A day in the life of a senior social worker
By Alin Nastase
Originally from Romania, Alin Nastase is a senior social worker in a First Response team, which handles 'front door' assessment and intervention for children and families.
My journey into social work
I qualified as a social worker in Romania in 2002 and completed a master's degree in 2004. Having worked in one of the districts Bucharest for two years, I was then appointed Secretary of the Child Protection Committee and, five years later, became Deputy Manager of Social Services for the same area. Romania's social care system is very different from that in the UK, being less well developed and having fewer community resources available. However, much of what I learnt at university was influenced by UK practice and I also had opportunities to engage with visiting groups from the UK. This inspired me to consider relocating here. I was also attracted by the idea of working directly with families again and making a real difference to people's lives. I talked it over with my family and we made the move in 2011.
My typical day
As a frontline team, we're the first point of contact with children and their families. Therefore, we're mostly dealing with referrals and making key decisions about the level of support required. Of course, in managing my caseload I have to take into account the family dynamics in each case and that means having a certain amount of flexibility in my schedule. In some cases, where there are potentially serious safeguarding issues, there may be a need to respond very quickly to find out more information and perhaps make a home visit right away.
My proudest moments
As a children and families social worker, you always feel most proud when all your efforts have paid off and you've made a big difference to the life chances of a child or young person. It's those successes that motivate us and make social work such as rewarding career. I can't go into specific detail, but there is one case of which I'm particularly proud. I feel that I really helped to turn around this young person's life and achieve a positive outcome for them.
Lessons I've learnt
It doesn't matter whether you're working in Romania, the UK or Switzerland, in this job you can learn something new every day. That's why I believe it's important to 'listen actively'. The social context of our work is evolving and we're facing new challenges all the time, as well as continually developing and adapting our knowledge and skills. For example, we're increasingly dealing with complex issues relating to gender identity. As you come into contact with new situations and experiences, you learn more.
The most challenging part of my job
I've worked in several different local authorities and, in general, the main challenges I've faced have been similar in all them. Of course, some London boroughs have a particular problem with increased youth crime, mainly related to drug dealing and gang culture, but I don't think that issue is necessarily confined to the capital.
Like many other public service professionals, social workers are facing the challenge of working with reduced budgets and resources. That's why it's so important to have a team around you who can think imaginatively and find new, more efficient ways of delivering the highest quality care. I've only been working in my current role for a short time, but the experience has been positive. I get the feeling that most of the local professionals are extremely proactive and collaborate productively, not just in children's social services, but also in schools and other agencies.
Social work is a tough job and it's important to find time to relax and recharge. First and foremost, I like spending time with my wife and our teenage son. As for hobbies, since I moved to the UK I've taken up oil painting, which I find very relaxing and therapeutic. (Living in Kent, I get plenty of inspiration from the beautiful countryside on my doorstep.) I also make scaled-down buildings for model railways. The commercial suppliers tend to stick to certain standard designs, so I decided to offer some different options, for example oil terminals and industrial units. Having developed my skills by joining a local club, I'm now quite proficient, working with a variety of materials, including plastic resin, wood and foamboard. I started out just making a few buildings for my own pleasure, but now I get quite a lot of requests from model railway enthusiasts. There are many more of those here in the UK than there are in Romania!