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Tagged In:  Social Work, Social Worker

We discover what it’s like working in children’s and adults social services in Ontario, Canada.




What is it like to practise as a social worker in Canada? To find out, we spoke to Luton Borough Council Social Worker Stella Bakare, who trained in Ontario and spent several years working there in the social services sector.

It was in 2002 that Stella Bakare and her family decided to move from the UK to Canada. Her husband already had work lined up in the form of a printing franchise. However, Stella, who was working as a community care officer, was faced with the daunting challenge of finding a job.

Although Stella had several years' experience working in social services, she was still an unqualified social worker, having studied political science in Nigeria for her first degree, later gaining an MA in Information Technology in the UK. Unfortunately, her lack of formal social work qualifications proved to be an issue when she began to look for work on arriving in Canada. "I assumed that I would be able to apply for similar social work roles to the one  I was doing here," she explains. "However, I soon realised that wasn't going to be possible. Although I had several years' social work experience in the UK, I found that I would need to have a Masters degree to practise in Canada."

Determined to continue her social work career, Stella took a job as a counsellor at a centre for people with learning disabilities and began studying for her Masters degree in social work. During her five years in Canada, Stella also worked at three other Ontario social care organisations: Halton District School Board, the Intake and Family Services Department of Peel Children's Aid Society and Christian Horizons in Oakville.

So, did Stella find working in Canadian social services very different from working in the UK? "There's a similar dividing line between adults' and children's services", she says. "However, the main difference is that most of the providers in both areas are government-funded social enterprises, rather than being under local authority control. That means they have a much greater degree of independence and flexibility, enabling them to make decisions more easily based entirely on local needs."

"That being said, it also means that there tends to be less access to specialist support resources for frontline professionals. For example, in the UK a social worker would usually have the opportunity, via the local authority or the NHS, to refer a child with behavioural problems to other organisations for interventions such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). In Canada, the social worker is more likely to rely on their own therapeutic skills and expertise."



she says. "It's very common for social workers to be deployed as part of multi-disciplinary teams, which include nurses and other health professionals."

In terms of her own role, Stella found that her duties and responsibilities were similar to those she might expect to have as a social worker in the UK. But what about the social issues she was dealing with? "They were similar too, particularly in children's services," recalls Stella. "The types of cases I was working on were exactly the sort of things you would expect to see in the UK."

Having relocated 3,000 miles across the world, what cultural differences did Stella encounter? 

To hear more about Stella’s experiences working in Canada, you can find the rest of the article in the latest issue of Sanctuary Social Work News magazine.
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