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Critical reflection enables social workers to engage in transformative learning by engaging both reason and emotion, to situate ourselves within a broader social context, to understand our beliefs, biases, and values, and to assess our learning so that our learning informs our practice (Taylor, 2001). Critical reflection is key and lies within domain six of the Professional Capabilities Framework (Capabilities within the PCF, 2016).
The purpose of this assignment is to provide a critical reflection of a piece of work that I have undertaken with a service user, where I have promoted the rights and needs of the individual by promoting their participation in accessing services to enhance their welfare ,and in decision making forums. I will begin by briefly describing the background and context to this particular piece of work. With reference to relevant theory, this being task centred practice a probing solving, and reference to communication theory. I will discuss the ways in which I elicited the needs and views of my service user, whist promoting their autonomy and self-determination, alongside highlighting the ways in which I manage the impact of the power invested in my role, and how I embed and demonstrate personal and professional boundaries. The professional framework that I must adhere to during this session as a social work student is the HCPC’S Guidance on Conduct and Ethics for students (REF maybe put in analysis). Although I engaged with, and explored multiple models of reflection during this session, the model I found most useful to reflect back on this experience was that by Graham Gibbs’ (1988). The model is a functional framework for reflective study, it assumes repetitive experimental contexts, and broken down into six stages. However, I will utilising five of the stages all but conclusion. Gibbs’ model incorporates all the core skills of reflection. Arguably it is focused on reflection on action, but with practice it could be used to focus on reflection in and before action (Phillip, 2012)
My placement is a not for profit organisation offering supported accommodation for young women aged sixteen to twenty five who are either pregnant or have a child / children. The purpose of the scheme is to equip these young people with the skills they require to live independently. In order to become more competent when assisting my service users , especially surrounding the area of benefits I have been reading up on governmental websites to clarify exactly what the service users are able to claim. I feel by doing so, it has enabled me to gain a better understanding of entitlements and eligibility, equally, what would prevent an individual from making a claim. From a social justice value position it is imperative that as social workers we understand social policies in order to ensure that service users gain access to their entitlements under government and organisational policies (Healy, 2011). This in turn can help myself as a practitioner shape the welfare of those that I work with.
For safeguarding and data protection purposes the individuals and the organisation referred to within this assignment have been anonymised.
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X presented herself at the organisation as she was homeless, and had been sofa surfing at a friends for a number of weeks. Luckily, there was a vacant property at the scheme and X was able to move in immediately. Part of my role as student social worker is to assist the service users to who need help both emotionally and practically so they can live an independent life. X has been allocated onto my caseload, I conducted a support session with her to establish what – if any benefits was she in receipt of, and was she registered with any local NHS (National Health Service), health care providers for example the local doctors surgery and dentist. Both of which would enhance the welfare of herself, and her unborn child.
Prior to the support session with X I read over the notes that are documented on her account, and familiarised myself with her chronology something that I do with all the service users at the scheme as it enables me to paint a picture of the service user and see what they are in receipt of in terms of benefits.
As this was the second benefit assessment that I had conducted during my time on placement I had mixed emotions including those of worry and uncertainty , but at the same time quite confident that I would be able to help. At times during the session I felt challenged around some of the information that x disclosed to me. She advised me she had become homeless due to being disowned by her family as she became pregnant to a man who was not her husband. X is of a Muslim background and this does not conform to their cultural norms and expectations. Therefore, she had brought shame on the family. I remained open minded and non-judgemental to what x was disclosing allowing for anti- discrimination and oppressive practice to take place. Although this was a very sensitive period of the support session I remained and conducted myself professionally.
Even though I felt the above it was essential that I took into consideration the feelings of X. X is a very vulnerable seventeen year old , who may of felt that I possessed a lot of power during our interaction as I had a file with me which contained all of her personal details, yet all x new about me was my name. In order to reduce the potential imbalance I advised X she was more than welcome to request to see any of her personal records we hold at any time, as I did notice she kept looking at the file, possibly leading to her feeling uncomfortable.
As this is a critically reflective piece and I am to analyse myself and my own practice I would say that my strengths during the session were I kept x central throughout. Recognising that x came from a low socio economic background I wanted to ensure that she receives all of her entitlements. We went through the benefit website together, using the online calculator to check what she could claim, the outcome being income support, child tax credits and child benefit once the baby is here, and full housing benefit (Gov UK, 2016) At the same time I was constantly checking that she understood what I was advising her, how she felt about claiming, and was she happy to go ahead as not everyone feels comfortable when claiming for financial assistance.
