When working with families, Ross, who is training to be a social worker with Frontline, says “I often find myself asking questions like ‘what about the father’s lived experience?’ and bringing my own experiences as a man and a father into discussions”.
Frontline are a social work charity envisioning a society where no child’s life chances are limited by their social or family circumstance. According to Greater Manchester Poverty Action, Manchester has a significantly higher number of children in care compared to the national average – 104 per 100,000 as opposed to 64 per 100,000. Social workers are vital in Manchester.
As November was Men’s Health Awareness Month, Frontline has been especially reflecting on the importance of male representation in the social work profession. The charity believes it’s important that social workers reflect the diversity of the communities they serve, so the best level of care and understanding can be given to anyone in need of support. A diversity of views and experience is important in a profession like social work, where you are dealing very closely with families to work through real-life problems.
Having said this, boys and young men make up more than half of the children in need of social work support, but only 14 per cent of the profession are male.
Both Ross and Ronan, a practice tutor for Frontline, agreed that being a positive male role model for families, who might previously have had bad experiences with men, has been an important and rewarding part of their careers. Providing a young boy with a positive male influence that they can see themselves in, may be the small impact that changes that child’s life.
Ronan says “the more men who join a profession like social work, the more we normalise men showing empathy and talking about their mental health. This can only benefit men and society in the long run”. Breaking the stigmas of social work as a career option for men, as well as those around males opening up to each other, will allow young boys to grow up in a more understanding world. This is a fundamental aim of Men’s Health Awareness Month, and Frontline agrees that it is a crucial aim to pursue.
One common misconception is that social work is typically a woman’s job. Being a social worker does require a level of empathy and understanding and is therefore often stereotyped as a female role. The role is also demanding in other areas such as critical thinking, organisation and communication skills. The perfect person for the job is therefore someone who possesses these qualities and capabilities – but this can be someone of any gender identity.
Social work is therefore a career for anyone who has the right skills, no matter who you are or what your background is, and the Frontline programme proves to be the perfect place to begin.
Overall, Frontline’s mission is to create social change for children who do not have a safe or stable home, by developing excellent social work practice and leadership. As a central part of this, they are committed to bringing more diverse cohorts into the social work profession and equipping their Frontline programme participants with the skills to challenge discrimination in all its forms, to make social work as inclusive and representative as it can be.