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David Ray

Consett, UK

BA (Hons) Social Work

MSc Inequality and Society

After undergoing brain surgery and his family becoming homeless, David Ray decided that he wanted to give something back to the community that had helped him through the difficult times. He began by volunteering with Local Authority organisations before going on to study for the BA (Hons) Social Work at the University of Sunderland. He has just graduated with a First Class Honours degree and is continuing his studies with our MSc Inequality and Society course.

Before I began an Access to Health and Social Care course at Sunderland College, I had a career as a chef. Working as a head chef was incredibly demanding – the unsociable hours, extreme workload and high expectations were making life increasingly difficult for my family. In 2019 I encountered some health problems, undergoing surgery for the partial removal of a benign brain tumour. During this period, me and my family found ourselves homeless due to circumstances beyond our control, and it wasn’t until we received support across Local Authorities by ward councillors and housing officers that we managed to find social housing.

Following my recovery, I decided I wanted to give back to the community that had helped my family through these difficult circumstances. I started volunteering with Local Authority organisations in substance recovery services, which gave me an understanding of the basic principles of social work. It was a career I felt suited my life experience, as well as allowing me to pursue my interest in helping others and promoting social justice.

I chose to study at the University of Sunderland as the BA (Hons) Social Work course offered a smaller cohort compared to other universities in the North East providing the same degree. I felt that a small cohort would give me the opportunity of more interaction with the academic staff in terms of receiving guidance and support. I also knew that the Sunderland campus has fantastic, modern facilities, plus a wide range of support beyond the course itself. This was such an important aspect to me as I have some lifelong acquired physical disabilities.

My favourite part of the course was the open discussions regarding social issues, and the various viewpoints of theorists, political parties, and my peers. Critical thinking and having the knowledge of different points of view is essential to being a social worker and the promotion of autonomy in the people we work with. Studying social issues has broadened my interest in topics which impact upon many people in society. Before I begin my career in social work, I look forward to continuing to develop my knowledge in this area by studying for a postgraduate degree in MSc Inequality and Society here at Sunderland. Once I've graduated with my master's next year, I hope that I will be able to apply my knowledge into a career as an ASYE social worker, safeguarding children and families.

If you’re considering coming to university, my advice would be to take the opportunity to do the best you can by reading beyond your comfort zone and utilising the study support services to make sure you’re giving yourself the best chance of achieving. The University of Sunderland will support all your needs – I was offered a support plan via the Disability team which helped me all the way through my undergraduate course into my master's degree. Coming to Sunderland has been an exciting journey, allowing me to gain further knowledge and a critical understanding of the world, as well as receive support from wonderful staff who’ve had first-hand experience as social workers. Despite the many hours spent studying and working hard, it’s been a highly enjoyable experience.”

Published 2 February 2023

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