Social Work Discussion with Trinity College Dublin

On Monday 12th April, we ran an online workshop for second year Social Work students at Trinity College Dublin. It was facilitated by ATD members Andrew, Ciara and Dann, and Professors Erna O’Connor, Sinead Whiting and Robert Gilligan from Trinity’s School of Social Work and Social Policy.

ATD community activist Andrew speaking to the students over Zoom

The workshop began with a discussion about what poverty meant to the students. We then showed our ‘What Does Poverty Mean?’ film, made for 2020’s 17th October World Poverty Day, which was followed by a discussion on how the film relates to Social Work. The facilitators highlighted positive practice by social workers, as we did not want to exclude the many positive experiences that people have with social workers.

The second half of the workshop focused on statements from ATD community activists with direct experience of social work, including Gavin and Lorraine. They also read poetry they had written on the subject. Socio economic discrimination was discussed as an issue many faced when dealing with social workers. The unequal power dynamic between parents and social workers was highlighted, as well as the fear that many people feel towards social workers.

ATD community activist Gavin recording his section of the workshop

It was recognised that many of the negative attitudes towards social workers are based on negative portrayals in the media which do not account for many social workers but that these attitudes should be acknowledged by social workers when building relationships. The students were encouraged to take all these factors into account in their careers and to build relationships based on dignity and respect. 

This section was led by community activist Andrew, who spoke to the students about his own life and experiences, as well as taking questions.  Andrew gave his thoughts about the workshop afterwards:

“Presenting today was really important. I spoke out and I feel like it touched the students’ heart strings. I feel it really did and it will have a wider impact.”

The workshop led to a fruitful discussion amongst the students and facilitators. We hope to hold a follow up workshop in the autumn. Many thanks to Trinity’s School of Social Work and Social Policy for hosting us. Some comments by the Social Work professors about the workshop are below.

“The workshop from ATD was a valuable session for our BSS (Social Work Students). It was an opportunity for the students to hear directly from people who have experience of living in poverty, and from people who have had contact with social work services. The ideas discussed today and the personal stories that were shared by ADT members will definitely help  inform our students as they go out to their social work placements. It will l help them to be more aware of the complexity of the issues that are faced by people who are living in poverty and incorporate this knowledge in their individual social work practices”.

Professor Sinead Whiting

“The ATD Workshop with our BSS SF students on April 12th was a great start to what we hope will be an ongoing partnership between ATD and the School of Social Work & Social Policy, Trinity College in providing pre placement Poverty Awareness education for our students. A really good discussion took place between ATD members and the student group in an atmosphere conducive to exchanging experiences and learning together. Thanks to everyone at ATD for sharing your experiences and expertise with us.” 

Professor Erna O’Connor