Student Placements at MECOPP
As part of MECOPP’s commitment to developing the skills, knowledge and experience of practitioners, social work student placements are welcomed. Students on placement are given a range of opportunities to work directly with BME carers and those in receipt of care. This will include having responsibility for an active caseload as well as a range of developmental and project related tasks.
As MECOPP does not currently have its own dedicated practice assessor, joint supervision arrangements are in place with MCFB (Multi Cultural Family Base) who are also responsible for identifying and placing students with MECOPP.
'Without a doubt, it has to be said, the best part of this placement has been working with the amazing staff at MECOPP. I have looked forward to coming into placement every day and the staff have been made to feel so welcoming.
Prior to starting my placement, I felt that I lacked cultural competence and the confidence to work with BME communities. I have learnt that BME communities face similar challenges to the majority population but these problems are further compounded by issues of racism, health inequalities, a lack of cultural appropriate services and language barriers. I have learnt to challenge assumptions made about BME communities such as the belief that ‘they look after their own’. I have developed my advocacy skills and worked in partnership with individuals, groups and communities from BME backgrounds to achieve positive change and recognise people’s right to self-determination.
I have been shocked by some social workers lack of engagement with BME communities and have had the opportunity to challenge professionals who appeared to be unconsciously treating people unfairly. I have learnt that MECOPP plays a vital role in supporting BME carer’s access to social services. Before starting at MECOPP I was not aware that many English words that are used in health and social care such as ‘carer’ do not translate into languages such as Cantonese or Punjabi. I now recognise the importance of working in partnership with interpreters that have knowledge on health and social care rather than relying on translators to communicate with BME communities.
I had the opportunity to plan, organised and facilitate a number of events for BME carers. This was an amazing experience, as I got the opportunity to meet and spend time with many of MECOPP’s inspiring carers. My casework involved supporting carers with welfare rights, housing, self-directed support and accessing other voluntary services that suit their caring role. I also provided one to one work with a young carer that involved promoting her resilience and providing emotional support.
I have loved every minute of this placement and will miss the team and carers very much.
'I have found this placement to have been a very positive experience. It has been a great learning experience as it has allowed me to work with service user groups I previously had not worked with; older people and carers. Furthermore, most of my pre-qualifying experience was in statutory social work services as was my first placement, therefore working in a voluntary sector agency broadened my knowledge, skills and practice. For example I have developed my communication skills; as I have worked with service users who spoke very limited English, and I have a much better understanding of the issues that face carers and the supports available to them.
The staff at MECOPP have been incredibly welcoming and friendly and I have very much felt like a valued member of the team. The team members have been approachable and I have been able to learn a lot from them. I was allocated five different families to work with in an ongoing basis, I helped to plan and organise a training programme for carers, and I also undertook a piece of literature research into substance misuse within minority ethnic communities in the UK. This diverse caseload benefitted my learning as it threw up a range of challenges and increased my knowledge base. I was also given the opportunity to locate MECOPP’s work within the political context as I was able to accompany staff members to development meetings with the Scottish Government and The City of Edinburgh Council.
Being on placement at MECOPP has encouraged me to develop my anti-discriminatory practice and has made me more aware of ethnicity and the impact that it can have on accessing services and resources. Often social work services will say that they are open to all, but working at MECOPP has taught me that services have to take action to ensure that they are inclusive and to ensure that they do not make decisions based upon cultural stereotypes. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at MECOPP, I am genuinely sad to be leaving!'
'When I was first allocated MECOPP as my primary placement during my Social Work training at the University of Edinburgh, I was both excited and anxious. I had never worked with individuals from the Black and Minority Ethnic community before so I viewed it as a real opportunity for imperative learning but was concerned about my abilities to communicate with service users whose first language was not English. My doubts were soon dispelled however, once I had met the individuals I was to work with and recognised that verbal communication is not the only factor for building a strong working relationship with a service user.
My overall workload included six pieces of casework focused on advocating for the needs of carers, group work with an older male’s carers group and some research for the development of the services for the Polish community at both a local and national level. All of the work has been very varied, providing me with an invaluable learning experience. I have been able to apply the knowledge I developed about adult and young service users into practice, fostered my intervention techniques and become more confident at collaborative working with other professionals and service users alike. I have also been provided with ample opportunities for further learning, such as accompanying other staff members to meetings and presentations at the Scottish parliament on policy matters. Overall, the experience has allowed me to see the fundamental role this organisation provides for the community in Edinburgh and the wider regions and the continued need there is for services dedicated to the Black and Minority Ethnic Community in Scotland.
The support I have received from the MECOPP staff has been incredible. There is a real openness amongst the team members and management which has made me feel truly welcomed and at home. The range of experience and insight that every staff member can offer has been at times valuable for the development of my work and overall confidence as a practitioner.
If I could give any advice to students beginning there placement at MECOPP, I would say go there with an open mind, say yes to every opportunity offered to you and embrace the experience whole heartedly so that you get as much out of it as possible. It really is an amazing platform for future practice.'