Sara Rodrigues Francisco, BA (Hons) Social Work

I wanted to work and study in an area that I know could make a real difference to people’s lives.

When I arrived in the UK I was 18 years old, and to be honest I was very lost, not knowing which path I should take. What I did know is that I wanted to work and study in an area that I know could make a real difference to people’s lives.
All my life I watched my grandmother dedicate her life to the care of others, and I found this to be a huge inspiration to me. She worked as a domiciliary care worker for 30 years, and in more recent years she became a full-time carer to my grandfather, who unfortunately suffered a stroke.
Watching her commitment, compassion and empathy for others really influenced my decision to become a social worker.

Swapping Portugal for Plymouth

I’m originally from Madeira, a Portuguese island, and I lived with my grandparents during my adolescence. Living on such a small island I felt that there weren’t many opportunities for me. 
As my parents already lived in the UK, moving here was more of a light at the end of the tunnel, providing me with an opportunity to make a real difference in people’s lives. My parents lived in Cornwall, so when I searched for Social Work degrees this one was relatively close to home.
When I saw the curriculum, I saw a diverse learning opportunity that would allow me to experience a wide range of social work services. For example, in my first year I worked both in children’s services and with adults with learning disabilities.
The Hoe Plymouth
The location of Plymouth also really reminds me of home. As I mentioned, I grew up on an island, so being in a coastal city surrounded by nature really sold it to me.

Providing direct support

My placement is at an asylum seeker and refugee charity based in Plymouth. They provide advocacy advice, support, education and most importantly a welcoming space for asylum seekers in the South West region. 
My day-to-day placement is about assisting immigration caseworkers, which can include providing general information on the asylum systems to service users; directing service users in need of immigration advice to an immigration caseworker or solicitor; make referrals to English lessons at the local college or in-house wellbeing activities. I can also book travel assist for service users to attend Home Office appointments, and various other tasks.
Of course, every day is different and brings with it its own challenges and opportunities.
Engaging with numerous service users during the drop-in service gives me a valuable opportunity to provide direct support in various areas. Whether it involves explaining a Home Office letter they have received or addressing concerns related to a safeguarding incident within their residences. 
I remember writing on my personal statement that I wanted to work with refugees and asylum seekers. This was an area that I felt I wanted to explore. I felt I was able to show empathy based on my own experiences, for example show them from personal experience that you are allowed to make mistakes while learning English as a second language because it is part of the learning process. 
The course has absolutely shown me that it is important to advocate for the rights of individuals and communities and make people more involved in important decisions about their life. 

Becoming a social worker

Whenever I am working with a service user on my placement, I feel like I am actively doing social work. 
Everything that I learn during my lectures I can put into practice there, and it really does makes me feel like I am building my knowledge base and becoming a real Social Worker.
When I am in meetings on my placement and I am asked what my opinion is on real cases, it makes me feel like my voice is really being heard. On placement I am not simply just a student, I am a colleague.
Sara Rodrigues Francisco, BA (Hons) Social Work 

Real-world experience

Although it can be hard sometimes to balance academic deadlines with placement, I feel the mix of theory to practical work gives you the perfect opportunity to apply learned knowledge practically, in a real-world setting. 
I find that something I have learned in a lecture one week, I am able to apply on my placement the following week. Being able to meet and discuss our experiences with other students in a collaborative setting allows us to share best practice.
I definitely feel ready to work in this profession. I’m a confident person but that doesn’t always come across. The placement opportunities allow me to develop this more, allowing me to learn as both a student and a colleague. 
In this industry I think you need to be prepared to put your wellbeing first. Sometimes it can be easy to forget about looking after ourselves, but it is so important to allow yourself to take breaks.
The course itself is fantastic, you have the opportunity to really push yourself and learn new skills. I feel this programme makes you fully prepared for a life in Social Work.
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 graduate ready to start your professional career.

Study BA (Hons) Social Work

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