The SWEET Project

The SWEET Project

The SWEET Project was started in March 2010
in response to a direct need, not only for family support on the three estates Kings
Norton, which is the third most deprived area in Great Britain, depending on which statistics
you use, but also in direct response to a lack of quality student placements that were
available to student social workers at the University. Ihave been taking students from
UoB now for about the last 12 years. I like the fact that they come prepared, so an awful
lot of preparation goes in to training the students, teaching the students before they
come on placement, so that’s around anti-oppressive, anti-discriminatory practice, values, ethics,
risk management, so they come very well prepared. The great thing about the SWEET project that
makes it different from a statutory setting is that you get that valuable time with service
users and you get to really build your people skills up and you spend a lot of time out
of the office and a lot of time face to face working with people which is really important,
valuable experience for social work. We work with toddlers, children, adults, older adults
the whole spectrum. You get opportunities to do direct work where we go within schools,
or sometimes in the family home and do various activities to help children, behaviour or
self-esteem. One of the best things about the SWEET Project is you get the time to actually
work face to face directly with people for a lot of the time while you are here, so obviously
that’s good experience. The difference between SWEET and other placements is that all the
staff here are dedicated practice educators, so it’s their role and it’s within the organisation’s
ethos to support and develop you as a trainee social worker and I have found that I have
really grown a lot with that support and it’s not just social work, training support, it’s
your wellbeing as well and they really care about you. There’s quite alot of supervision
at the SWEET project that we have one to one supervision every month with our supervisor,
practice educator, which is really useful. We have case managements for each case family
every month, so we can sit down and talk through any issues that we are having with the cases
and any improvements, anything that needs to be improved and draw on a wide range of
services. We also have theory to practice which is essentially where a student social
worker will present a case and talk about applying theory to that case, so we learn
in that way more about theory and legislation. From the get go, from day one they always
told us that whether it’s a silly question, minor question, there’s no such thing as a
silly question. There’s no set way of how you have to go about things with service users,
so it’s really up to you what you want to do within reason. You can be quite creative
with your service users and you are really given ownership of your cases to try and put
things in place to help the families, so just having that responsibility. I think what’s
different with the SWEET Project is we do a lot of training. We do weekly training and
that can be visitors from other agencies that come and give training to the students or
what we actually deliver, but they also do separate theory to practice sessions and they
do it on a live case so it makes it more real linking it to a live case. They do the same
with legislation training and again linking the legislation to a live case. It makes it
more real and they can then put in place what they have learnt at University. I think with
the feedback from the students, each cohort of students we learn from them how we can
improve the service for them each time, and the students really benefit from having – they
learn so many theories, it’s whether they can put them into practice and whether they
can transfer that work or what they have learnt into practice. The University programme sets
you up, you know, with the skills and knowledge and this gives you the opportunity to implement
them in the real world, and there’s a big difference between what you learn at University
and what you do on placement, but it’s all about making those connections and trying
to see the bigger picture. I think we are very unique really in the fact that we are
the only student unit, dedicated student unit in the country to train student social workers.
We have worked with over 600 families now in three and a half years. The complexity
of the cases is getting deeper and deeper really as we speak and we meet a need that
no other organisation actually meets. These are families, children, vulnerable adults
who have no one else to offer support, so if you are thinking about doing a placement,
don’t think of it as a placement especially if you are coming to SWEET, because we are
actually changing people’s lives.

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