Toby Thouless graduated from the MA in Social Work in 2011. He now works for Eastern District Community Care Team and has taken some time to reflect on his experience at UEA.
Tell us about your career to date
Following my graduation, I began working with the Eastern District Community Care Team, working with adults with physical disabilities. My peripatetic role requires me to be responsive and flexible to meet the needs of the client group. I am often required to complete mental capacity assessments, arrange emergency support for a wide range of needs including community support, residential and respite care. I work in a multi-disciplinary manner with doctors, nurses, occupational therapists, physiotherapists and other service providers.
The implementation of personal budgets has introduced new ways of working with service users in order to plan and implement services and I have been involved with working groups to shape the process.
Why did you decide to study at UEA?
UEA is a wonderful place to study. Most importantly, it is easy to access information and support when necessary and the resources are very good. I live just outside Norwich and had found out that the social work course was of a very high standard. I didn't feel it was necessary to consider other institutions, I knew UEA was the place for me.
What did you think about your lecturers, teaching and the facilities?
The lecturers were all knowledgeable and showed a clear passion for their subjects. The Blackboard facility also provided a positive enhancement to my learning, by making relevant information easy to access.
Has your course helped you in your career so far?
My course was an essential requirement to be employed as a social worker, without it I would not be able to work in my current role. The social work course developed my skills, knowledge and experience to blend the legislative and theoretical aspects of social work with the human aspects of life in order to work as a rounded social worker, dealing with a varied and challenging caseload.
The placements gave me a practical understanding of the issues faced in both the voluntary sector and in a statutory setting, so I had a realistic understanding of what to expect when I started working after my training. The classroom based work provided a solid grounding in theory and legislation and I still find my training informs my practice on a daily basis – whether it is to help me understand why a person is responding to me in a certain way or how I should approach an individual in order to work with them.
What has been your greatest achievement in your career so far?
The moments when I have been out to see someone in a difficult situation and worked with them, then revisiting a few weeks later to find that they are back on track have been the best. I worked with an individual who was over 100 years old and was terrified they would be forced to move into residential care. By building a relationship and establishing trust in each other I was able to help her plan a package of care that enabled her to have staff at home. It was a moment when I felt I had really been involved in achieving a positive outcome.
Looking back to your time at UEA, what advice would you give to new students?
Get stuck in and take opportunities. Be organised as it is always easy to think you have more time than you actually do! Most of all, do everything you can to make sure when you look back on your time at university, you know you got everything you could from it.