From education to employment

Inspirational student uses her experiences to shape social work practice

An inspirational former student who is making a difference to the lives of others through her role and research will share her experiences with Social Work students.

Stacey Davidson, 41, from Warrington, works as a Modern Slavery Case Worker and will graduate with an MA in Social Work from the University of Chester after completing her studies at University Centre Warrington. She will receive her award during the University’s graduation ceremonies this month (March) at Chester Cathedral.

As well as raising her own young family during her studies, Stacey also cared for her father who was diagnosed with terminal cancer and completed her placement just six days before he passed away.

She is now sharing her knowledge with others and will discuss her experiences with Social Work students about working as a Modern Slavery Case Worker.

Despite all her challenges, Stacey said that supporting the most vulnerable in society, along with the help of her lecturers, enabled her to keep going during the hardest times.

Stacey said:

“I wanted to study social work for a number of years after experiencing some challenges of my own. I first went to an open day at the University of Chester in 2013, and then topped up my original degree to honours level with the Open University, in order to be able to apply for the MA. 

“Over the years I have worked in mental health, criminal justice and more recently, drug and alcohol services and I felt that being a social worker was my calling. During COVID I felt that it was now or never, so I finally applied. I had heard positive things about the Social Work course at Warrington and being able to study in my hometown when I have a young family appealed to me.  

“My dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given eight weeks to live whilst I was on my first placement. It was a very difficult time – caring for him, looking after two young children and facing the fact that we were going to lose him. I found that continuing to go into placement and offer support to some of the most vulnerable people in society helped me to keep going. My onsite supervisor was really understanding and I felt supported all the way through, which made it more bearable. I also knew that my dad wanted me to carry on, so I completed placement six days before he died. 

“There were a number of tutors that offered support when I was considering leaving the course after my dad passed away. Without their support I don’t think I could have carried on, and will be forever grateful to Bridget Caffrey, Emily Weygang and Gill Buck for believing in me when I didn’t.”

Stacey focused her dissertation on how the Twelve Steps programme from Alcoholics Anonymous addresses the factors underlying substance misuse, with a particular focus on female service users, and how this might support social work practice. 

Stacey added:

“I chose this topic for a number of reasons. I have both my own personal and professional experience of addiction and understand the difficulties experienced by females accessing recovery services, particularly mothers. I also felt that this is an area often overlooked by social work, despite the fact that this profession comes into regular contact with this service user group. I learned that the majority of Twelve Step research is based in the US, which suggests a need for more UK-focused research in the future. This also applies to research regarding female substance misuse, which I found to be quite limited in terms of UK-based evidence, suggesting a need for further investigation focused on this area. 

“The research suggests that females have a distinct set of needs and it is questionable as to whether current policy and service provision take this into account. The research highlights the differences between men and women accessing recovery and suggests there needs to be a different response to the needs of women. Furthermore, there is evidence to suggest a link exists between previous trauma and/or abuse, and the likelihood of a woman abusing alcohol and/or other substances. In recent years, it has been recognised that trauma has a direct impact upon the physical and mental well-being of women, therefore it would imply that it would be beneficial to employ a more holistic approach with females dealing with substance misuse.”

Dr Gill Buck, Associate Professor in Social Work, said:

“Stacey has been an outstanding Social Work student who has secured a job as a Modern Slavery Case Worker and agreed to return and talk to students about this work. She also wrote an excellent dissertation which made an impact on local social work practice.

“Stacey’s dissertation explored women’s experiences of peer led addiction recovery, highlighting gendered challenges and experiences of trauma and disadvantage. Stacey considered the scientific evidence of addiction recovery and the lived experiences of minoritised groups. She uncovered a variety of peer led support groups, many potentials of co-produced recovery and diverse aspirations and strengths of women in these contexts. Her work was graded a distinction and importantly, Stacey used her learning on work placement with a local authority, to train social worker colleagues in the evidence base and available approaches. 

“Despite experiencing a significant bereavement during her studies, Stacey successfully completed her Master’s and has made a real impact on teaching and education. 

“Stacey is bright, reflective and caring, and will make an outstanding social worker.”

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