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Module:
Policy into Practice




Title:


A critical and reflective report on the voluntary
placement









Word Count:
1, 996



Student Number:


1111492





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A critical and reflective report on the
voluntary placement

1. Introduction/ executive summary
This critical reflective report will focus on the aims and objectives of Sifa Fireside as
a voluntary placement. This voluntary placement operates within the social policy
area of housing policy. Homelessness is the context of this voluntary placement for
Policy into Practice. The report will later critically assess the effectiveness and
impact of the organisation in achieving its aims and objectives. In addition, it will
examine the role that staff and volunteers play in the way that it functions.

2. Aims, objectives and conceptual underpinnings.
SIFA Fireside is a charity organisation that works with homeless individuals. Based
in the Digbeth area in Birmingham they currently employ approximately around 100
volunteers and paid staff (Sifa Fireside, 2012). The service Sifa Fireside is a service
orientated model organisation (Alcock, 2008, p. 159-160). It is significant to note that
aims and objectives embody the values of the organisation, and act as the
underpinning framework for activities. The organisation concentrates on liberating
and representing individuals who face isolation and whose human potential is
hindered due to homelessness and poverty and the negative impact of a drug or
alcohol addiction. In addition, they help those isolated from welfare provision, raising
the quality of the individuals well-being (Sifa Fireside, 2012).
The conceptual scaffolding that Sifa Firesides aims and objectives are
altruistic correlate with the dominant paradigm (or altruistic/ gift theory see
Rochester et al, 2010 for explanation) perspective of the motivation within the
voluntary work. This is clearly evident when speaking to management,
demonstrating a strong empathy for the situation homeless individual find
themselves in. Moreover, they desire that these individuals utilise their human
potential. However, these objectives and aims are a form of normative typology,
which structures the way that the organisation socially interacts with homeless
individuals. This normative typology/operational paradigm then positions individuals

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within the implicit normative discourses underpinning social policy and policy
making, that is not so much based on the society we live rather the society we
want and wish to create (Fitzpatrick, 2001, p. 16).

3. Sifa Fireside, management and activities
These values are manifest within the management of the organisational structure,
however it uses a general hierarchal structure (see figure:1).

Figure: 1
Sifa Fireside delivers its services throughout the Birmingham area. The Managers
are hands on and quasi-automatous, making the day-to-day decisions about the
running of Sifa Fireside. However, Chief Executives make the central decisions
regarding the strategic running of the service, for example by the end of May 2012
Sifa Fireside will be reducing the drop in service (from twice daily to once daily
Monday- Friday) mainly due to funding restrictions. The service that Sifa Fireside
delivers Includes:
Daily drop-ins (where they gain access to food, washing facilitates, and
welfare services through a nurses and mental health worker ).
A resettlement service.
A specialist alcohol support service.
Well-being and activity groups.
An employment and training programme.
SIFA Firesides work aims to empower and encourage individuals through them
accessing these forms of provision (Sifa Fireside, 2012). In addition, they actively
encourage service users to conceptualise their own short, and long-term goals so as
develop their independence. In this way the values that they subscribe are observed
(it is beyond the scope of this paper to explore the Christian origins of the
Cath Gilliver:
Chief Executive
Carole Fox:
Operations
Manager
Simon Hackett:
Development
Manager
Steve Mundy:
Finance
Manager
Syeda Akhtar
Volunteer
Organiser

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organisation and how these affect implicitly and explicitly the aims and objectives
and values they hold). The current issues that concern the organisation are mainly
funding cuts, and reconnection policies and how this may affect their future running
of the organisation.

4. Student learning placement link social policy areas and themes.
As stated, earlier Sifa Fireside operates in the field of homelessness. However, there
is an overlap with other policy areas such health, crime prevention (mainly because
for many it is the last port of call before commit a crime to fulfil their basic needs) and
education (through the training they provide). This is because Sifa Fireside do not
define the homeless problem merely in respect to the need for shelter, and take a
holistically approach to the issue. Nonetheless homelessness is at the sharp end of
concern with housing policy (Alcock, 2008, p. 92). A lack of housing leads to poverty
and homelessness concerns access and entitlement to housing welfare provision
(Spicker, 2008, p. 60-61). The service users at Sifa Fireside are very diverse and
serve eastern European migrants, that either lack access to housing or welfare
benefit.

4.1. Reconnection and homelessness
The volunteering at Sifa Fireside involved a role of research and policy analysis into
the reconnection policy of Birmingham City Council. The reconnection policy
concerns those who are homeless/sleeping rough and have no social connections
within the host city. The aim of this policy is to reconnect single individuals to
supportive links they may have; either internationally or nationally. At a national level
this policy requires a functioning network of different agencies within the mixed
economy welfare provision (private, voluntary, statuary organisations see Alcock,
2008 for a fuller explanation of the mixed economy). The ultimate aim is to tackle
and prevent homelessness generally (Homeless-link, 2012). However, reconnection
policy is part of a wider initiative, piloting in London at present, called No Second
Night Out. This policy concerns any newly arrived individual, ensuring that they will
only at the most spend one night sleeping on the streets (No Second Night Out,
2012). Piloted in London from April 2011, its aim is to end rough sleeping in London

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by the end of 2012, with the prospect of rolling it out to the rest of the country.
However, the short deadlines to end rough sleeping is possibly unrealistic since it
fails to reflect the complexity of the issue of homelessness that Sifa Fireside deals
with on a daily basis. These immediately arise with those individuals that have
alcohol and drug addiction or if they are violent. The aim of the placement was and
still is to discover what the potential implications of reconnection policy there are for
Sifa Fireside.

