A Knight’s Tale (54: The Training Model)

Casework was the core of my Social Work training. With the impending amalgamation of the pre-Seebohm care agencies into generic Social Services Departments we began as trainee Child Care Officers and emerged as fledgling Social Workers.

Casework was the art of relating in a meaningful way to our clients. we learned to understand what we ourselves brought to the relationship; how our own previous experiences affected our responses to other people; how, when, and why we spoke; the importance of non-verbal communication, including facial expression, body language, and silences. This active listening was balanced against the need for positive intervention into people’s lives.

We learned to assess and understand the significance of families’ socio-economic situations – in other words their position in society, how they obtained their income, their education and their history. Had they experienced previous contact with such an agency, and that what that had been would influence how they responded to us. Earlier I have mentioned a woman I knew in Kingston who I would later meet in another London Borough. She shrank from me yet denied ever having met me before. Clearly she feared that I would take her child.

Visiting lecturers came to teach us human growth and development; human function and disfunction, embracing physical medicine, and mental health and illness. There were sessions on sociology, on social history, and on law. Written examinations in all these subjects were required.

A recommended reading list had been distributed before our course began. required reading was to follow. In those days many colleagues never read another book after gaining their qualification. This, I believe, has now changed, with top-up training required for registration.

Close, regular, supervision was considered far more necessary than seems possible today. This was modelled by the placement and tutor elements of Croydon’s training. We were required to present to our tutor two process recordings a week. In the days before video recording of our client interviews we wrote up these sessions in detail with particular attention to the factors in the second paragraph above. The two fieldwork placements were closely monitored by our placement supervisors who were required to write final reports on our performance. Although my written examination results were a little disappointing to Wolf, I received distinctions in each of my practical placements. I hadn’t wished to do any more than pass the exams.

Although it was abandoned a year or two after my time as a student, we each undertook a one month residential care placement. Mine, in a Dr Barnado’s children’s home, gave me a much deeper insight into the life than had my visiting Jackie at Shirley Oaks.


    1. I would still adhere to it – but it is long gone. Social Work is more geared to a different idea of Safeguarding, and much of the work is outsourced to private profit making companies

          1. The privitization of prisons hasn’t been a good thing either. Social institutions and for-profit corporations are not the same thing. Ugh.

  1. It is the outsourcing of important aspects of society to ‘private profit making companies’ that is worrying. There are several education companies here running schools on a results-driven basis too. I think the ‘human’ element – you can probably guess what I mean – disappears under these circumstances. Boxes are ticked and the people move on.

    1. In the US, the outsourcing of higher education to for-profit companies is very worrying. It sinks to the level of training–learning to “work the machines”–rather than education–learning to think. I fear this development in higher education is going to widen the divide between the haves and the have-nots even further than it already is.

  2. It sounds like you had very thorough training. I don’t remember hearing very much about my older child’s coursework, but they enjoyed and learned a lot from one field placement, not so much the second.

      1. Dad was in a home in Portsmouth but was fortunately rescued by an aunt who adopted him. He used to tell us about his time there and we found it rather sad and difficult to comprehend.

  3. Fascinating, Derrick. Two close friends of my daughter joined social work first post university to train up as social workers. It would be interesting to put you together with them to see what is worse, what better and what the same with their and your experiences. One works in Croydon too!

  4. Having worked (during my 4 years of college) with children in a Sheltered Care Home (for abused, abandoned, and neglected children ages birth-18), I find this so interesting to hear about your training, your journey, your work.
    (((HUGS))) 🙂

  5. Academic learning is necessary, but I found on the job training with close supervision to be more practical. Your residential care placement. was a good idea.

  6. Your training, and experiences through your work, must have informed interactions the rest of your life, Derrick. This kind of education – understanding that there is a bigger picture – has been so much a part of how I try to relate to others, now that I have learned it. Thank you for doing this necessary work with such compassion.

  7. I wonder what your opinion was of the Dr Banado home where you stayed.

    The small housing development at the top of our lane was converted from Dr Banardo’s children’s home. Back in the day, the children had their own school. The farm and land attached known as Grange farm, also belonged to Dr Banardo’s.

    The children’s home also had a knitting wool shop, which I often visited when my children were little.

    The home had a swimming pool that could be hired for parties, and we did. I felt sorry for the children who lived there – they must have thought the children at these parties from this very middle-class village were fortunate beyond belief.

    I became friends with a young woman who worked there, she and her husband were house parents at the home, and she showed me around the flats where the children lived.


    Oh no, just realised it was the National Children’s Home not Dr Banardo’s! Couldn’t delete it after writing all this!

    1. So difficult to remember it all. I really don’t have much recollection of my stay there, except to say that a visiting group of young walkers were welcomed in and everyone got on well.

  8. My Birth Certificate states Father’s Occupation as ‘Child Care Officer’. I’ve always been very proud of that.

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