Carole recently completed a student placement with Safer London. Here she talks about her experience.

Why did you decide to do a placement with Safer London?

I ‘d never heard about Safer London until I attended an NHS Conference on Safeguarding, where Chief Executive Sherry Peck was speaking.

I was amazed by what she had to say in relation to the issues that young Londoners and their families face – the levels of deprivation, the levels of inequality in wealth and in some cases the compounding factor of racism. Sherry also spoke about the type of interventions Safer London used and the support provided. After hearing her speak I decided a placement at Safer London would be interesting and valuable.

Can you describe a typical working day at your placement?

My placement started as a normal placement going into the main office. However, it then morphed into a placement underpinned by the COVID-19 pandemic. The resilience observed with staff via emails, Zoom and telephone conversations, enabled me to function positively whilst working from home.

The people that Safer London supports, like the rest of the population, were required to stay at home. I was able to support them when they were having trouble in relation to buying food and keeping their heating on. I did this by telephoning various charities, supermarkets and the Citizen Advice Bureau, trying to establish where I could get food, gas and electric vouchers. On occasions, I would fill out hardship forms from various council websites to generate extra income for those in need. I also attended scheduled zoom sessions to discuss support with other colleagues.

I was fortunate to have daily supervision with my supervisor, which was hugely beneficial. We would discuss what I had done during the day, looking at my strengthens and challenges, and we would discuss what was required of me in my interventions the following day.

No two days were the same, you may have a planned programme of work and this can be taken off course because of a safeguarding emergency. This required full attention, and the issue may necessitate referral and discussion with social services. The diversity only contributed to the richness of the placement.

What skills and knowledge have you learnt during the placement?

During my placement I have learnt:

  • How to establish professional relationships
  • Basic counselling skills
  • How to provide support
  • The importance of safety planning
  • Contextual safeguarding
  • Multidisciplinary working
  • How statutory services work and legislation
  • Voluntary services and what they can offer
  • Housing legislation and criteria
  • Universal Credit and how it is awarded
  • Case management and recording
  • Importance of data collection
  • Role of the Family Specialist
  • Role of the Emotional Wellbeing Specialist
  • Role of young men specialist
  • Making safeguarding referrals

What has been your biggest achievement and challenge during your placement?

As you can imagine my biggest challenge has been working in the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Safer London pulled together as a team and helped each other. Therefore, I was able to navigate through the storm to continue to provide support to young Londoners and their families.

My biggest achievement has been all the skills and knowledge that I have gained, which will permeate through my career and form the underpinning of my practice as a social worker.

What has it been like working with Safer London?

I found the organisation has excellent leadership, which has cascaded down to the staff members whom I had the privilege of working with. Evidently, this organisation provides an exceptional service to some of London’s most vulnerable adults and young people at risk. I note that the level of expert intervention, empathy, tenacity and commitment to teamwork displayed by all staff, is truly commendable.

I had an exceptional supervisor, who provided daily and ad hoc supervision in relation to my objectives and learning needs. Supervision was always done in a non-judgmental, calm, pleasant and professional manner and not time bounded. Despite my supervisor’s busy caseload and numerous demands, I never felt a burden. In fact, I was actively encouraged to seek clarification and supervision when needed.

There was clear evidence of how social work theory married up with practice. For example, I attended a handover meeting with a children’s social services department on Zoom, regarding an individual who required support. I was supported by my supervisor who allowed me to lead the conversation. I had been briefed before the meeting and a debriefing took place after the meeting, which greatly enhanced my learning.

Evidently, Safer London provides an enriched conducive environment for learning and has created a supportive environment to the young Londoners and their families that they support, as well as for their staff and students.

How do you think this placement has benefited you for the future?

Unequivocally, the way I entered Safer London is not the way I am leaving. I have a greater understanding of the complexities and vulnerabilities that impact young Londoners and their families affected by violence and exploitation. I have been able to see through discussions, how structural inequalities, which are deep rooted, manifests and impacts their lives.

I have been able to be a part of a wonderful team of support workers, who make a real difference in young Londoners and their families lives. For example, one service user said to me “I don’t know what I would do without Safer London staff”. This is hugely rewarding.

I am leaving Safer London with many skills, which will permeate future practice. I feel appreciative having completed my placement with this organisation.

What advice would you give to another student who might be interested in seeking a placement?

This is a fantastic placement if you are interested in working with vulnerable individuals with complexities. Safer London is a place where you will thrive and learn many lifelong skills that will support you on your professional journey.

In order to gain these skills, ask many questions and offer to do things so you can work collaboratively with all staff. This will allow you to get the best from your placement.

Carole’s skills have been valuable she has been able to transfer her skills, expertise and knowledge to us, and help empower us as frontline workers. Not only does Carole benefit from having her placement at Safer London, I feel we benefit from having Carole’s wisdom, as she brings a lot to our team, and the work.

Carole’s supervisor
Find out more about our student placements here