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Alex, social worker
Andy Parsons

Things you only know if you’re a social worker

James FitzGerald

…according to Alex, 27. 

Everyone has problems, no matter how well off they are

‘Working in child protection for Frontline, I’ve seen the big gulf in lived experience that people in London have. I work with a number of kids who experience deprivation, but also some from affluent backgrounds, and the hardships they face could be quite similar. Issues like mental health transcend class.’

Splitting up families is pretty rare

‘It only happens in a small proportion of cases, usually after a lengthy court battle. More often than not, we’re here to support families over a long period, not create divisions – and that’s what I like about the job. Building a positive and safe relationship over time goes against the quick-fix, fast-food culture that we see everywhere around us in city life.’

People can be incredibly suspicious of state intervention…

‘We represent the best and worst sides of the state. Compared with doctors or teachers, we offer a really personal service: visiting people’s homes. But to those who are already victims of structural oppression, our appearance on the doorstep can feel like another kick in the teeth.’

…but the job still has a feelgood factor

‘I used to be a civil servant, but realised I wanted the opportunity to work with people in the community. Social workers can have huge power in shaping a person’s future. It’s very powerful when a family who didn’t want you in their lives end up expressing their gratitude weeks or months later. Even if the teenagers keep calling me out for my uncool trainers.’

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