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Fiona Firman

Fiona FirmanSocial Worker, London Borough of Brent

MA Social Work, 2013

Tell us a bit about what you're doing now.

I am currently working for the London Borough of Brent in the Transitions Team. My role is working with young people with disabilities aged 14-25, transitioning them from childhood to adulthood. Previously I was working in the Adult Safeguarding Team.

What do you find most rewarding about your field? What are the biggest challenges?

The biggest rewards for me are when you genuinely make a difference to a child or their family by helping them get access to the support that they need. I find it really rewarding seeing my young people achieve their goals and make progress with their lives. There are many challenges in the field, in my team one of the challenges is having to be familiar with adults and children and family law. The other major challenge is trying to co-ordinate the support that is needed as often there are a lot of professionals involved and sometimes it is difficult to find the resources that will meet the young person's need. Good communication skills, good analytical skills and time-management are essential to overcome these difficulties.

When looking at universities, what inspired you to apply to Middlesex?

I applied to a few universities but I particularly liked Middlesex as it was really conveniently located and it looked like a great campus. I had looked on the website and I was impressed by what the university had to offer.

What was it about the course that motivated you to apply for it?

I applied for the Social Work course at Middlesex because I had heard that it had a really good reputation for social work and a high standard of teaching. I had heard that Middlesex were particularly good at getting their students placements, and this was one of the deciding factors for me when I accepted my offer.

What did you enjoy about the course?

I enjoyed many aspects of the course and in particular I enjoyed the breadth of the learning, for example looking into theoretical aspects of social work such as psychology and sociology and balancing this with practical learning and skills sessions to develop communication skills and tools for practice. I really enjoyed the balance of study and placement and I was able to integrate my learning with my practice along the way, which was really interesting, and at times challenging. In my undergraduate degree in Psychology, the learning was absolutely focused on the academic side of things and there was little opportunity to see how things applied in reality, but with this course it was great to be able to get a holistic and tangible understanding of the subject. I think the aspect of the course I have enjoyed the most has been the opportunity to develop my understanding of how social work fits into the bigger picture of society and also to challenge my own values and ethics by getting involved in lively debate. I made some wonderful friends over the two years and I hope that we will continue to support each other as our careers develop.

How do you feel your time at Middlesex helped prepare you for your career?

The placements were excellent for preparing me for the practical skills needed for social work, and in understanding the systems and processes that can be very overwhelming at times. The academic side of the course prepared me well by teaching me analytical skills, as well providing a good framework of theories to support my interventions. Middlesex covered a good grounding of the different disciplines that influence social work and by studying this I was able to broaden my horizons and better understand the causes and effects of the various difficulties faced by those working with social services. The course also sets out social work in the context of the law, which is essential when working in Social Work.

Would you recommend Middlesex to prospective students considering going to university?

I would certainly recommend Middlesex to other students, it was an intense two years of very hard work, but it has really been worth it.

What skills have been particularly valuable in your career to date, and how have you developed these?

Being able to analyse a situation and be able to use the knowledge and skills learned on the course to truly understand what is happening within a family has been one of the key skills I am still learning and developing. I have been able to develop these skills mainly through supervision and reflective practise as this supports this process well.

The other skills that have been invaluable have been time-management and stress-management. It is very easy to become overwhelmed when working in Social Work, however developing techniques to manage these things, through training, practice and supervision, has helped overcome some of these challenges.

What three pieces of advice would you give to current students and recent graduates hoping to follow a similar career path to you?

1. Never be afraid to ask for help and support, it is essential that you have this.
2. Apply for jobs even if you don't feel confident, so much of the learning happens when you are in post. No one is expecting perfection.
3. Don't worry if you don't get your perfect job, you can always change jobs once you're in an organisation.

What does the future hold for you?

At the moment I am going to continue to work for the Transitions Team and try and build on the skills and knowledge I have and work towards becoming a more confident and experienced practitioner. I am thinking of doing further training to become a best interests assessor to further develop my career.

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