After completing my A Levels, I studied for a degree in Education with the aim of becoming a Primary School Teacher. However, after graduating, I realised that the values, issues and topics I’d discovered in Psychology and Sociology were my real passions and I knew I wanted to make a difference to children more holistically than solely through education.

I got a job as a Family Support Assistant and decided to further my qualifications and study for a Masters in Social Work. My favourite part of this course was the practical placements; I got to experience working in a children’s cancer charity within a hospital, an adult’s social care setting and supported accommodation for homeless women.

Since qualifying as a Social Worker, I’ve enjoyed three different roles. I spent two years working for Surrey Children’s Services in a Family Safeguarding Team supporting children and families facing issues such as abuse and neglect, parenting, mental illness, substance misuse, domestic abuse, child exploitation and other factors impacting on a child’s development. A large part of my role involved supporting families through care proceedings and the court process when a child is removed from their parents and placed with family or in foster care . I’ve also worked as a Supervising Social Worker in a fostering agency.

I’ve just started a new role as Social Worker at The Children’s Trust Charity. We work with children, young people and their families dealing with the impact of acquired brain injury, neuro-disability and complex health needs. In my role, I’m responsible for safeguarding across site, which includes delivering safeguarding supervision and training to all staff. My favourite part of the role is working as part of a multidisciplinary team, providing social and emotional support to children and families, and making sure they have the right help once they return home. I haven’t been here long but I’ve been so touched by the amazing children and families I’ve met. It’s a wonderful feeling to wake up every day and feel grateful for where you work!

Being a social worker is challenging; you have to be organised, keep calm under pressure and have plenty of empathy to see other points of view. Social work offers a versatile and interesting career path, and it’s so rewarding to feel you are making a positive difference to people’s lives.

College was a firm stepping stone to undergraduate study and gave me the opportunity to explore subjects that have cemented my values, morals and interests to this day. I’d never had the opportunity to study Sociology or Psychology before and, had I not chosen these subjects, I don’t think I’d be the person I am today. Sociology taught me so much about society and the different ways of looking at the world. It gave me a real sense of social justice which is what has ultimately led me to becoming a Social Worker.

I loved the way that Reigate College gave us independence and autonomy as students and helped me discover learning for interest and passion, not just to get a certain grade at the end of it.

My advice for any students wanting to pursue a career in social work is to get as much practical, hands-on experience as you possibly can. There are so many areas you can go into, so take time to network, learn about the resources in your local area and volunteer in as many different places and organisations as you can, e.g. schools, nurseries, children’s centres, care homes, charities etc.

Being a good social worker means being truly invested and having strong morals and values to guide your practice. You need to have a good understanding of real-life issues and what people going through hardship are experiencing. It’s also worthwhile taking time to reflect on your own life experiences.

Kerry Sampayo

Reigate College: 2011-2013

Currently: Social Worker, The Children’s Trust Charity

Higher Education: Education, University of Birmingham. Masters in Social Work, Kingston University

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