Alison Smith: a unique social work perspective

Alison tells us how all of her experiences have helped to shape who she is personally and professionally

“The University was very supportive and nurturing and allowed me to leave feeling confident in my ability to perform as a social worker; this had a significant impact on my career aspirations. Further to this, the placements that I went on during my time at Plymouth gave me the experience I needed to take the next steps in my career. 
The student experience is fantastic! The lectures are really supportive and empowering. I was challenged and supported to develop myself on a personal and professional level.”

Alison Smith

Alison Smith graduated from BA (Hons) Social Work in 2014. She is currently studying MSc Sociology and Social Policy at the University of Southampton.

This is Alison's story

After graduating from university, I spent a year working in my final placement which was at the Zone. My role there was as a 'floating support worker' in the Zone Accommodation Project (ZAP) where I was supporting young people who were homeless or at risk of becoming homeless in Plymouth. This was a fantastic opportunity to develop my assessment skills and my understanding of youth homelessness. In June 2015 I then made the decision to move to Basingstoke where I secured a job as a newly qualified Children and Families Social Worker for Hampshire County Council. Here I was supported to complete my Assessed and Supported Year in Employment (ASYE) and truly develop into a confident practitioner. After completing my ASYE I practiced for a further 14 months where I had the opportunity to work in both the initial assessment team and long-term child in need teams.

Towards the end of 2016 I made the decision to pursue my interest in social policy and further education and got accepted to do a masters in sociology and social policy. I am currently completing this masters degree and am loving it! Here I am able to bring a unique social work perspective into the policy world and continue with my professional development. My hope for after the completion of my master's degree is to work in the policy department of a charity, where I can do research and write policies that advocates for the needs of others.

I have recently started volunteering with The Children’s Society as a 'campaigns champion' and had the opportunity to meet with the current immigration minister. I promoted The Children's Society recent research report called ‘Making Life Impossible’. We discussed one of the key findings of this report which was in relation to the ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’ condition which has been placed on families who have been granted ‘leave to remain’ status within the UK. This means that these children and their families may be living on a low income and are not allowed to access most mainstream benefits like child benefit, housing benefit, child tax credits and free school meals. Children growing up in this situation are hugely disadvantaged and can experience significant poverty. The immigration minister recognised this as a serious problem and stated that she 'will continue to explore this issue further'.

This was a fantastic opportunity to advocate for the rights of vulnerable children and their families which is at the core of my values. 

Read Alison's blog about meeting the immigration minister

Choosing Plymouth

One of the main reasons for choosing to study at Plymouth was its location and student experience. I knew other social work students at Plymouth who really enjoyed the course and recommended it to me. Further to this, the location is amazing! This was very important to me as it shaped my student experience as a whole; the fact that others had recommended the course to me had a big influence on my decision.

If I could do my undergraduate degree again I would get more involved with the activities and events put on by the University. I would get involved with different societies and take advantage of the support that’s available. Sometimes when we are under a lot of pressure or stressed we can feel alone, however, there is so much support that’s available. The University really prioritises mental health needs as well as fun activities!

I used the library services to help with essay writing techniques and they were brilliant! They took the time to go through any questions I had and give me appropriate guidance. This improved the quality of my written work and helped me to enjoy the process more.

I also accessed the careers and employability services, they supported me to update my CV and gave me advice about completing job applications; prior to this I had applied for jobs but was often unsuccessful, after this I was a lot more successful!

Studying at Plymouth helped me to develop key analytical skills which was important for my career and also in day to day living. Further to this, the nurturing environment meant that I built key independent living skills.

I loved the placements I completed, that’s where I truly felt I was developing my social work skills and learning. 

Having varying placements allowed me to gain experience and key skills that allowed me to progress into the next step of my career. The fact that there was good communication between the placement and tutors meant that I was always fully supported to continue to develop.

Follow in Alison's footsteps

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Want to make a rewarding and positive contribution to society? 

Social workers support children and families through child protection procedures, fostering and adoption and youth justice to name but a few. They also support adults with issues including disability, drug and alcohol dependency, mental health, homelessness and safeguarding. You'll spend over 170 days on real-life placements with adults and children, so you’ll graduate ready to start your professional career.

Study BA (Hons) Social Work