Students undertaking the first locally-delivered degree in Social Work are over half way through their first two week learning session, describing the course as intensive but positive.
Committing themselves to three years of study, 10 students, seven women and three men, are studying for their BA Honors in Social Work.
The provision of the course on the Rock has enabled these mature students – some of them are married, have children or other commitments – to study for their careers while still being able to maintain their home lives. Previously students would have had to move to the UK to study.
Professor Ian Peate, head of department of the GHA School of Health Studies and professor of nursing, said: “Offering the course here in Gibraltar widens participation and widens opportunities for people to come to the school and do their degree here.”
The course is being delivered by Kingston University London and St George’s University of London, in conjunction with the Care Agency and the Gibraltar Health Authority’s School of Health Studies.
“The experts from Kingston University come in to teach and the practice components, the working with families and with people such as vulnerable adults and vulnerable children, takes place here,” Professor Peate said.
“It is contextualized towards Gibraltar.”
A full time practice educator will be looking after the students when they are in their placements. A full time lecturer is not required.
“What happens with Kingston is that they have what they call a ‘Flying Faculty’, they will fly in, teach for a week then they fly back out,” Professor Peate said. Following the teaching sessions, students carry out their work.
At present Maria Brent, a senior lecturer from the department of social work and social care at Kingston and St George’s university of London, is on the Rock lecturing the students.
Over the course of three years the students will learn about the psychology, sociology, social policy, and law surrounding social work, with local examples being used in the case studies.
Additionally, the course will bring in local experts, members of voluntary organisations and carers. The Health Care and Professions Council (HCPC), the body which is responsible for the approval of social work courses and registration of social workers travelled to Gibraltar in 2018. HCOC assessed how the course would be delivered locally and agreed it met the required standard and criteria.
The students are due complete their studies in 2021. After graduating, students will become eligible to apply to the HCPC for registration and can then apply to work as qualified social workers.
The course and having ten students take part enables the GHA to plan for the future and what requirements Gibraltar will need, be it via retirement or people leaving . “Acting now will enable us in three years’ time to ensure that any gaps that do occur will be filled.
Care Agency’s CEO (ag), Natalie Tavares, said “This is a fantastic opportunity for those who have been interested in becoming a social worker, but have been unable to leave Gibraltar due to personal commitments.”
The Minister for Health, Neil Costa, added: “I am very pleased to see the hugely significant development of a locally delivered Social Work Degree, for the very first time in Gibraltar. This was not an easy feat. Education in these vocational fields is essential, so as to ensure we continue to deliver social care at the highest standards.”
What is social work?
“Social workers impact on every single aspect of our lives and every single aspect of our society,” Professor Peate said.
“The key role is protection of the public and protection of the public can take many forms. One element is ensuring that the public is being supported with their needs.”
“Social workers work with a wide range of people from the very young to the very old and everyone in-between. These people are there to support the public and support the community in ensuring that we get the best out of our community for our community,” he added.
Professor Peate explains that the stigma attached to social workers and removing children is an old thought and an old idea.
“Social workers are now educated to degree level so they are making decisions based on the needs of individuals and families and communities,” he said.
With an example of someone who has cancer and if they are getting everything they need regarding support, he said, “this is a good example because in this hospital we have two hospital based social workers. So people who are experiencing things and issues maybe with something like cancer, maybe with housing, maybe with going back to where they live then a social worker will be involved in the assessment of the needs for those individuals and their families.”
Given how prevalent illness like cancer is in Gibraltar, he want people to understand that social workers are “advocates, supporters, they are there for the people.”
“And, they are knowledgeable, they are not just Tom, Dick or Harry-iers [sic], they are knowledgeable individuals who apply that knowledge,” he added.
Pic by Johnny Bugeja