4.2. Understanding policy into practice
During the voluntary placement social policy in practice at Sifa Fireside was
witnessed in the following policy areas of housing, health/ mental health,
employment services and education through the training and learning schemes.
These welfare services are mainly accessed through the drop in centre. The
implementation of social policy is what Hudson and Lowe (2006) identify as the
micro stage in the policy process. The micro stage is where the aims upon which
social policy is designed are made manifest. Importantly it is precisely where Sifa
Firesides aims and objectives play out.


4.3. Knowledge, skills and practice experience. Value in placement
experiences.
Both paid and volunteers staff have a range of knowledge, skills and experience that
they bring to the organisation. Some may provide life experience and people skills
that are utilised at the drop in centre. Moreover, others have held jobs in related
fields, which means that they can employ their specific attributes within this context..
For instance, at Sifa Fireside an Office Administrator held a previous position within
the Home Office, organising accommodation for asylum seekers in the UK (other
examples are social policy and social work students on volunteer placement). In Sifa
Fireside, both paid and voluntary staff have backgrounds working in the mixed
economy. However, Sifa Fireside do offer training for volunteers to increase their
knowledge, skills and experience, to strengthen the work they do. The value of a
policy into practice placement to the social policy student resides in witnessing the
manifestation of the work of leading academics in the field (for example Alcocks and

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Rosss theoretical insights into housing and volunteering). This has an massive
impact on ones theoretical and practical learning, and general cognisance. Because
one is able to fully conceptualise how social policy works in practice.

5. Critically assessing effectiveness and impact of Sifa Fireside(with
reference to the role of volunteers in the Sifa Fireside).
In order to critically assess the effectiveness and impact of Sifa Fireside it is
important to establish a criteria upon which to critically assess (Spicker, 2006, p.183;
Parsons, 2005, pp. 460-466) against. The criteria that is used is the aims and
objectives of Sifa Fireside (2012) with the work of the homeless and socially
excluded to improve their physical, social and mental wellbeing and to empower
people to meet their potential through practical support on offer.
It is observable that volunteers within Sifa Fireside part a crucial part in achieving
its aims and objectives. The drop in centre is where majority of volunteers, volunteer,
and the fulfilment of aims and objectives. Although volunteers are crucial, problems
arise when the knowledge, skills and experience that they have are not utilised in the
right way. For example, if the staff fails to understand the volunteers background,
they could potentially exclude a wealth of knowledge and experience. Nevertheless
the volunteers on the whole feel valued and empowered in the task performed.
Moreover Sifa Fireside use students within related fields with particular knowledge
base, for example social policy, and social work. Furthermore importance that Sifa
Fireside places skills and experience can is operational manager, currently doing a
course at university in supervising social worker (Sifa Fireside, 2012). Moreover,
they do encouraging a wide variety of people from various backgrounds. The
participation of these people has positive impact on the interaction at centre. This
has the affect of helping to break down the feelings of isolation experienced by the
service user. The service user starts to recognise that the wider community does
care
However would the needs of the homeless individuals be better served by an
outreach team, instead of a drop in service? The drop in is problematic because
fixed welfare may not reach those who are hard to contact and need the service the
most. Consequently this would mean a less diverse range of services on offer, due
to logistical difficulties. For instance: access to alcohol, drug support, mental health
support, general health check up, food, personal hygiene facilities, and training.

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Moreover because homeless individual has to come to at Sifa Fireside to access
their services it means that the locus of control (Ajzen, 2002) resides with the
individual. This leads to an inner motivation in individual that enhances a like hood of
positive outcomes as they engage with service. Moreover the engagement with is
geared at facilitating a setting of personal goals to help them realise their own human
potential. Furthermore, because it is fixed provision a greater number of volunteers
(that may want to act out their faith in the dominant paradigm or altruistic worldview)
are able to participate with hardly any training. The concept of empowering others to
take control of their lives is the aspect of the organisation that embodies their values
and aims and objectives the most. This is observable within the working of the drop
in centre that potentially leads individual achieve a self actualised state Maslow,
1954), or at least is the first step on the road.

5.1. Conclusion
In conclusion the service that Sifa Fireside delivers fulfils its main aims and
objectives. This can be clearly seen as stated earlier in the dominant paradigm. It
does this while engaging in the policy area of housing seeking, to develop the human
potential. In crucially reflecting on the placement with Sifa Fireside, it is evident that
the work they do in the Birmingham area is much needed, especially the support it
offers to those at the sharp end of the housing policy. This proves to be particularly
effective through the integrated use of volunteers. Moreover, in my view this
experience of policy into practice is crucial and necessary to the social policy student
in that it reveals a more holistic view of the social policy directly to the student. It is
this understanding that will benefit the student in this field of work. As such it is an
experience that every social policy student should receive.









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