Moreover, I feel I further enhanced the welfare of x and her unborn child by making her aware of other agencies and community services such as sure start centres, groups , and additional benefits for example the sure start grant which is a one off payment of £500 to help with the costs of having a child (Sure start maternity grant, 2016), and healthy start vouchers which provides you with free vouchers every week to spend on milk, fresh and frozen fruit and vegetables, and infant formula milk, individuals can also get free vitamins (NHS, 2010). Another positive element of my practice during the session was that I demonstrated a genuine interest towards x, alongside warmth. Likewise, I ensured I used positive body language such as eye contact, and verbal nods, alongside appropriate proximity. Similarly, I am able to recognise what I need to improve on and for me this is I speak to fast, this is something that I have highlighted in the past papers, however, I endeavor to work on this.
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Upon reflection I feel the support session went well overall. I ensured that X was kept central had claimed for all her entitlements, as by not doing so could of lead to her living in potential poverty, and becoming socially excluded as x has no money, no job, and not in any form of higher education. Research presented by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation evidences how demographic studies have highlighted that families headed by teenage parents are likely to be poor in comparison to affluent parents (La Placa and Corlyon, 2015). Here I was working hard with X and supporting her to eradicate poverty and reduce the risk of further financial hardship (Miller, 2017). In terms of what else could I make of the situation I would also say that I had my professional boundaries in place during throughout. At one point during the session X did try and push the boundaries as towards the end of the session her mobile phone rang and she said “I have to go , can you finish the form for me?” advised X I could not do this as the form requires an online signature, and this would be highly unprofessional of myself to go ahead and action that as it could bring myself and the profession into disrepute. I advised What I could do is save this for a later date for to action. Boundaries are key within social work as they set limits for safe, acceptable and effective behaviours, and helps the client to uphold the standards of the social work profession (Cooper and Coe, 2012).
Throughout the session I was aware I was utilising many well respected theories. However, the session mainly fostered task centred practice, problem solving, and communication.
Problem solving assists individuals with the problem solving process. Rather than tell service users what to do, social workers teach clients how to apply a problem solving method so they can develop their own solutions (Staff, 2014). Task centered practice on the other hand is a short term treatment where the service user establishes specific measurable goals. The social worker and the service user work closely with one another to create strategies and make steps to reaching these goals. (Trevithick, 2012) states that task centered practice is a technology for alleviating problems that the client recognizes, understands, acknowledges, and wants to attend to. Making direct links to the support session I was working closely with x to ensure she was out of financial crisis, by supporting her to make a claim for governmental entitlements and explaining each stage as clearly as possible to her, by doing so it would reduce a lot of stress for x and alleviate a majority of underlying pressure and anxiety.
Communication also played a huge part in the session. (Lefevre, 2010) suggests how good communication is central to working with children, and young people it involves listening , questioning, understanding and responding to what is being communicating all of which was evident and displayed during my session with x, and by doing so it allowed for me to build a rapport and good working relationship with x which enabled x to feel she could open up and engage.
Although each theory is well supported by research , and supports service users to take control of their own lifes, they are also praised for increasing the clients coping skills to deal with such issues in the future. On the other hand, it may not be effective where the service user does not accept the right of the agency to be involved, and may over simplify the issues that some people face. REF
In future, I aim to maybe scatter such sessions over a number of days whilst I understand the importance of ensuring the service users are in receipt of all their entitlements, it is a lot to take in and absorb, even for myself I felt it was a little overwhelming.
Upon reflection of the session there are certain elements I was really pleased with an would not make any amendments to should the situation arise in the future. An area I would do differently would be to make the session not feel as formal as it may of. Seemed This could have possibly been down to the surrounding nature of the session and with benefits there is quite a lot of information to go through and cover and some of the terminology used may come across as daunting to someone who may not be very familiar with this so maybe I could of explained and used more simplistic terms and wording
Model helps you to understand and practice your reflective skills. Use the template to reflect on a recent event in which you demonstrated a reflected ability to improve or demonstrate the need for further learning or development
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- Phillip (2012) ‘ An exploration of the challenges of maintaining basic human rights in practice ’. Available at: https://www2.rcn.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0018/481500/Philip_White_-_Reflective_Practice_-_AB_2012_FINAL_for_net.pdf (Accessed: 25 January 2017).
- Staff, S. (2014) Theories used in social work practice & practice models – Blog. Available at: https://socialwork.simmons.edu/theories-used-social-work-practice/ (Accessed: 25 January 2017).
- Sure start maternity grant (2016) Available at: https://www.gov.uk/sure-start-maternity-grant/overview (Accessed: 24 January 2017).
- Taylor, E. (2001). Transformative learning theory: A neurobiological perspective of the role of emotions and unconscious ways of knowing. International Journal of Lifelong Education, 20(3), 218-236
- Trevithick, P. (2012) Social work skills and knowledge: A practice handbook. 3rd edn. Maidenhead: Open University Press.
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