Interview: Volunteering with Thames Reach on placement year
We interview Beatrice, who has just finished volunteering with Croydon Reach as part of her placement year
We spoke to Beatrice, who has been volunteering with Croydon Reach as part of her degree in social work. As her placement comes to an end, we asked her about her experience and what she has learned on her journey towards becoming a trained social worker.
Can you tell us about the work you have done on your placement?
I have been in the outreach team as an outreach support worker at Croydon Reach. It’s been a really valuable learning experience for me, as at the beginning I was learning how the team support clients, and by the beginning of this year I had my own case load. I have been supporting people with housing, helping access benefits and signposting to services. Most of the people I’ve worked with have successfully moved on, so I’m proud of the work I’ve done.
Can you tell us a bit about your working background prior to coming to Thames Reach?
I am in my second year of my social work degree and didn’t have a lot of experience before coming here. I did do some volunteering in Portugal at an organisation working with refugees, people experiencing homelessness and people in supported housing. I was teaching computer skills, but there was a much smaller client group there.
What did you learn about homelessness during your time with us?
There is this public perception about homelessness that is so limiting, but it’s not the case with people you meet as a support worker. The negative stereotypes are so unhelpful and don’t account for the journeys that people are on.
When I got the placement, I didn’t think so much about homelessness in relation studying social work, but it’s made me realise that there are all sorts of people and situations involved in homelessness, and lots of different needs. In my social work experience before Thames Reach, I had worked with one group of people with one particular set of needs, but with homelessness there are so many factors to consider.
What would you say to someone thinking of volunteering with Thames Reach?
With all these different factors in people’s lives, it means there is a wide spectrum of opportunities, especially if you want to learn about particular things or use particular skills. The team have been so great to work with, I felt really supported and included. They were really open to being asked questions too, which is great when you’re first starting out.
How do you think your placement experience will help you be a better social worker?
I’ve learned so much about empowering the people we work with, and the ethics around that. It’s so important to understand what the individual wants, not just projecting what I think is best, as their support worker. I hope to be able to support people from where they are, rather than where I, or anyone else, think they should be. Understanding people and communicating with them has been such a huge learning opportunity for me; people engaging with substance teams, for example, has allowed me to see the process for myself. The journey someone is on isn’t always a straight line, and seeing people start again, if that’s what they need to do, is all part of that.
If you, or your team, are interested in volunteering with Thames Reach, please have a look at our Volunteer page and contact VolunteerManagers@thamesreach.org.uk for more information.