5 years ago I realised I wanted to be a Social Worker: I met a couple of Social Workers on a Level One British Sign Language course and knew as soon as I got talking to them that this job was for me. They encouraged me to keep going with sign language, until I was ready to do the access course required to get into university. (I was pregnant with my first child then).
I sat my last exam for Level Two Sign Language while I was 9 months pregnant with my second child and then went onto do Level Three in modifying texts for BSL users. It was hard graft with a baby and a toddler but it got a lot harder…
In 2010 when my youngest son was 1 I started an Access to Social Work course. I had to do it via distance learning because of Oliver’s special needs; he ended up being diagnosed with autism. My mum was amazing – I sat in her bedroom studying away while she looked after the boys – I couldn’t leave them as I had to be on hand to help out because at the time Oliver was lashing out a lot and Edward wouldn’t let anyone else near him; he has just been diagnosed with autism too.
Somehow we got through it and I gained my diploma in Social Work, in January 2012. At that time it was compulsory to have 6 months voluntary experience before applying for the Social Work degree course (that’s just changed and is no longer required) so I set about trying to find something relevant to social work and that could fit in with the boys’ routine. I am now a volunteer at our local prison visitor’s centre and am waiting for clearance to volunteer in the prison, working with the prisoners and the prison Chaplin.
I sent my UCAS application to university in January and was thrilled to be offered an interview. It’s a big deal getting onto a Social Work course; a reading list was sent to help me prepare, I ordered the books the same day! The interview day consists of a panel interview, written exercise, group work and fitness for practise health check etc. but this is what I had been waiting for so I wasn’t too daunted.
Rewind to 2010 when Labour lost the General Election I said that I was concerned the new coalition government would axe the bursary social work students get (most students use this towards fees – it used to cover the fees but then they doubled them!) I hoped I was wrong…
The day after I accepted the interview place I decided to check if any changes to the bursary had been made, and they had. The bursary has been axed for first year social work students and according to the university I applied to it won’t be available to all students in second and third year. (My first degree means I can’t get any other financial assistance).
Without going into too many financial details, there is no way we can fund a course where tuition fees are £8000 a year. I can get a loan to cover half the amount each year but that’s still £4000 to find and that’s without course expenses. The dream is over. I’d decided to attend the interview anyway…I’ve come this far I thought. I’ve changed my mind now. I’ve decided to tell them I won’t be going.
What have I learned from this?
Well I never thought a second chance at Higher Education was my rite but I did think self funding the courses leading up to the degree combined with voluntary work proved that I wasn’t going to waste a second chance if I got it.
Like I said in my personal statement ‘other people matter to me’ it’s the reason I wanted to be a social worker. I’ve spent many hot baths planning what I wanted to say in my interview… I feel I have the right combination of empathy and the ability to make balanced judgements; to interpret policy and challenge injustice; to be able to organise and strategise; to be able to question rules and have the imagination to find solutions; to be able to offer guidance, support and care and to do this in a way that makes people feel valued…
I really believe I can do all those things, I just needed a chance.
When I decided, last night, that I needed to draw a line under this; that reading the books in preparation for the interview was just too hard, my partner said I looked like the weight of the world had been lifted from me. You see I didn’t know how we were going to cope if I was offered a university place. The boys’ needs are such at the moment that they are a full time job on their own. I just hoped as they got that bit older that we would find a way to manage. We were even trying to move house so he could walk them to and from school.
Someone has pushed a giant pause button for me and given me a chance to reflect on what’s best for our family. Right now I think I’m needed at home more than I dared to admit before. Being an autism parent can be so hard, having two children on the spectrum isn’t uncommon but is does make life a lot more challenging.
So, for now ‘she won’t'… But it is a pause. There has to be something out there for me.
If you got to the end, thank you for reading this post. Blogging helps me in so many ways; it organises my thoughts and it helps me to reflect but best of all it gives me the ability to communicate with other people. (You don’t get much chance to do that when your child has special needs).