L I Z A L L A M
I qualified as a social worker from Birmingham University in 2002. Currently I’m on maternity leave from Farleigh Hospice in Essex, where I do outreach work providing information and support to people affected by illness and bereavement.
I have worked in a diverse range of settings, including mental health, with homeless people, in statutory and voluntary organisations, as well as with children in Delhi, and more recently as a Mental Health Advisor supporting unemployed people.
I chose the A-Z street finder because ….
It was my constant companion during my post-qualifying years. I covered a large geographical patch in East Birmingham and – in the days before sat navs and google maps – it was essential for navigating to the homes of the service users with whom I was working. I remember some frustrating tear my hair out moments when I had overrun at my last visit and was trying to find my way to the next one, pulling over at the side of the road in my little red vauxhall corsa, hazard lights flashing, whilst I pored over the map trying to work out where I was! The roads and networks of that area gradually became familiar – eventually etched on my memory – and slowly I became less and less dependent on my trusty A-Z.
In a metaphorical sense the A-Z represents how as a social worker, we were expected to do a bit of everything, to cover it all, from A-Z. In my time I have made sandwiches, helped people cook meals, clean their houses and write letters, I have accompanied people to court, hospital, police stations, cinemas, hospitals, taught English, attended funerals….. I have advocated, advised, supported, mediated, challenged, facilitated and trained. It is something that I love about social work, that you are a jack of all trades and can offer the support that an individual actually needs, whatever that may be (though I accept that is getting more difficult.)
The A-Z also makes me think about how each service user is located within a particular context. When you look at where they live on the map, it reminds me that each person is linked to a wider network – a family, a neighbourhood, a local community and ultimately society itself. It makes me reflect on how the circumstances in which a person finds themselves are inextricably tied up with this wider context and that, as social workers, it is vital that we acknowledge it and incorporate it in our work. And the A-Z leads me to ask where do we place ourselves on the map?
My final thoughts are that the A-Z stands for my own journey through social work profession – there is a wide variety of routes, and my own journey is still in progress.