BU with the hope of our country coming out of lockdown restrictions soon.

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