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Hope Mentor Reveals Secret to Social Work Success

Confidence’, ‘strength’ and ‘passion’ - that’s what you need to be a successful social worker, according to this highly-skilled professional.

And Maxine Samuels has revealed how she’ll channel her expertise into a new role as a Professional Mentor, helping undergraduate students from Black and Global Majority Groups into the industry.

maxine samuels social worker portrait

Liverpool Hope University has launched a programme, in conjunction with Liverpool City Council, designed to get more social workers from Black and Global Majority groups employed in the industry.

The initiative is called Bridging the Gap: A Route Into Social Work and it has seen the University create 15 extra spaces on Hope’s Social Work degree programme exclusively for those from under-represented communities and Global Majority groups who currently live in the Liverpool city region.

That includes Black, Asian, Chinese, Bangladeshi, Indian, Pakistani, Yemeni, Somali, Black African and Black Caribbean communities - and a whole lot more besides.

And the scheme also sees students on the Bridging the Gap pathway being assigned a dedicated mentor to guide them through their learning journey.

Maxine is one of those mentors - a skilled practitioner who’s been working for Liverpool City Council for two decades.

She is a Senior Social Worker in the Council’s ‘Permanence Team’, working with children and families where adoption, long term fostering or residential care is needed.

Maxine, a mum-of-one originally from Sheffield, has spent most of her life in Liverpool and is of dual British and Jamaican heritage.

She says having more social workers from diverse communities is crucial in preventing children in care from feeling ‘alone and isolated’.

She says: “Social work is tough and the caseloads are high. You have to go into this profession with your eyes wide open however, it can also be extremely rewarding.

“Roughly half of my caseload are children from Black or Global Majority groups. And if we are to prevent children from feeling isolated or excluded, we need more Black social workers who have a good understanding of the cultural and identity needs of Black and ethnic minority children and their families.

“Due to difficulties in being able to recruit foster carers from a culturally diverse background, we need to educate the carers that we have on the needs of Black children and other ethnic minority backgrounds.

“It is extremely important to the child for their culture to be recognised, understood and nurtured so that they can develop a secure sense of themselves and what they represent.

“In saying that, the same goes for staff and their own sense of belonging and being understood and represented - and at the moment we simply need a more culturally diverse presence within our Council, particularly in terms of line managers and senior managers.

“The ratio is disappointingly disproportionate and, hopefully Black social workers coming through will have the confidence and determination to push for equality and we will hopefully see a more diverse upper tier within Liverpool City Council.”

covid 19 social work

Describing her Permanence Team role, Maxine reveals there’s an ‘Assessment Team’ of first responders, who might remove a child from a home. The ‘Safeguarding Team’ takes over at this point, liaising with courts to arrange a ‘care order’ for the child. After that, the Permanence Team steps in to action the Care Order sharing parental responsibility with the parents. 

Maxine adds: “Once the child is placed on a full Care Order, the child is then transferred to the Permanence Team where long term plans are made for that child. The team stays with the child on that journey until the age of 18 years old when the Care Order naturally expires or, alternatively, the child is returned home or a lesser order is made.

“Post 18 years old, the child is eligible for a service from our Leaving Care Team who will support them up until the age 24.

“For me, I enjoy long-term work, remaining with the child throughout their journey to reach a positive conclusion. It is ultimately about making that child feel safe.

“We do this through trauma- informed practices. We look at the trauma and use this as a starting point. You don’t focus on the poor behaviour, you examine the early trauma the child was subjected to and build a plan around it.

“Making a child feel safe can take a long time. It takes trust. But once the trust is built, and they are in a placement where they know they’re going to stay, you can start assessing their needs and getting them the support and therapy they need in order to thrive and develop.

“Consistency of placement - and consistency of social worker - is key to a child’s development. This is the whole idea of ‘permanence’.”

Maxine came into social work in a slightly unconventional way.

Having predominantly worked in retail she didn’t actually train as a social worker until she was in her thirties.

Maxine realised that as her daughter approached school age, she needed a career that was both rewarding as well as providing transferable skills.

And so, after completing a ‘very intense’ Access course at Riverside College, Cheshire, over a period of one year, she gained sufficient UCAS points to enter a two year university diploma in Social Work (DIPSW), later joining the City Council’s Permanence Team in 2002.

And as for what she can offer Hope social work students as a mentor, Maxine enthuses: “I just want to give them confidence as well as prepare these students for the realities of life as a social worker.

“I want to see personal growth while looking after their wellbeing. I want to instil strength. I want to give back. I want to be a sounding board to help them confront any issues or to perhaps try a new approach.

“When I first started out as a social worker I was like a rabbit in the headlights. I wasn’t prepared for what lay ahead. So having a mentor to guide, advise and support students is key in terms of their preparation for the world of work.

“You have to be assertive and passionate about what you believe in because as a social worker you are going to be challenged and criticised for the decisions you make.

"Strength and confidence are key components to becoming a successful social worker - and this is what I want to help instil in the students that I will mentor.”

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Published on 24/11/2021