To be honest, even though I had an interest in politics before coming to university, I never saw its relevance to social work. I could not see at all how it was related, until my first politics lesson (it’s called social policy, at my university). We learnt about the left and right spectrum and found out where we were and which party we should be most aligned to because of our beliefs, which was fun. But why is it so important? Simply, because each decision a politician makes can affect us and our service users – it can affect individuals, groups and can affect our professional and personal lives. Politics affects us daily, whether we consciously realise it or not.
We have a general election coming up this year (7th May), so it is important for students on social work courses and social work practitioners to vote. Whoever begins to run this country in May can make decisions that will impact on social work. The vote gives you power and control over who you want to run the country. I wasn’t going to vote in this election before university, as I did not see a point, I won’t tell you what I thought…but now, I really want to vote. I want to ensure that whoever runs this country cares about the social work profession and cares about me as a student, as a carer and as a person with mental health issues. It is a big ask I know, but who know’s, one party might satisfy me enough to vote for them. I hope so!
Politics also gives you an understanding of how policies and legislation that they make will affect you and your service user’s which is really important. Social worker’s have to be up-to-date on the latest policies and legislation that are coming out of government and into the public eye. So this is another reason why politics is important as a social work student.
Some of the other areas that you will study on your social work course, involve a pre-requisite – this requisite is the ability to understand the basics of politics. You’ll need to know your left from your right, definitely. I am not talking about your hands and feet. I’m talking about your communists and your socialists and everything else. Sociology involves politics, law involves politics…your life involves politics, so you can’t run away and hide from it as much as you want to.
Before the course, I suggest reading up on politics, look at the party websites, get a basic A Level textbook on government and politics, just do some reading before hand. If you are already on the course, then make sure you are reading books and articles on politics. Social Work is not just about individual’s or groups, it’s about societies and the government and how everything affects your service user and you!