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Curriculum Team Leader for Social Work at Bradford College and Practice Educator, Brian Mitchell, discusses the importance of ethics in establishing a strong career in social work.

It’s an incredibly exciting time to be a practice educator; after 15 years of supporting students, the discussions and debate on social work education is still as lively and interesting as it ever has been. 

Social work has been subject to an enormous amount of change in recent years, but that’s one of the most exciting aspects to working in social care. In my opinion the focus should be on the importance of students and practitioners having a real sense of professional worth to how they practice and to be able to test this. The onus therefore is more to do with the need for workers to interpret the underlying values and ethics of social work, which should evidence rights based intervention and therefore make a positive difference in peoples’ lives. Wherever possible, it is essential that people receiving support have the right to self-determine and dictate how we respond when things have gone wrong and what can be done to help resolve issues. 

I was involved in forming strong links with Bradford College whilst working for Calderdale Council. I am still interested and active in building strong partnerships between educators and local authorities and people that use services. 

I support either two or three individual students during any given academic year, and see a real professional value in this. Social work occasionally gets criticised for focusing too heavily on theory with not enough attention given to practice and application. I would argue theory is crucial; you can only practice effectively if you have a solid grounding in knowledge and understanding of the role of social work.

Social work education has to be informed by practice. Therefore there is merit in utilising serious case reviews and localised examples of practice to fundamentally shape the curriculum. It is also essential that student and practitioners access qualitative research regarding rights based intervention to practice. 


Is it best to focus on a specific area of social care within the first couple of years qualifying as a social worker?

Yes, it’s best to know which area of work you would like to specialise in. Though, you have to have strong general understanding and knowledge of generic social work practice.

How important is it to make time for training?

Workers should be provided with protected time to explore continual professional development within their role.Employers should ensure practitioners are allocated time for professional learning.

For access to the full set of Q&As, see page 13 in the Summer 2015 edition of Sanctuary Social Work News

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