T A R S E M   S I N G H   C O O N E R

14 Tarsem Singh Cooner  Bike

After completing my under-graduate degree I worked in number of jobs before applying for a Day Care Organiser role with Sandwell Council. This post enabled me to work in one of the most deprived boroughs in the country. I felt I could do more than my post enabled, so I applied for and was seconded to study for a Social Work qualification. I qualified in 1993 and became a Senior Social Worker working in a variety of settings including adolescent mental health, aftercare, substance misuse, children and families and crisis intervention work. I’m currently a Senior Lecturer in Social Work at the University of Birmingham. I’m also a computer programmer, video editor and mobile phone app developer. I love working at the intersection of the social work discipline, creative digital arts and computer science.

I chose a bike because:

… whilst working with young people I found that taking a bike ride helped to build rapport and trust. Not being confined within four walls would often allow a service user or carer on a bike ride to find time to think and open up about the issues concerning them in ways they would struggle to whilst stuck indoors. Like the cycling activity itself, these bike rides would open up possibilities to travel to new, often safer, happier locations in the troubled lives of these young people.

This made me reflect on how the bike conveys a couple of really useful representations of social work. The first is of creativity in social work practice. When the bike was first produced, it was one of a handful of creative devices humans had developed to help them efficiently travel from one place to another under their own energy. Creative social work interventions can help service users and carers, often using their own energy to move out of the difficult places that they may inhabit and begin the journey they require to travel to new and more fulfilling times and spaces in their lives.

The second representation relates to the fact that the bike is made up of a number of different working parts. Each is an important element, but on its own its usefulness is limited. However, put together it becomes a beguilingly useful object allowing us to traverse from one place to another. This reminds me of the link between theory and practice in social work, each element on its own has its uses, but in my experiences it’s only when they are combined that they become intriguingly useful in helping us as practitioners to enable service users and carers to travel to new locations in their lives, places they may have thought were beyond their reach.

Reflecting on my own journey so far, I relate the different parts of a bike to the knowledge, experiences and skills I have gained from many years of social work practice. Getting all the parts to work together has required hard work and creative thinking, however, when the parts have come together, they have allowed me to travel and take others with me to new social work spaces that we never knew existed. I’m looking forward to continuing the ride and being captivated by the views over each new horizon.

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