CORY Owen is one of 50 social work postgraduates and undergraduates studying at Swansea University, and has recently completed a 20-day placement.

He spent the time with Carmarthenshire Council’s community learning disabilities team.

“I was really apprehensive beforehand, but the team was great,” he says. “It was really interesting.”

The 24-year-old postgraduate is on an MSC course and must complete a further 80-day and 100-day placement by the summer of 2021.

Cory says he has a particular interest in mental health and learning disabilities, and has previously worked in this area.

He is enjoying the two-year course.

“It’s amazing, and all the lecturers are very approachable,” he says.

One of the lecturers, associate professor Michele Raithby, qualified as a social worker in the 1980s before academic life took precedence.

She says undergraduates and postgraduates must carry out 450 hours of relevant work experience before they can start either of the courses.

Dr Raithby says the ages of the undergraduates range from 19 to 50-plus.

These students also do 20, 80 and 100-day placements, which provide an increasing measure of responsibility and comprise 50% of the course qualification.

“The students will interact with members of the public,” says Dr Raithby. “They need to have good values and ethics, they need to be committed, and they need to know what they are letting themselves in for.”

Once qualified, these postgraduates and undergraduates can work with adults or children.

Asked about job prospects, Dr Raithby replies: “They are pretty good. There can be quite a lot of churn – particularly in children’s safeguarding.”

She says a number of previous students have returned to the university to do research or teach.

She describes social work as a “hugely challenging but very rewarding career”.

She adds: “People bring commitment, life skills and academic skills to the course.

“What motivates them sometimes are things which happened in their own life, not just to do good but to be effective as well.”

She says social work course numbers are capped by Social Care Wales, which develops the workforce, among other roles.

All social workers and social work students have to register with Social Care Wales.

Only people with a social work professional qualification can practise in this field.

A spokesman for Social Care Wales said the average starting salary for a qualified social worker was around £24,000, and that there was a career pathway with a number of senior roles available.

There are currently just under 6,400 adult and children’s social workers in Wales, who mostly work for local authorities. The ratio of women to men is four to one.

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